The Tracey Fragments
Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald’s The Tracey Fragments is an experimental film based upon Maureen Medved’s novel of the same name. It’s a pretty simple story about a lonely, disaffected 15-year-old searching the barren winter streets of Winnipeg for her lost brother. She’s abused at home and mocked at school and quite possibly a little out of her mind. She’s what you might describe as a Holden Caulfield type.
In order to capture the stream-of-consciousness style of the book, the film is broken up and the story is revealed out of chronological order. On top of that, the screen is frequently divided into multiple images, anywhere from two to more than ten. In some cases the images are different angles on the same scene, sometimes they’re they same scene at different moments, sometimes they’re different scenes altogether and sometimes they’re combinations of all three.
The remarkable thing about it is that it actually works. It requires a lot of attention and effort by the audience, but somehow the story manages to emerge from the chaos. I’m not completely convinced the editing transcends simple gimmickry or how much it actually adds to the story, but it was interesting to watch and I’m willing to give it the benefit of another viewing before I decide.
One thing I’m sure of is how great Ellen Page was as Tracey. This 20-year-old actress has impressed me in everything I’ve seen her in. Even when she was still a teen, she had the maturity and a screen presence comparable to that of Jody Foster. Whether it’s Hard Candy or Mouth to Mouth or the more recent Juno, she transcends the material she is given and she really stands out. Juno will probably launch her into the public’s consciousness and it will be interesting to see if she continues to pick interesting projects and grow as a performer or if she’ll have difficulty making the transition from young-adult to adult actress.
Night Train (Ye che)
If I said that Night Train was a Bressonian rumination on loneliness in the industrial hell of the city of Xi’an, China, you’d probably say I’m a pretentious tit and that Night Train is probably a pretty boring movie. You’d might be right on both counts, but I’d argue you’re just not looking at things from the right perspective.
There’s less of a story to it than a series of incidents involving Liu Dan as a solemn female court officer who lost her husband to illness 10 years prior. She spends most of her time working or attending matchmaking dances that end in disappointment. She hardly speaks throughout the film and her expression is mostly stoic. Eventually her path intertwines with that of another lonely soul: the husband of a woman she’d taken part in the execution of.
This isn’t an easy film. It’s slow and quiet and sometimes depressing, but there’s also something emotionally compelling to it and it builds to quite a climax if you can stick with it.