Panic Express
directed by Kerouac and Wozniak

Breakfast at the International
House of Panic Attacks

In the opening scene of Panic Express, the refugees have just been herded into the freight cars and the long period of silent waiting has begun. The camera never flinches from this moment, which lasts a good thirty minutes. During this time there are six whispered words spoken, most of them in different foreign languages and most of them barely audible. 4 of the words are subtitled at the bottom of the screen, but in a language no one understands, though it looks familiar to almost everyone.

Of course, by the end of the film, the 6 words have all been revealed and analyzed ad nauseam, singly, and in all possible groupings ((6!)6 , or something).

ut once the train starts, nothing much new happens, and over the course of the next hour, only about 16 or 17 new words are spoken. Then, suddenly, the image goes from color to black and white and the sound of the train disappears from the soundtrack. Two successive words are spoken but, for the first time, everyone hears them clearly and knows what they mean -- and at that moment all the other utterances of the film become comprehensible and coalesce finally into a single declarative statement.

And, of course, just as that statement begins to be put together in the minds of the audience, the train, going about 85 mph, abruptly derails, leaving bodies strewn all over the tracks.

he point of view of the camera now moves into the heads of the people who are still alive, lying semi-conscious on the ground, hallucinating. One person is seeing himself being chased, headless down a Londonderry street just after dawn. Another one has no sound or visual images, but is still busy piecing together the 22 words of the film:
One day, all the shills in the world will be gathered up and placed together in the large, empty cargo bay of a UPS truck.

A million Spielbergs and Scorceses locked in a room with cameras and editing equipment and 15 A-list actors, would never come up with this film in a million years. It's just that non-random.


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