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Sunday, July 17, 2011

To America everything foreign is SLOW

Unfortunately, the mainstream audience isn't alone in thinking that, the American intellectuals also believe it... Basically, world cinema is judged in America by cultural arbiters with a childlike mentality.
No. Cinema made outside of the USA isn't systematically "slower" or "boring", we are capable to make commercial storytelling too! And even the artfilms or "festival films" are not ALL so easily stereotyped, there are more nuanced distinctions to be made within the numerous films that do not resort to the cheap Hollywood narrative cues. It's not one single "genre", like a homogeneous antithesis to whatever Hollywood decides is THE "norm". Yesterday, slow, today, speed. Hollywood didn't like fast cutting when Eisenstein did it. But now it's in fashion. And Hollywood forgot it used to be slow itself...

P.S. not everything vaguely slowish is contemplative. My point being, obviously, that CCC is a unique aesthetic and language, that is more well-defined than whatever superficial observers call the "default international style" or "festival films" or "slow cinema"!


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16 comments:

HarryTuttle said...

"Although established forms of narration across national cinemas are always in a state of transition, a particularly striking dichotomy between mainstream continuity style and marginal art cinema has become increasingly apparent in recent years. The disparity has primarily emerged in the relationship between speed and editing, and now calls for a closer examination of the binary extremes of ‘fast’ and ‘slow’. [..]
In light of the current prevalence of these stylistic tropes, it is perhaps time to consider their reciprocal employment as pertaining not to an abstract notion of “slowness” but a unique formal and structural design: an aesthetic of slow."
The "Aesthetic of Slow" (Matthew Flanagan; 16:9, Nov 2008)

HarryTuttle said...

"If you wanted to lampoon a certain school of slow, ruminative cinema, one shot in particular would suffice. It's from Albert Serra's El Cant Dels Ocells (Birdsong, 2008): an eight-minute single take of a desert plain. [..] 'Slow Cinema' has been embraced by critics and festivals the world over. [..] The last decade certainly saw an increasing demand among cinephiles for films that are slow, poetic, contemplative"
(Jonathan Romney; S&S, Feb 2010)

HarryTuttle said...

"Part of the critical orthodoxy I have complained about has been the dominance of Slow Cinema [..] The bargain the newer variety of slow films seem to impose on the viewer is simple: it’s up to you to draw on your stoic patience and the fascination in your gaze, in case you miss a masterpiece. [..] Slow Cinema has been the clear alternative to Hollywood for some time, but from now on, with Hollywood in trouble, I’ll be looking out for more active forms of rebellion."
“Passive Aggressive”, editorial by Nick James, Sight & Sound, April 2010

HarryTuttle said...

"Duration is a crucial issue here, and some of the recent discussion about slow (if not boring, at least to some of us) films revisits arguments over what has previously been termed Slow Cinema."
Manohla Dargis (NYT, 17 June 2011)

HarryTuttle said...

"And while I derive great pleasure from some movies that might be described as slow or tedious, I also find food for thought in fast, slick, whimsical entertainments."
(AO Scott; NYT; 3 June 2011)

HarryTuttle said...

"To me, the success or failure of one of Kois' cultural vegetables always comes down to a matter of form following function. Anyone can make a slow, contemplative art film, but if you're not contemplating anything in particular, you're wasting everyone's time."
Down Into the Roots of Cultural Vegetables (05/10/2011;Matt Singer)

HarryTuttle said...

"Certainly in Hollywood the idea that movies should not be boring has taken a particularly tenacious hold."
Why boredom is still a bad thing (3 June 2011; Tom Shone)

HarryTuttle said...

"Slow or fast; these things don't mean anything much. It is more about the potential friction between what you expect to happen and what happens in a film. We must never make the mistake of assuming that slowness is synonymous with profundity."
Geoff Dyer

HarryTuttle said...

"We have a polarized film culture: fast, aggressive cinema for the mass market and slow, more austere cinema for festivals and arthouses. [..] For the historian, the polarization between fast pop movies and slow festival films asks to be explained. [..] From the 1940s through the 1960s, certain directors developed a new approach to telling stories. Antonioni, Dreyer, Bergman, and a few others opted for a style that relied on slower pacing and even “dead moments” that seemed to halt the narrative altogether. [..] Today, directors who persist in long-take, slowly-paced storytelling are aiming chiefly at the festival market. [..]
So Kois may assume that “boring” films have persisted in today’s film culture because of snobbism, but there are deeper reasons. The competition among filmmakers to push an aesthetic horizon further, the narrowing of audience tastes, the search for a budget-appropriate niche that could stand in opposition to the visual spectacle of the New Hollywood–these seem to me important factors in making slow movies a ghetto for cinephiles. [..]
The problem has haunted me for decades, ever since the 1970s when I took an interest in Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer, and Mizoguchi–all filmmakers felt, at the time, to be slow. I failed to come to grips with the problem in my 1981 book on Dreyer; I even anticipated Kois in calling Gertrud (another item that would never grace theatre screens today) boring–but I took that to be a good thing, as a challenge to conventional viewing habits."
Good and good for you (David Bordwell; 10 July 2011)

HarryTuttle said...

