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Eric Faden’s visual essay, Tracking Theory, is especially evocative of two works that address notions of the cinematic within the context of parafilmic tools of the digital era, Jean-Luc Godard’s video series, Histoire du Cinéma(s), and Chris Marker’s cd-rom, Immemory. By invoking and moving from the caméra to the media stylo, Faden’s essay, like the above precursors, provokes a range of questions regarding both what is exclusive to and what is expanded upon within the domain of ciné-écriture by its digital descendents. As in Godard and Marker’s essays, the tools used in Faden’s tract enable the fulfillment of the “dream” or “promise” of cinema (if I may use Godard’s terms) as a heuristic mnemonic device. Historically and personally therapeutic, not so much a talking as a seeing/hearing cure, it is the cinema’s ability to replay a memory that the digital world multiplies exponentially. We must stop and note that the idea of memory relayed here – in our personal, collective, or cinematic forms – is both descriptive and subjunctive – what happened and what could or should have happened. Thus it is the question of perspective or more precisely perspectives that the cinema and assorted digital media envision and visually map for us. It is this movement and tracking of multiple, potential times and spaces that Faden outlines as cinema’s shared ancestry with the railroad. The compression of time and space in the railway journey and the disorientation and delirium of perspectives engendered by this travel function almost as a philosopher’s uncanny dream of possible worlds, a dream that cinema not so coincidentally replays for us time and time again. Faden notes that he is haunted especially by three films ( 2046, Europa, Moebius), which link the railway and cinematic form, but his essay clearly demonstrates that the specter of train travel and its performance of alternative pathways is one perpetually evoked by the cinema or more precisely, moving pictures. 1
The look associated with train/cinema travel as combinatory and to a certain degree random is eloquently relayed for us via the “found” archival film, which is appropriately enough introduced to us by two locomotives in a head on crash. Such apocalyptic beginnings lead not only to a film without a name or author, but a journey via train and film as seen through the point of view of a female spectator. By casting a woman as our ideal cinema spectator (Sara Truax) in the film within a film (within a film), the radical perspective described by the text and narration is visualized in an equally fundamental shift in our on screen point of view. That is to say, we move from the analytic authoritarian gaze to the “synthetic democratic glance” and from legible script and male over-narration to a vision of new ways of seeing and indeed a new way of being, or rather new places of identity, for viewers.
1 Here I must thank Jonathon Rosen for reminding me in a presentation on his work in my class this week that “moving pictures” references not only pictures that move, but also images that emotionally move us.
- Vicki Callahan, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 11.29.2006