What is Slow Cinema?

No, I do not undertake a heroic attempt of defining it. Slow Cinema is based on too many relative factors that, in fact, defy a definition. More fundamentally, though, I ask myself whether or not we actually speak about the right thing. More to the point, are we really speaking about film here?

Yesterday, I spoke of an academic standstill, expressed by a kind of “negative growth” of output. Neither film critics nor film academics appear to demonstrate a drive for groundbreaking research. I’ve often wondered why this was the case and while I’m happy to be on the forefront of this research, I cursed academics at the same time for being blind, and seemingly ignorant.

The situation looks very different, though, if you consider that film might not be the most suitable framework, or concept to discuss in relation to Slow Cinema. The word ‘cinema’ alone implies that we are speaking of film. The films we’re speaking of are screened in cinemas. At festivals, yes. But nevertheless in a cinema. Although the cinema venue as such has changed, and we can watch even operas and theatre plays on screen, the main association we have with a cinema is film.

From the moment I started reading about exhibitions, which included all types of art forms, I had the feeling that slow films (?) are screened in the wrong venues. Technically, they are gallery exhibits, especially the films by Lav Diaz, which offer you, in theory, the luxury that you can come and go, take a break, return and the film as such would still be there. This may not be true for all slow films, but it is true for the specific slow films I’m studying.

Now, screening a film in a gallery – does it not come closer to a video? I have to admit that the thought of slow videos might sound absurd, but this very absurdity seems to hold the key to understanding the concept and the reception of this slow-moving time-based visual artefact.

“The difference between film and video are contingent rather than essential, certainly as far as the art world is concerned. The difference between them is rather like the difference between drawing with a pencil and with a pen or a stick of charcoal.” (Peter Wollen – Time in Video and Film Art)

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2 thoughts on “What is Slow Cinema?

  1. : “…in order to discover the scheme of reference (in this case, the genre) we must study the history but we cannot study the history without having in mind some scheme of selection.” (Wellek and Warren, Theory of Literature, 1954)

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