The Wonder Boys


Born in Philadelphia, based in London, identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay live in some imaginary early-20th-century Mitteleuropa. Their obsessive, painstaking stop-motion puppet animations are discomfitingly close to musty assemblages or mad museum dioramas. (Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies could serve as the title for any of their films.) The brothers are inspired by Kafka, Bruno Schulz, and Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer. Where Svankmajer is raw, however, the Quays are cooked—there’s an ineffable delicacy to their juxtaposition of mannequins, miniatures, and assorted mechanical detritus. Film Forum’s retro, “Tales of the Brothers Quay,” includes 11 Quay animations made over the past two decades, several in new 35mm prints. Friday through Thursday, Film Forum.

Also: An early independent filmmaker and an international man of mystery, Dudley Murphy (1897–1968) collaborated with Fernand Léger in Paris, where he produced the avant-garde classic Ballet Mécanique (1924), and with Duke Ellington in Hollywood, directing the Ellington orchestra in the short drama Black and Tan (1929). Film historian Susan Delson will be on hand to screen those two films and two more and sign copies of her just-published Murphy bio at Dudley Murphy: Hollywood Wild Card. Friday, 7:30 p.m., Anthology Film Archives.

The great structuralist-feminist narrative of the 1970s, Chantal Akerman’s three-and-a-half-hour Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles contemplates three days in the life of a widowed housewife with astonishingly regular habits. It’s a hard movie to see and not an easy one to sit through, but it’s essential cinematic education. Catch up with it courtesy of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY’s “Labor Goes to the Movies” series; Hunter professor Ivone Margulies, author of the only English-language book on Akerman, will introduce the screening. Saturday, noon, PSC, 61 Broadway, 16th floor.

Grey Gardens may be the Maysles Brothers doc du jour and Gimme Shelter their most notorious, but Salesman, the brothers and Charlotte Zwerin’s record of door-to-door Bible salesmen, is a vérité spin on an American archetype. This 1968 classic has lost none of its fascination; it’s showing as part of the Museum of the Moving Image’s on- going series of “Great Documentaries”chosen by the New York Film Critics Circle. Critic Matt Zoller Seitz will introduce; Albert Maysles will be present for a post-screening discussion. Saturday, 3 p.m., MOMI.

Cantor Moishe Oysher was the biggest star in Yiddish radio when he made his screen debut in the 1937 Yiddish talkie The Cantor’s Son—a sort of anti–Jazz Singer in its exploration of the tension between the sacred and the secular, with the foothills of the Poco- nos standing in for Romania. Cognoscenti will remember this as the movie wherein Oysher and wife Florence Weiss sing their subtly syncopated version of “Mayn Shtetle Belz.” This weekend’s screening, part of the 2007 New York Jewish Film Festival, is the U.S. premiere of a newly restored print. Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Walter Reade Theater.