2018 Mar 13, CLIT2001 midterm response paper
刚写完 觉得自己写的有点不错 跟电影本身不怎么有关 主要是探讨两种电影对urban narratives的影响
question 4: what do slow and "fast" films like 3-iron and run lola run respectively tell us about urbanity? while speed and speediness are general motifs of a lot of urban narratives, why is slowness/Slow Cinema equally significnt to the narration of urban life?
“Fast” and Slow Cinemas and How They Relate to Urbanity
In response to topic 4, I shall take the spectator’s experience into consideration to discuss how urban lives are narrated as they engage in the process of constructing urbanity, as well as how “fast” and slow cinemas identify two inevitable ways of reading the urban life in relation to de Certeau’s viewpoints made in “Walking in the City”.
Spectators’ experience is a crucial component in urban films. The making of a film is artificial in a sense that the mise-en-scène carefully manipulates what and how much information we as spectators obtain from a single frame. In this regard, when it comes to films associated with urban narratives, there are boundaries; an instance would be a shot being intentionally framed to chop off part of an architecture, which supposedly serves to construct a sense of urban space and the sociocultural aspect that comes along. As a certain impression of an urban context is being constructed in a film, the viewers also engage in that process and become part of the narratives.
In films that feature speediness such as “Run Lola Run” or even those Hollywood clichés like “Jason Bourne”, the fast pace is emphasized not only through the abundant camera tracking motion but the extensive use of speed motifs and soundtracks. In order to constantly “move around” in a city, having a mode of transportation is nevertheless essential – whether it is by foot or by ambulance. The subject that one can never stay still in a city is recurrently drawn attention to. The high mobility denotes the disoriented and drifting state of consciousness that belongs to specifically the postmodern urban lives. With the city dwellers’ lives being depicted, the mobility within an urban setting also comments on the notion of fatalism. The choice of routes generates numerous possibilities and chances an urban dweller may encounter. One may consider it as to imply that urban dwellers have dominance over their fate or even the city as they shuttle back and forth. However, it is questionable whether domination is relative as we confidently work our ways out in the city while being situated in a fast-forwarded urban context of pre-existence that in fact we all submit to. For spectators, watching speedy urban films helps us formulate a better sense of the spatial narratives of the city and evoke our participation in the urban narration since the speediness is rather interactive. On the other hand, one can be easily fooled by the illusion that engaging more means seeing more; in fact, speedy films remind us of the visual boundaries in urban spaces. However fast we travel in the city, we can only see what has been given to us to see, just like how filmmakers frame their shots to exclude the unwanted.
If “fast” films engage spectators in constructing the urban life, then slow cinema rediscovers the fast-paced urbanity from a novel perspective by exploring different possibilities. Slow films such as those by Kim Ki-duk and Hou Hsiao-hsien usually introduce a gazing angle to the spectators, that is, regardless of the actions happening in the film, the camera is oftentimes at a position that isolates the characters from the spectators’ world. It is almost as if the camera purposefully does so to detach us from the urban life depicted in the film, or the other way round. Rather than constantly visually and acoustically informing us of what is happening in that speedy postmodern urban life, slow cinema takes a step back to contemplate the issues beneath the speediness. It deconstructs the foundation upon which “fast” films are built; for instance, when we see characters travelling on urban transportation, instead of moving with them, we gaze at them from a fixed position or a certain distance away without hearing non-diegetic sounds. In this sense, slow films usually portray the marginalized or isolated communities whose lives make up a certain portion of urbanity and yet are neglected by the mainstream. Through slow cinema, spectators are able to temporarily disengage with the urban life and reconsider social and urban issues.
Despite the degree of spectators’ attachment associated with these two cinemas, it is not yet to conclude that faster motion signifies less emotion with urbanity per se, or vice versa. They are merely perspectives to be taken to narrate or look into the city. Taking de Certeau’s argument into account (91-110), in terms of narrating urbanity, slow cinema performs more or less like viewing the city from above; within the minimal quantity of cuts, the fixed shots and long takes establish a sense of detachment and “totality”. “Fast” cinema, on the other hand, is a way similar to walking in the city where “specificity” and engagement is foregrounded; spectators through attaching to the characters and experiencing the urban context with the characters generate their own subjective connections with urbanity. Unlike how de Certeau points out observing the city from above is objective and sometimes creates illusions, slow cinema is contemplation. Spectators pull themselves away from the fast-paced urbanity in order to further reflect upon the urban life. The two cinemas are therefore of equal importance to narrating the city as they complement each other for the sake of a more comprehensive reading of urbanity.
In addition, regarding the relation between “fast” and slow cinemas from a postmodern point of view, there should be no absolute binary of speed but only relativity. In other words, “fast” has to be and can only be understood with respect to slow so as to provoke a more discernible influence on urban narration. For further research, how this relativity of speed echoes with today’s postmodern values can be investigated.
Certeau, Michel de. “Walking in the City.”The Practice of Everyday Life, translated by Steven Rendall, University of California Press, 1984, pp. 91–110.