Author Topic: The Tracey Fragments  (Read 1557 times)

Offline goodguy

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The Tracey Fragments
« on: August 30, 2008, 10:19:59 PM »
   The Tracey Fragments (CA 2007)
Written by: Maureen Medved, based on her novel
Directed by: Bruce McDonald
Starring: Ellen Page
DVD: R1-US ThinkFilm/Image (July 2008)

Here is a link to a larger version of the beautiful poster.

Cover blurb: Oscar-nominated Ellen Page (Juno, Hard Candy) delivers an extraordinary performance as a feisty, independent-minded teenager with a unique view of the world. From cutting-edge director Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo, Roadkill), THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS tells the story of an outsider who uses fantasy to help her deal with a secret crush, loneliness and frustration. When her 7-year-old brother wanders away while under her care, she examines her life as she is propelled on a late-night journey through the city in a desperate attempt to find him.

There are many movies and even some TV shows that use split screen, but I know only two other movies  that employed this technique throughout their entire running length: Mike Figgis' Timecode (2000) and Hans Canosa's Conversations with Other Women (2005). Timecode divided the screen into four panels showing different actions, each in one single take, that meet at certain junction points. Conversations used two panels to show the same story (the meeting of two seemingly strangers) simultaneously from both viewpoints. Timecode was a boring and uninteresting affair, Conversations was a great movie that deserves its own review, if I find the time to do it. What both have in common is that their use of split screen is static and, in a way, conventional.

The Tracey Fragments brings the whole split screen experience to an entirely new level. Panels appear and disappear, change size, move around, loom over each other. Sometimes their are ten or more on the screen. The movie unfolds as a non-linear stream of consciousness, mixing reality and fantasy, jumping all over the place. That may sound confusing, but let's be real - yet another story about a troubled and frustrated teenager isn't that hard to follow. So, naturally, McDonald has been accused of camouflaging a simple and clich├ęd story with pretentious and artsy images. Way to miss the point. As Roger Ebert once so eloquently put it: "A movie is not about what it is about, it is about how it is about it."

And the "how" of The Tracey Fragments can only be called a revolutionary step in film making. Before TTF, split screen was merely used as a replacement for intercutting either different scenes or different viewpoints of a scene. TTF goes way beyond that simple montage concept. Consider Tracey running away from something and the borders of the panel closing in on here, the panel getting smaller and smaller and the remaining screen filled with black. Or as Tracey is about to leave somewhere, dozens of tiny panels with closing doors pop up all over the screen. There are numerous other techniques like time-lapse over multiple panels, repetition, shattered and rebuild panels, etc. It is important to note that all these techniques and concepts aren't abstract implementations, they are essential in creating an emotional resonance with the viewer. It is, in short, visual storytelling at its best.

All the daring innovation is anchored by (yet another) strong performance from Ellen Page. In fact, she is the reason I discovered the movie; I knew nothing about the director Bruce McDonald, although he seems to have some kind of semi cult status in Canada.

Last but not least, the movie has a great score by Broken Social Scene, including a cover version of Patti Smith' Horses.

Highly recommended, although I'm aware that it might not be everyone's cup of tea.


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Re: The Tracey Fragments
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2008, 02:56:06 AM »
That's a great review, Matthias. Not sure I'd like it, but I'll certainly try it one day. Regardless though, I'm always glad to hear about people challenging the accepted ways to tell a story. I hadn't heard that quote from Ebert before, but I've always understood it... ;) The "how" always attracts before the "what", hence I can enjoy something like Citizen Kane, a story that I doubt would hold my interest in another medium.