An audiovisual essay made for the course "Thinking the Moving Image" at the University of Amsterdam, by Aikaterini Mniestri, Natalie Röllhauser & Max Peters. Supervised by Patricia Pisters & Abraham Geil.
A discussion of Gilles Deleuze's 'Time Image' through the lens of Chuck Jones's eternal coyote-and-roadrunner-chase...
Deleuze’s syntheses of time, as well as his synthesis of the movement and virtual image into the crystal image, appeared as an omnipresent characteristic of film and other visual media to us. Therefore, we tried to adopt his logic and look for manifestations of crystal images in more unlikely places. We did not aim to find an actual crystal image, including some kind of mirror or mirage, but we wanted to find a case in which the logic of virtual images from the past works into the present. To be more precise, we wanted to find a case study that structures itself around the idea of blending virtuality and actuality, a sense of having been there before. The Bergsonian ‘paramnesia’, as Deleuze describes it, served as the basis for our audiovisual essay; we were looking for moment were an experience of déjà-vu explains why scenes are constructed the way they are, and why they work the way they do. These observations all connected with our memory of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons; the ones focusing on Wile E. Coyote and his endless chase of the Road Runner. I have always wondered why a show that is so incredibly repetitive in its cat-and-mouse set-up can be so exhilarating to watch, and through our discussion we quickly discovered that this has to do with the constant reliance on our memory of past scenes. When watching these cartoons, one gets the gist of the joke’s structure very quickly, and the anticipation of how another trap is going to backfire on the Coyote directly corresponds with the eventual pay-off of the joke. Director Chuck Jones and writer Michael Maltese seem to be aware of this constant construction of memories, by incorporating self-aware remarks, facial expressions and almost acceptance of repeated failure in the Coyote’s behavior. Every set-up is somewhat tweaked to appear as original, but most of the pay-offs amount to a very small number of outcomes; the most famous of which being the incredibly deep-perspective shots from the sky where we see the Coyote falling from a very high cliff. We feel that the comedy works because of our paramnesia, just like the characters we are stuck in a loop and every new opportunity eventually synchronizes with a situation we have come across before. To show this effect, to show what might be going on in our brains when we laugh or anticipate our laughter, we decided to slow down one of the most iconic realization scenes, in which the Coyote discovers he is literally standing on thin air and will, yet again, plummet into the valley. I chose to intercut this slow scene using as many matching shots we could find of the high-perspective look down into the valley, as well as the fast tilting shots in which the camera follows the Coyote falling. This manipulated sequence aims to visually represent the paramnesia feeling, déjà-vu combined with ‘here we go again’, and aims to synchronize virtual images from similar situations with the movement image of the current action. In short, we have built our argument towards the creation of an original crystal image that we edited ourselves, to show how the crystal image logic plays out in these cartoons and why that makes them so funny to watch.