" Atmen and Hors Satan reminded me that a lot of European art films, despite their reputation for being slow, have a crisp, laconic style. Abrupt cuts open and end scenes, while an unexpected close-up can accentuate a moment. This sort of precision meshes with other conventions of this tradition: delayed exposition, long scenes without dialogue or music, routines that structure the plot, and a demand that we let things unfold at a rhythm different from that of the goal-driven Hollywood cinema."
If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium (David Bordwell; 19 July 2011)

HarryTuttle said...

"My feeling is that British film reviewers must stop pretending to represent the norm and take a more prominent stand against the Hollywood machine and its avalanche of poor films, and to stand for a broader view of film culture such as you see in the examples of good criticism that follow this article. But it's easy for me to say this.
I am to some extent echoing the most famous essay on criticism this magazine ever published. In 'Stand up! Stand Up' (S&S, Autumn 1956) Lindsay Anderson took issue with the dispassionate English school of film reviewing."
Who needs critics? (Nick James, S&S, Oct 2008)

if only he could use his own advice in his own magazine...

HarryTuttle said...

"For these new movie lovers, old divides like trash versus art, Hollywood versus the world have given way to an expansive inclusion of cinemas from around the globe."
(Manohla Dargis, NYT, 14 Nov 2004)

HarryTuttle said...

"[..] the troubling signal of the emergence of an international arthouse-festival formula, variant from film to film but adhering to an established set of aesthetic elements: adagio rhythms and oblique narrative; a tone of quietude and reticence, an aura of unexplained or unearned anguish; attenuated takes, long tracking or panning shots, often of depopulated landscapes; prolonged hand-held follow shots of solo people walking; slow dollies to a window or open door framing nature; a materialist sound design; and a preponderance of Tarkovskian imagery. [..] Has this uniform international aesthetic been nurtured by the festival circuit[..]? And how can such films be considered discoveries when they cnform to such a familiar style?"
The Sandwich Process (James Quandt; Dekalog 3: On Film Festivals; 2009)

HarryTuttle said...

"There are times, as you watch someone trudge up yet another woodland path, when you feel an implicit threat: admit you're bored and you're a philistine. Such films are passive agressive in that they demand great swathes of our precious time to achieve quite a fleeting and slender aesthetic and political effects: sometimes it's worth it, sometimes not."
Nick James; S&S; April 2010

"'Contemplative cinema' is in danger of becoming mannerist, and the routine reverence afforded to its weaker films by critics is part of the problem. [..] This emerged particularly in response to my use of the word 'bored'. Leigh seems to think that I was 'encouraging the idea that it's OK to dismiss or walk away from anything you initially don't get'. I don't believe I was; I was merely standing up for the right of anyone -critics included- to say 'I'm getting nothing from this'"
Nick James; S&S; July 2010

Matthew Barrington said...

Someone once said if America spoke Spanish then we (England) would have a national cinema. Considering films like Time that Remains, Le Quattro Volte or the English film Archipelago silence creates a levelling factor where the barriers created by language are temporarily replaced by the power of images.

HarryTuttle said...

"Connectedness has brought glut. In a group of n people, the numbers of possible telephone conversations or dinner-party seating arrangements or sexual-disease transmission vectors grow combinatorially, and combinatorial growth is much faster than geometric growth; it's generally exponential, in fact. Much of the human experience (knowledge, disease) spreads by proximity, and for any one person the number of fellows in proximity has exploded. In past times, even in the most crowded city, we lived close enough to only a few people to, say, read their journals or track the temperature of their hot tubs. Now, in hordes, they put that information on line. The multiplication of information pathways leads to positive feedback effects in the nature of frenzies. The more people talk and write about the occasional mass phenomena that grab the hysterical attention of American culture-O. J. Simpson, El Niño, Monica Lewinsky, Y2K-the more people want to hear. The more journalists hear, the more they feel able-even obliged-to keep talking and writing. As fluid pressure rises (you learn in high school physics), molecules collide faster and more often, and so the temperature rises too. Close packing and transmission speed are two sides of a coin; that is why sound travels faster through dense crystals."
in Faster, the acceleration of just about everything (James Gleick; 1999)