THE PIANO TUNER OF EARTHQUAKES is the breathtakingly beautiful and long-awaited second feature film from the Quay Brothers. On the eve of her wedding, the beautiful opera singer Malvina (Amira Casar, ANATOMY OF HELL) is my... more »steriously "killed" and abducted by the malevolent Dr. Droz (Gottfried John, THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN). Felisberto (Cesar Sarachu, INSTITUTE BENJAMENTA), an innocent piano tuner, is summoned to Droz?s secluded villa to service his strange musical automatons. Little by little Felisberto learns of the doctor?s plans to stage a "diabolical opera" -- and of Malvina?s fate. He secretly conspires to rescue her, only to become trapped himself in the web of Droz?s perverse universe.« less
Mechanical automata, life, and desire -- in this strange but
Nathan Andersen | Florida | 02/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The second full length feature by the inimitable Brothers Quay, "Piano Tuner of Earthquakes" defies summary or comparison with other films. It was, I believe, shot on HD but the look in many shots is as delicate and textured as film -- and has live action combined with their trademark puppet based animation. Perhaps the easiest way to suggest the feel and approach of the film is to describe it as operating according to a "dream logic" -- and there is even a great line in the film when the piano tuner is discussing dreams with the doctor's assistant; she says, basically, that to think you can understand the meaning of a dream by interpreting its objects as symbols is like believing you can tell the contents of a letter from the sound of the postman's knock -- with the added qualification that you may in fact decipher something from how loud and how long and how urgently he knocks. Still, this is a direct hint from the filmmakers that there are no simple meanings here. The basic plot can be described with relative ease (and to tell it doesn't give anything away because the film is not really about plot but about textures, rhythms, sounds and movement): a famous opera singer is abducted and murdered on the night before her wedding by the "evil" Dr. Droz, a maker of living mechanical automata, who plans to bring her back to life and incorporate her into his ultimate and final automata, one that will recreate her abduction and death; as collaborators and participants in his project he has several apparently insane gardeners, a jealous assistant who resembles an older version of the opera singer, and a skilled but naive piano tuner who resembles the fiance of the opera singer. What such a "synopsis" fails to capture is the strange ambience and style of the film throughout, and doesn't shed much light on "what it all means." Is the Doctor a kind of god? Or is he like the filmmakers themselves? Is the beginning of the film already part of the automaton? Are the filmmakers comparing the film itself to a kind of self-contained automatic world? What is the meaning of a strange story the Doctor tells about ants and spores, a story whose components figure later in the film? To what extent are we all, insofar as we find ourselves inexplicably driven by passions we didn't choose, like the ants in the story (don't ask, if you watch the film you'll see what I mean)? What is the significance of the final scenes? Lots of questions, and you can certainly come up with some interesting answers if that is your thing -- but if you like your answers hard and fast, or if you like your films straightforward and easy to follow, or if you want to know what is going on at all times, or if you'd be bugged by all the characters for whom English is a second language speaking slowly almost as if under hypnosis themselves, and if you can't just succumb to a film as if it were a strange dream (which is what this film most resembles) and let it wash over you and think about it later (as you would have to do with films by David Lynch or Peter Greenaway or others who work in a similar vein) then this is not the movie for you. Otherwise, and especially if you like the films of those I just mentioned, or works by filmmakers like Bunuel or Svankmajer or even Matthew Barney, then this one is definitely worth a look. Just don't expect it all to make sense at once."
Excellent film, but avoid the Zeitgeist release...
Alexander Mills | 04/29/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Along with the majority of reviewers here, I found The Piano Tuner Of Earthquakes to be an immensely enjoyable film. Combining all the signature elements that we've come to expect (and love) from the Quays, with an almost Greenaway-esque sense of narrative. Anyone with an interest in the surreal, lyrical or poetic would do well to track this film down.
Seeing as many other reviews have gone into great depth with the film's content, I'll skip right to the point. This film has received two major DVD releases; one in the States via Zeitgeist (featured here), and one in the UK via Artificial Eye. Given the special features on the two DVDs are relatively similar, one would think that the prints would be sourced from the same materials.
I'm not exactly sure what happened, but the Zeitgeist print is noticeably darker and murkier than the Artificial Eye release. Not just a little bit, either. Scenes that shine with light and detail in the UK edition are barely visible in the US release - some scenes are a struggle to make out at all. I'm genuinely surprised that no one else has raised this issue in their reviews here. Granted many may not have had the chance to compare prints, but it was the sheer dullness of the Zeitgeist print that moved me to seek out the UK version.. And I'm very glad I did.
If you've already purchased the Zeitgeist release and are happy with it, there's probably no need to ditch it for the Artificial Eye copy. But if you haven't bought a copy yet, or have been thinking similar things to me with regard to the quality of the print, seek out the UK edition. I think you'll be surprised by the difference.
