Edinburgh Film Seminar: Modernist Belatedness in Contemporary Slow Cinema
Dr Angelos Koutsourakis
Christian Metz reminds us that the creative stock of modernist cinema includes both the tropes of montage as well as the plan sequence, and cinematic stasis. In this paper, I explore the reanimation of modernist tropes in contemporary slow cinema with reference to two case studies: Pedro Costa’s Ossos (Bones, 1996) and Angela Schanelec’s Marseille (2004). Despite a recent surge of publications in slow cinema, little has been written on the movement’s modernist belatedness. The conversation has mainly focused on slow cinema’s reaction to late capitalist speed and the ways it counteracts Hollywood cinema’s privileging of dramatic action, while some scholars see slowness as a particularly novel aesthetic strategy ignoring its modernist lineages. In this paper, I take a different approach so as to shift the conversation on slow cinema’s reanimation of older stylistic traits associated with modernism. I argue that slow films can be understood as objects that return to the past so as to resist the postmodern valorisation of surface and superficiality. Furthermore, I contend that slow cinema reanimates the modernist desire to construct a new attitude of dealing with time, the real, and the typical, by complicating the distinction between narratively important and trivial events. My approach is informed by Noël Burch’s non-linear, and archaeological approach to film/media history that aims to identify historical lacunae and ruptures that demonstrate how many stylistic traits, but also media practices have their roots in the past.
Dr Angelos Koutsourakis is University Academic Fellow in World Cinema at the University of Leeds. His research is at the interface of film theory, World cinema, modernism, and politics and representation. He is the author of Politics as Form in Lars von Trier: A Post-Brechtian Reading (2013), and the co-editor (with Mark Steven) of The Cinema of Theo Angelopoulos (2015).