film 96 of 103

Police Chasing Scorching Auto

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 28, 2015

Early attempts are always modernist, inasmuch as they expose the workings of the not yet mastered, not yet constituted medium. You can’t help but notice the mechanics of the first shot’s rescue. Nicely diagonal camera placement, kid with her back to us on the street, flagging down the quickly closing mounted policeman. (An extra treat here is the film’s very fine horsemanship.) They’ve really begun in media res. The policeman stops quickly, jumps down and scoops up the child, just as a vehicle comes from behind the camera and roars by, sort of where the child sort of was. There’s clearly no real jeopardy—who would want there to be?—but we still clearly get the idea.

Again, this film is on the side of the public institutions, who protect and serve, sometimes pretty dramatically. As Porter and McCutcheon deliver this message once again they come to a real cinematic advance, or a real attempt at one. A car-mounted camera follows the moto-mounted policemen as they chase the culprits. This following/tracking shot is tremendously important, tremendously expansive. It’s also quite exciting narratively, and kinetic/beautiful for its own sake. Authentic, too—look at those carefully maintained margins, the well-watered streets.

After being exciting for a while, though, this moving shot becomes a problem. They just chase and chase, unrelentingly. As far as plausibility goes, would this happen? Don’t you usually stop when you see the police chasing you? As far as filming goes, how do we get out of this moving shot? Sort of bumpily, or arbitrarily, as it turns out. They reframe, not yet classically, and make an apprehension. In other words, the film peters out somewhat. No problem, though. Which of us would have done any better?