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Tsai Ming-Liang and a Cinema of Slowness

Song Hwee Lim

Publication Year: 2014

How can we qualify slowness in cinema? What is the relationship between a cinema of slowness and a wider socio-cultural “slow movement”? A body of films that shares a propensity toward slowness has emerged in many parts of the world over the past two decades. This is the first book to examine the concept of cinematic slowness and address this fascinating phenomenon in contemporary film culture.

Providing a critical investigation into questions of temporality, materiality, and aesthetics, and examining concepts of authorship, cinephilia, and nostalgia, Song Hwee Lim offers insight into cinematic slowness through the films of the Malaysian-born, Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-liang. Through detailed analysis of aspects of stillness and silence in cinema, Lim delineates the strategies by which slowness in film can be constructed. By drawing on writings on cinephilia and the films of directors such as Abbas Kiarostami, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Nuri Bilge Ceylan, he makes a passionate case for a slow cinema that calls for renewed attention to the image and to the experience of time in film.

Tsai Ming-liang and a Cinema of Slowness will speak to readers with an interest in art cinema, queer studies, East Asian culture, and the question of time. In an age of unrelenting acceleration of pace both in film and in life, this book invites us to pause and listen, to linger and look, and, above all, to take things slowly.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

Note on Chinese Romanization, Translation, and Citation

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pp. xv-xviii

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Introduction Going Slow

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pp. 1-10

In a Calabrian village in southern Italy, an elderly goatherd tends to his flock by day and copes with his cough by night, workmen meticulously build a mound-like kiln to turn wood into charcoal, and an enormous tree is felled and trimmed before being erected in the center of the village for a celebratory ritual. Seasons come and go, the goatherd dies...

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Chapter 1: Slowness

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pp. 11-42

In a recent piece on world cinema and drawing on Jia Zhangke’s The World (Shijie, 2004) in his closing remarks, Dudley Andrew declared : “Let The World be the beginning of a general return to genuine cinema, which Serge Dancy claimed has nothing to do with spectacle and everything to do with time, time that passes” (2010b, 86). Elsewhere, in his...

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Chapter 2: Signature

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pp. 43-76

If the recent debate on slowness in cinema has been conducted “among international cinephiles” (James 2010b, 5), what then is the relationship between discourses on cinephilia and a cinema of slowness? In this chapter, I propose that Tsai Ming-liang’s films are uniquely placed to illuminate the relationship between slowness and cinephilia and that this...

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Chapter 3: Stillness

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pp. 77-115

The relationship between photography and film has obsessed theorists and practitioners alike since the invention of cinema, with many recent publications reconsidering the relationship in light of new digital technologies (Beckman and Ma 2008b; Campany 2008; Green and Lowry 2006; Mulvey 2006; Sutton 2009). At the center of this...

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Chapter 4: Silence

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pp. 116-149

In the making and study of films, sound tends to be an aspect that does not receive as much attention as the image. Not only is sound “generally under-valued in film and television, both in professional productions and where it is taught, in film schools and media courses” (Sider 2003, vii), film sound still exists “in the shadow of the image” and “nearly all...

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Epilogue: Getting Lost

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pp. 150-156

In a pop-up gallery in the city center of Newcastle, England, a white car is being crashed into an artificial white wall at the speed of 7 mm per hour. Exhibited as part of the city’s AV Festival, whose theme for 2012 was “As Slow as Possible,” Jonathan Schipper’s work...


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pp. 157-176

Tsai Ming-liang Filmography

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pp. 177-184

Glossary of Chinese Terms

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pp. 185-188

Works Cited

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pp. 189-204


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pp. 205-218

About the Author, Production Notes, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780824839239
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824836849

Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 876088592
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Tsai Ming-Liang and a Cinema of Slowness

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Subject Headings

  • Cai, Mingliang, 1957- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Motion pictures -- Taiwan -- History.
  • Slow cinema.
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