PJAS 11 Spring-12

Kornelia Boczkowska
Smooth, Bumpy and Ghostly Rides: (Re)Viewing the American Landscape and Travel Imagery in Bill Morrison’s Night Highway (1990), The Death Train (1993), City Walk (1999) and Ghost Trip (2000)
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 11 (Spring 2017), pp. 163-182

Abstract: In this paper I analyze various ways in which Bill Morrison’s travel films, Night Highway (1990), The Death Train (1993), City Walk (1999) and Ghost Trip (2000), tend to challenge the concept of the American landscape through the use of cinematic conventions traditionally associated with early cinema’s phantom rides as well as contemporary travel ride films and road movies. Particularly, I argue that Morrison’s experimental pictures, while simultaneously drawing on and playing with selected phantom ride, travel ride film and road movie tropes, exploit the dynamics between the spectator’s unique frontal perspective, visual mobilities and distant panoramic views as well as evoke a distorted experience of sensational and contemplative voyages, hence challenging panoramic perception and an idealized image of American (film) landscape intrinsically bound with the natural and technological sublime. To achieve this particular effect, the analyzed material incorporates such elements as deteriorated footage, manipulated travel imagery and image looping enhanced by atmospheric scores, slow and fast motion cinematography or more conventional traditions of abstract formalism.

Keywords: American avant-garde and experimental film, Bill Morrison, American landscape, travel ride film, phantom ride, road movie

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.11/1/2017.12

Full article