Curator's Note

"Intersection" (Catherine Grant, Chiara Grizzaffi, Denise Liege - 2014)

Is there a connection to be made between cinephilia and eating? Let me offer one point of contact. Nutritionists often make the distinction between quick-release sugars and slow-release sugars. When we eat candy or white bread, our bodies absorb the sugar in these foods rapidly; our blood sugar levels spike and then crash; before long, we feel hungry again. When we eat an apple, the sugar is absorbed in a slow and measured way; we are sated for longer; what’s more, our bodies get the nutritional benefits of fruit.

It is commonly held that one criterion of value for a film is how it rewards and repays repeat viewings. As much as cinephilia embraces films whose interest lies primarily in their exciting, stimulating, immediately apprehensible surfaces—a “quick-release” cinema—there is nevertheless a tendency for the cinephile to confer a special value upon films that are dense, layered, or difficult. These “slow-release” films take time—and re-viewing—both to apprehend with fullness their material complexity and also to make sense of this complexity.

The video “Intersection” by Catherine Grant, Chiara Grizzaffi and Denise Liege is an emblematic “slow-release” cinephilic object. The design of this object is ingenious: it is not intended as a pure, stand-alone audiovisual work. Instead, the video is envisioned as the central element in a cluster of artifacts that also includes writings by various critics and scholars on Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000), the film which is the subject of the video.

It is an axiom that cinephilia involves more than just watching large numbers of films—it also involves thinking, talking, reading and writing about them. The video “Intersection” enacts this definition of cinephilia by suggesting both a context and a procedure for its viewing. In a post at Film Studies for Free, Grant paints a general contextual background by providing links to numerous writings that will help viewers acquire a gradually deepening appreciation of the video over time. But, in a separate post at Filmanalytical, she goes further: by identifying and excerpting from three essays that variously develop notions of “intersections” as activated by Wong’s film. She appends the following instruction: “Watch the video, then read the below, intersecting quotations from written texts about Wong's film. Then repeat.”

Intersection” features nine moving images from the film that unfold simultaneously. I first saw the video at the SCMS conference in Seattle in the spring. Without reading the associated posts—and thus without the experience of its “para-textual” supports—the video struck me as inviting and intriguing—but also dense and opaque. But each time I have returned to it since—having dug gradually deeper into the writings Grant links to in her accompanying posts—the network of “intersections” between and within the nine image tracks has grown fuller, more detailed, more evocative, without ever feeling “settled” or “solved."

I’d like to conclude with a question about your personal experience. I am wondering: are there examples of video essays that are rich and complex—that invite, even demand, revisiting? I’d love to learn of some. Thank you.


Corey K Creekmur's picture


Girish, your gustatorial (?) query, with the interesting notion of quick and slow release applied to cinema, makes me wonder about my question in my contribution to this issue, (motivated by Jason Livingston’s THE END) regarding another form of delay and satisfaction vs. quick release: I wonder if his montage of the endings (only) of films can retain the pleasure of the, um, climax, or cannot replicate that pleasure if the arrival of the ending doesn’t take time to arrive at a more leisurely pace. Your essay makes me wonder about the hidden connections between the (so-called) “slow cinema” and “slow food” movements, but now perhaps with a different form of delayed gratification in mind as well …
Girish Shambu's picture


That’s a great and intriguing line of thought, Corey! Let me offer one more “node” for connection here: the “slow clothes” movement that has been gaining popularity of late in our culture as a reaction against the prevailing regime of “fast fashion” (low-priced clothes with a short product life, mostly outsourced and produced in low-wage places such as Bangladesh, available everywhere from Target to H&M and Forever 21). The “slow clothes” ethos involves learning about and becoming aware of fabrics and materials; being willing to invest in quality clothes that will last a long time; and taking an active role in “maintaining” clothes by learning the basics of sewing, mending, etc. I see a connection here: the association of “slow cinema” with things such as the active participation of the spectator; developing a richer appreciation of formal/stylistic detail; a heightened sensitivity to audiovisual texture; and the valuing of duration …
Corey K Creekmur's picture

As a notoriously

As a notoriously fashion-hampered person, I was completely unaware of the “slow clothes” movement, but that’s fascinating (and your brief account brings to my mind the central and symbolic role clothing — or cloth/khadi — played in Gandhi’s freedom struggle activities). But of course this is also appropriate to cite in relation to Wong Kar-wai’s IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, which is certainly as clothing-centered as it is food-centered, a point emphasized by the somewhat related short film THE HAND (in the omnibus EROS) that he directed just after IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. Slow film/food/fashion: an intriguing trio!
Girish Shambu's picture


Yes, Corey, that really is intriguing! “Slowness” now appears to me to be a notion that is asking to be theorized in a broad way that threads through multiple fields of creative endeavor …!
David T. Johnson's picture


Girish and Corey, I hope you’ll forgive a somewhat roundabout response (perhaps appropriate for the topic of slowness?). I keep coming back to the idea of slowness, particularly with a given videographic essay (or a piece of writing, or cinema), as both an attitude one adopts, in order to be as careful and thoughtful as possible in one’s perceptions and, later, reflections, and also a byproduct, something that occurs because, going in the other direction, whatever it is—video, writing, cinema—just isn’t understandable until it’s seen/read multiple times. I’m wondering, is this a distinction based on a given object, or is it just the way that a particularly challenging object heightens our own awareness of this two-part process (dialectic?) we engage in regularly? And as a side note, I should say, I’m often really attracted to work that engages quickly, with a sense of speed, even if in writing about it, I’m forced, in a good way, to slow down.
Girish Shambu's picture


Dave, you make a fascinating distinction there! Just musing here (without having thought about this deeply) one might say that we are dealing with two separate temporalities here: (1) that of the WORK we are engaging with (e.g. a Bela Tarr film unfolds, temporally, in a very different way than a John Woo film does); and (2) the temporality of the work WE do—that is, the process WE create and execute when we engage with, experience and study cinema (which might involve repeat visits to the film, isolation and analysis of specific moments, doing reading related to the film, etc). But I see one key point of difference: in the case of the latter, it could be said that slowness is likely to lead to ‘better’ work—more deliberately considered, allowing for more time for delay/repetition/juxtaposition/comparison in the Mulveyian model. But in the case of (1), I don’t think a similar result obtains. That is, Tarr/Alonso/Serra is not always and necessarily ‘better’ cinema than Woo/Raoul Walsh/Johnnie To. But these are just a few impromptu thoughts: I need to think deeply about your distinction, Dave. Sounds like a good candidate for an exploratory blog post!
David T. Johnson's picture

great distinction

Girish, I like your elaboration here—and look forward to that blog post!


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