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The "Cognitive Estrangement" of Slow Cinema


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In the Boston Review, Mark Bould appraises the aesthetics and implicit politics of “slow cinema,” a recent trend in film that privileges long takes, extended duration, and an attention to the film-watching experience itself. Bould suggests the slow cinema has the potential to bring about the “cognitive estrangement” vis-à-vis our world that dystopian sci-fi used to. Read an excerpt from the piece, below, or the full text here.

If dystopia can no longer gain sufficient distance from our own world to generate the cognitive estrangement upon which sci-fi’s political potential hinges, we should not look to the future or to alternate words. We should, for the present, stick with the present. We just need to go deeper. To dive into boredom.

In the February 2010 Sight & Sound, Jonathan Romney described a major trend in the new millennium’s cinema:

films that are slow, poetic, contemplative—cinema that downplays event in favour of mood, evocativeness and an intensified sense of temporality. Such films highlight the viewing process itself as a real-time experience in which, ideally, you become acutely aware of every minute, every second spent watching.

With precursors in the structuralist Chantal Akerman, the indifferent Andy Warhol, the deliberate Yasujirō Ozu, the meditative Andrei Tarkovsky, the ambiguous Theo Angelopoulos, the glacial Béla Tarr, slow cinema represents an understandable “thirst for abstraction at a time when immediacy and simultaneity . . . are tyrannical demands.” It rewards us with “an exalted reverie”…

Slow cinema casts us adrift, and upon our own resources, in the unstable realms of semiosis and affect.

Image: A still from Dead Slow Ahead. Via Boston Review.