June 6, 1905 [Interior New York Subway]

Billy Bitzer films the subway in New York City, shining and new, an engineering revolution whose sharp-bladed upturn New York will feel almost immediately, just as London did: like loosening the earth beneath a plant to encourage sudden and vigorous growth.

For now, though, on film, the upheaval recedes into the darkness. The camera, mounted on the front of the train, watches the oncoming girders, one after another, vertical reflections of the tracks themselves. We move in the dimness, following another train, always heading toward light—the passing stations breaking the mesmerism of the journey, the human beings glimpsed on the platform a sign we are still beneath a city. The tracks curve, another ghost-train passes us in the gloom, motionless figures within, the ceiling curves with us, steel and concrete pliable and furtive in their passing as the train continues. Finally we arrive at Grand Central Station, sudden humanity milling about, normal men, women and children.

When the camera is stilled upon a conveyance, then set in smooth motion, it encourages a return to the trance-state of early recollection, as shapes pass without clarity but nonetheless with certainty, mysteries of the everyday. I almost prefer this to a "plot"—but I'm hoping there may be a middle ground, a cinema of shapes as well as story. For now I'll lose myself in the underground world, burrowing in intermittent light.


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