Slow Movies: Countering the Cinema of Action
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"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 Movies investigates 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.
Alonso”, p. 30. 4 Dennis West and Joan M. West, “Cinema Beyond Words: An Interview with Lisandro Alonso”, p. 30. 5 Quoted in Dennis West and Joan M. West, “Cinema Beyond Words: An Interview with Lisandro Alonso”, p. 34. 6 J. Hoberman, “Jobber Adrift at Sea Takes Leave in Liverpool”, Village Voice, 1 September 2009. 7 Bela Balazs, Theory of the Film: Character and Growth of a New Art, trans. Edith Bone (New York: Dover, 1970), pp. 64, 62. 8 R. Emmet Sweeney, “Interview with Lisandro Alonso,
“Ship of Fools: The Life Aquatic with Captain John Malkovich” (review of A Talking Picture), Village Voice, 30 November 2004. 25 See Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011). 26 Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), p. xi. 27 Bukatman attributes this phrase to Deleuze in The Poetics of Slumberland: Animated Spirits and the Animating Spirit,
sermon”, he said. “You don’t get to think, you only get to receive information. This film is not a sermon. The point of the film is not being delivered to you from the voice of the filmmaker. Hopefully, there are as many interpretations as there are viewers.”5 Thus both Sokurov and Van Sant may be said to represent “post-structuralist thinking” as described by Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener: By shifting the focus from the idea of structures as objectively given and “out-there”, and
to Italian Neorealism. At the same time, the obsession with authority which distracts Lazarescu’s medical professionals brings to mind the concerns with authority, as symbolised by the hotel porter’s uniform, in The Last Laugh (F. W. Murnau, 1924), a film notable for its expressionistic as much as its realistic elements. Although Lazarescu looks very different from Murnau’s film and makes very different use of long takes and the moving camera, thematically it often feels like the German film. But
immediate physical needs: the potato is ready, the horse is not eating, strangers are approaching, lamps will not stay lit. No talk of the past or future, or of affection or caring, interrupts the silence between parent and child. Perhaps the closest either of them comes to evincing empathy or tenderness is when the daughter addresses the horse; looking as impassive as ever, she poignantly entreats the animal to eat – “Do it for me!” – and to drink – “For my sake!” For the most part, though, not