Only the second live-action feature film by the Quay brothers,
THE PIANO TUNER OF EARTHQUAKES is a beautifully filmed, if
somewhat slow moving fairy tale. Many have already commented on
how much the primary tale resembles Gaston LeRoux's novel
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Indeed, there are more than surface
Opera diva Malvina van Stille (the exotically beautiful Amira
Casar) is in love with musician Adolfo (Cesar Sarachu), but she
is also pursued by the strange Dr. Emmanuel Droz (Gottfried John).
During an on stage performance, Malvina swoons and Droz pronounces
her dead. He then spirits away her corpse via an underground layer
(which is one of the echoes of PHANTOM) to a mysterious island where
he manages to revive her, but she is now in an altered state. Malvina
has no memory of her former existence and there are questions as
to whether or not this is indeed the "real" Malvina or a doppelgänger
creation of Droz's.
The twinning idea is played out further with the arrival of a piano
tuner named Felisberto (also portrayed by Cesar Sarachu). It turns out
that Droz requires the services of the piano tuner to repair seven
automata which will play a role in a diabolic plot that the doctor has
concocted. The various machines are intricately crafted -- some with
seemingly human body parts like a mouth -- and all feature a sort
of animated diorama.
Felisberto runs into Malvina and a glimmer of recognition passes
between them. Gradually, he falls for in love with the diva and plans
to "rescue" her from the doctor's clutches. Of course, the good doctor
also has an odd housekeeper (Assumpta Serna in the film's most
memorable performance) who tries to seduce the piano tuner to no
The Quay brothers have created a gloriously gorgeous film
with wondrous set pieces that have been beautifully shot in
burnished tones by cinematographer Nic Knowland. It's a dark
and disturbing fairy tale that fans of the brothers' work will
embrace. Newcomers may be a bit put off, but I would suggest
just giving oneself over to the flow of the movie. If one does,
THE PIANO TUNERS OF EARTHQUAKES will prove to be a very
unique cinematic experience.
MPAA Rating: None
Running time: 99 mins.
Viewed on preview DVD
|The Piano Tuner
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.