NOTE: The UK release also contains a 5.1 track and a deleted scene, neither of which are available on the release featured here."
wiredweird | Earth, or somewhere nearby | 12/16/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie demands to be seen more than once. Its surrealism, its involuted logic, and the play between the scenes and the action set in them all hold details that don't reveal themselves fully in the first viewing.
It starts with a piano tuner being called, but not to tune a piano. Instead, Felisberto is to make the final adjustments to Dr. Droz's automata, like dioramas that act out scenes with inaccessible meanings. The distinction between manufactured images and human vitality quickly breaks down, given the robot-like gardners and the mysterious thoughts implanted into his dreams and perhaps his waking mind. The two women at this isolated villa are equally mysterious. Seductive Assumpta seems to be at his elbow at every moment, but Malvina creates a deeper question. Felisberto always sees her silent, passive, and veiled, with some sense that she's covered the way a piece of furniture might be when not in use - which leaves unanswered what her use is to be.
Color, except for one sanguine spot, is so subdued that it borders on monochrome. The startling artifacts of the Brothers Quay, including a boat rowed by disembodied hands, add to this movie's mysterious air. If you're one who demands easy meanings (or any meanings) from a movie, this might leave you cold. Once you settle into its pace and accept that much remains hidden, you might share in its deliciously eerie chill. I recommend this movie to anyone who delights in visual symbols without necessarily needing to know what is symbolized.
Beauty and the dreams
Galina | Virginia, USA | 08/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What an amazing movie - so strange, so romantic, so beautiful, so different, so dreamy, so delicate, so imaginative. This is a film that should be seen if only because it is one of the most beautifully shot films of the last several years. Praised to the high heaven "Pan's Labyrinth" simply pales and disappears in comparison. The Brothers Quay are the visual masters with astounding talents for capturing dreams and transferring them to the screen in the most hypnotizing ways imaginable. We may not be able to always understand the meaning of a dream by trying to interpret its objects but it would not stop us from feeling the beauty and magic of the film. There is a story of course, a fairytale about an evil doctor who abducts a beautiful opera singer with a magnificent voice whom he wants to transform into a mechanical singing device and a piano tuner of earthquakes who falls in love with her and tries to save her but every image and every sound of the movie are the story themselves. Everyone who feels at home in the worlds of David Lynch or Peter Greenaway, Luis Bunuel or Jan Svankmajer, Guy Maddin or the Brothers Polish; who is impressed by Georges Franju's "Les Yeux sans visage", Jean Cocteau's "Belle et la bête" (1946), by both Patrick Susskind's and Tom Tykwer's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" (2006), and by dark romantic fairy tales of E.T. A. Hoffmann, should see and listen to "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes", the film which charm starts with its title.
Excellent , or according to my own grading system, a visual and sound masterpiece, I wish I'd seen it in the theater."
Exquisite and charged dreamscape
Steve Mobia | Brisbane, CA, USA | 07/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a huge fan of the Quay's last excursion into live action filmmaking ("Institute Benjamenta") I was thrilled at the chance to see another feature from such richly textured imaginations. "Piano Tuner of Earthquakes" actually exceeded my expectations and then some. It's one of the greatest works of cinema I've ever seen.
The meanings inherent in this film come only partially through the plotline. Narrative in most commercial films is the most heavily weighted element (second behind star power). What we have here is a real work of art where every element is given loving attention. This is not a literal story, it is a symbolic dreamscape with sounds, textures, gestures, facial expressions, even down to the glint of light off a glass window giving a profound numinous charge.
Many viewers will find this wealth of detail overwhelming without being led by the hand with the conscious contrivance of conventional storyline. But here, the Quay's have perhaps been too compromised. Their tale is a little too clear and dialogue and voice overs too concerned with romanticized story telling (but that's my taste; I realize the general public prefers an even more linear presentation). Still this concession to popular taste doesn't detract from the essential power of it's imagery, which is considerable.
The sound design stands out as one of it's most imaginative features, as textured as the visuals. Very delicate and multi-leveled, there are some astonishing passages that rival any soundtrack I've ever heard. On the other hand there are a couple of themes that are too prominent (a Spanish-style melody played on electric guitar and a "Vertigo"-like love theme).
All together this film distills the essences the Quay brothers have been exploring throughout their career and presents these essences in a glorious ripened form of an adult myth. There's a palpable sensual power here of longings and obsessions that build to a thick swelling of contradictory passions. These conflicted subterranean passions lead to the final earthquake, an upheaval where the opera theater and it's players collapse inward.
This is NOT a film for everyone. The viewer must participate in deciphering; it's deeper meanings are not simply stated. It's a challenging experience and many will not want that in their film viewing. However, if you are intrigued by dreams and surreal imagery, you should definitely see this film, it stands among the greatest ever made!"