A continuation of yesterday's theme, with a reprise of motifs from the earlier film.
‘The long section devoted to the German convoy, for example, starts with a shot of the Resistance leader looking at a map, cuts to the German command looking at another map, cuts to the Transport Kommandantur, where two German officers consider a railway map and then fades to the same map, but this time being studied by two Frenchmen. The montage and continuities of content clearly establish an equivalence between the German and French leaderships. This equivalence will be underscored by subsequent cross-cutting between the two commands.’
Martin O’Shaughnessy, ‘La Bataille du rail: Unconventional Form, Conventional Image?’, in Nancy Wood & Rod Kedward (eds), The Libertation of France: Image and Event (Oxford: Berg, 1995), pp.20-21.
‘There is a scene early on in The General in which the Union spy, Captain Anderson, shows his commanding officer a map of the railroad tracks between Chatanooga, where the Northern forces are encamped, and Marietta, Georgia, where the opposing Southern army is headquartered. It is along this route that Anderson plans to hijack Johnnie Gray's locomotive The General and then drive it behind Northern lines whence it can be used to spearhead an attack upon the Confederates. I have heard commentators refer to this map as a diagram of Keaton’s narrative, literally a plot line. Keaton's evident love of geometry and especially symmetry , it is suggested, drew him to this neatest, cleanest, most elegant of narrative designs. First, the Union hijackers steam the train one way with Johnnie in earnest pursuit; then he recovers the engine and races home in the opposite direction with the Northerners on his tail. Was there ever a more linear narrative? Moreover, the symmetry involved in these two chases over the same terrain affords the opportunity for a wealth of comic variations on various recurring themes, such as decouplings and side-trackings, made all the more risible for being repeated.
This interpretation of the map is very tempting.’
Noël Carroll, Comedy Incarnate: Buster Keaton, Physical Humor and Bodily Coping (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), pp.159-60.