Monday, June 11, 2007

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes: Grade F

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005)

Amira Casar, César Saracho. Directors: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay.

The images are the main feature of this surrealistic fairy tale. In some kind of a dark world, an evil psychiatrist holds his patients prisoner and attempts to turn them into singing marionettes in his automated, mechanical music machines, which are a mixture of pin-ball, player piano, and 19th century mechanical toys. The piano tuner is supposed to repair the machines, but gets wise to the plot, which he possibly foils, or possibly not; it is impossible to tell. I’m a big fan of imaginative surrealism, but to appreciate the pictures, one must be able to see them. These images are extremely dark and muddy, mostly black and brown shadows with no detail, punctuated by blasts of overexposed, blinding light, creating silhouettes and high contrast close-ups of who knows what. Many shots are heavily gauzed and vignetted, just to be sure you don’t see anything. A very unpleasant movie to look at. The dialog was equally murky. Perhaps that was an artistic analogy to the visuals but there is hardly much value in an inaudible and incomprehensible sound track (some of it in untranslated, unsubtitled Portuguese). The music was too loud, consisting of inane strings expressing nonexistent tension, and meaningless sound effects. Acting: was there any acting? I couldn’t see. Story: was there any story? I couldn’t follow. I think the directors went over the edge of surrealism into pure obscurantism.

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