Slow cinema is a genre of art cinema film-making that emphasizes long takes, and is often minimalist, observational, and with little or no narrative. It is sometimes called "contemplative cinema". Examples include Ben Rivers' Two Years at Sea, Michelangelo Frammartino's Le Quattro Volte, and Shaun Wilson's film 51 Paintings.
Progenitors of the genre include Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andy Warhol, Aleksandr Sokurov, Béla Tarr, Chantal Akerman and Theo Angelopoulos. Tarkovsky argued that "I think that what a person normally goes to cinema for is time".
Recent underground film movements such as Remodernist film share the sensibility of slow or contemplative cinema. Examples include Béla Tarr's, The Turin Horse, the works of Fred Kelemen, and Sleep Has Her House by Scott Barley.
Sight & Sound noted of the definition of slow cinema that "The length of a shot, on which much of the debate revolves, is a quite abstract measure if divorced from what takes place within it".The Guardian contrasted the long takes of the genre with the two-second average shot length in Hollywood action movies, and noted that "they opt for ambient noises or field recordings rather than bombastic sound design, embrace subdued visual schemes that require the viewer's eye to do more work, and evoke a sense of mystery that springs from the landscapes and local customs they depict more than it does from generic convention." The genre has been described as an "act of organized resistance" similar to the Slow food movement.
It has been criticized as being indifferent or even hostile to audiences. A backlash by Sight & Sound's Nick James, and picked up by online writers, argued that early uses of long takes were "adventurous provocations created by extremists" whereas recent films are "operating within a recognized, default artistic idiom."The Guardian's film blog concluded that "being less overweeningly precious about films that are likely to be impenetrable to even the most well-informed audiences would seem an idea." Dan Fox of Frieze criticized both the dichotomy of the argument into 'philistine' vs 'pretentious' and the reductiveness of the term "slow cinema".
Recently, film scholars Katherine Fusco and Nicole Seymour have pointed out that the slow cinema movement has been mischaracterized by both supporters and detractors. As they argue, much "commentary posits slow cinema as a kind of pastoral for the present moment, a respite from our technologically saturated ... Hollywood-blockbuster-centered era."
Such commentary therefore associates the movement with pleasure and relaxation.
But in reality, slow cinema films often focus on down-and-out laborers; as Fusco and Seymour argue, "for those on the fringes of society, modernity is actually experienced as slowness, and usually to their great detriment."