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Cinema Sights Review - The Tracey Fragments
by James Blake Ewing, published on September 30, 2009 8:05 pm
Really, you couldnt come up with a better title than The Tracey Fragments? Sure, the film is about Tracey and its all fragmented to pieces but what about something more artsy like Temporal Moonlight of the Plaid Filled Mind? I mean if you are going to make an artsy movie at least give it a decent pretentious title. Maybe Im just griping about the title because I dont anything bad to say about this crazy film even though I feel like I should criticize it to pieces.
Thats because the entire film relies on a gimmick. In the digital era the ability to manipulate images is easy, which allows anyone who can afford a Mac and Final Cut Pro to make all kinds of crazy effects. Film has mostly stuck to presenting one image at a time despite the freedom provided by technological advance. Sure, you get the occasional split screen but its hardly a staple of the industry. The Tracey Fragments thinks one image at a time simply isnt enough. You need multiple images, playing at once, different perspectives of the same moment or four different moments put together. The frame becomes simply a space for more frames as the film adds a handful, sometimes even dozens, of clips playing all at once. This is so much the case that its rare that the film simply gives us one image.
Its the idea youd expect to find in a music video, not something that could sustain a feature film. But it works because it is not simply a flashy technique but something that submerses us into the mind of Tracey (Ellen Page). So who is Tracey? Just an average 15 year-old girl if by average you mean borderline emo, oddly troubling and possibly mental. She fantasizes about the life she has with her boyfriend and muses on how much her life sucks as of late.
She serves as our guide through the events of the last few days in her life. She narrates the film as we explore her recollections of the events. It doesnt take long to understand that she is unreliable and slightly incoherent. The same events play over with different dialogue, some moments are out of context and others come way before they fit into the story. It becomes this cataclysm of memories, a kid of mental puzzle as you try to piece which moments go where or if the moments are even true.
In this way the film parallels Mementoan early film by the now famous Christopher Nolanthat played all the scenes of the film backwards. People rave about Memento as a kind of brilliant psychological fragmentation of the human mind. Problem is the film is more concerned with the story than the character and doesnt have much to offer outside of the gimmick. The Tracey Fragments starts with the character and the gimmick enhances her. Yes its bizarre, artsy, possibly pretentious but it sticks to its guns and it works.
I desperately want to say something bad about this film because its the kind of stuff that shouldnt work. I could say that certain moments dont work within themselves but thats the point. Each moment within itself isnt supposed to be reliable. Its only as more of the pieces come together that we realize how everything fits together. Or I could rant about how its all postmodern mumbo jumbo that doesnt really mean anything but that would be both false and pretentious. Theres certainly more that could be said about the film but I dont want to ruin the magic. All Ill say is this is the film I wanted Memento to be. If that doesnt pique your interest I dont know what else will. (And if you havent seen Memento see this instead.)