Slow Movies

Slow Movies: Countering the Cinema of Action

IRA JAFFE
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/jaff16978
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  • Book Info
    Slow Movies
    Book Description:

    "In all film there is the desire to capture the motion of life, to refuse immobility," Agnes Varda has noted. But to capture the reality of human experience, cinema must fasten on stillness and inaction as much as motion.Slow Moviesinvestigates movies by acclaimed international directors who in the past three decades have challenged mainstream cinema's reliance on motion and action. More than other realist art cinema, slow movies by Lisandro Alonso, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Pedro Costa, Jia Zhang-ke, Abbas Kiarostami, Cristian Mungiu, Alexander Sokurov, Bela Tarr, Gus Van Sant and others radically adhere to space-times in which emotion is repressed along with motion; editing and dialogue yield to stasis and contemplation; action surrenders to emptiness if not death.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85063-6
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Let me begin by citing one more comment relevant to this book’s intent: “Slow Movies That Are Still Compelling”, anAll Movie Talkpodcast in December 2006, noted that “many times the word ‘slow’ is used as a synonym for dull or boring, and certainly that is often an apt description, but we want to make a case for movies that work without speeding from one plot point to another”. While the podcast’s goals comported with the views of Bordwell and Trinh, its classification of two disparate films,Tokyo Story(Yasujiro Ozu, 1953) andRaging Bull(Martin Scorsese, 1980), as...

  4. Deadpan Stranger Than Paradise, Dead Man and The Second Circle
    (pp. 15-44)

    The films of Jim Jarmusch and Alexander Sokurov, two fiercely independent filmmakers born two years apart in the early 1950s, differ in various ways. Jarmusch’s work tends to be more humorous, playful and ironic. Also, he consistently prefers to depict ordinary characters and actions. He has said he would rather “make a movie about a guy walking his dog than about the emperor of China”,³ and that he wants to highlight the “moments between what we think of as significant”.⁴ Sokurov, by contrast, has occasionally embraced significance rather than avoided it. The Russian’s feature-length films have included, for instance, the...

  5. Stillness Elephant and Mother and Son
    (pp. 45-66)

    Like Jarmusch and Sokurov, Van Sant has taken rarefied pleasure in achieving various sorts of distance and detachment in his cinema – particularly inGerry,Elephant,Last Days(2005) andParanoid Park, four works he directed betweenFinding Forrester(2000) andMilk(2008), two of his more mainstream films. RegardingGerry, a slow movie about two hikers who lose their way, Van Sant told Gerald Peary, “A lot of movies don’t want you to have space to drift off and reflect on what you are thinking. Or for you to get lost, which is what this film is about ... I...

  6. Long Shot Distant and Climates
    (pp. 67-86)

    Although Roger Ebert apparently adhered to his low opinion ofDead Mancited at the end of the first chapter, his change of heart aboutDistantconfirms that our reactions to movies, along with other aspects of our experience, are susceptible to change. Reacting in 1985 to the critical outcry of the early 1960s against Antonioni’s seeming breaches of narrative logic, causality and resolution in his “great tetralogy” (L’Avventura[1959],La notte[1960],Eclipse[1962] andRed Desert[1964]), Seymour Chatman wrote, “at this distance in time it is difficult to understand all the critical fuss that greeted the films”.³...

  7. Wait Time The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Safe
    (pp. 87-108)

    The three films examined in this chapter relinquish slow-movie traits to some degree and assume, somewhat likeClimates, the lineaments of a less stringent type of international art cinema. In all three films, for instance, though especially in Cristian Mungiu’s4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days(hereafter432), major characters evince strong emotions, linked occasionally in Mungiu’s film to sharp social insights. Yet strong indications of the emotional restraint and repression typical of slow movies persist, especially in Todd Haynes’Safe. Indeed, both Dante Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) in Cristi Puiu’sThe Death of Mr. Lazarescu(hereafterLazarescu) and Carol...

  8. Drift and Resistance Liverpool and Ossos
    (pp. 109-126)

    IfSafe,4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,The Death of Mr. LazarescuandClimatesadhere imperfectly to slow-movie norms outlined in the introduction, Lisandro Alonso’sLiverpool(2008) represents perhaps the purest instance of slow cinema explored in this book. Both the Argentine filmmaker’s remark inCineastethat “not much happens”³ in his films and his interlocutors’ characterisation of his work – especially the trilogyLa libertad(2001), Losmuertos(2004) andLiverpool– as a “stylistically rigorous, minimalist exercise in ‘slow cinema’”⁴ hardly overstateLiverpool’s emotional stringency, its slow pace and sustained focus on emptiness, inaction, silence and stillness, its...

  9. Death - Drive, Life - Drive A Talking Picture, Taste of Cherry, Five Dedicated to Ozu and Still Life
    (pp. 127-150)

    With the exception ofFive Dedicated to Ozu, which contains no dialogue (and purports in its title to consist of just five long takes), this chapter’s films do not resist the spoken word in the manner of Lisandro Alonso’sLiverpooland Pedro Costa’sOssos. Indeed, the title of Oliveira’s film,A Talking Picture, signals an embrace of speech impossible during the silent era when Oliveira’s filmmaking career began. Yet the talk inA Talking Picture, as inTaste of CherryandStill Life, often focuses on loss, absence and death; it suggests, as do other aspects of this trio of...

  10. Rebellion’s Limits The Turin Horse, Werckmeister Harmonies and 12:08 East of Bucharest
    (pp. 151-170)

    Although Tarr’s films are unique, Bíro’s notion of “human beings deprived of action and events in their allotted time” applies to many slow-movie characters. Both the personality and circumstances of these characters curtail their capacity for action, whether as individuals or in concert with others. Confronted by misfortune and injustice, passive and naive characters such as Sanming inStill Lifeand William Blake inDead Manrespond, for the most part, minimally and slowly; rarely, moreover, does a slow-movie character – other than Blake’s rescuer, Nobody, and the celebrities inA Talking Picture– articulate strong political and social views. Yet another...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-192)
  12. Index
    (pp. 193-202)