Slow cinema is a genre of art cinema filmmaking that emphasizes long takes and is typically characterised by a style that is 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 51 Paintings.
Progenitors of the genre include Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Robert Bresson, František Vláčil, Pier Paolo Pasolini, G. Aravindan, Aleksandr Sokurov, Béla Tarr, Chantal Akerman, Theo Angelopoulos, Abbas Kiarostami and Franco Piavoli. Tarkovsky said, "I think that what a person normally goes to cinema for is time".
Greek director Theo Angelopoulos has been called an "icon of the so-called Slow Cinema movement".
Recent underground film movements such as Remodernist film share the sensibility of slow or contemplative cinema.
G. Aravindan was a filmmaker whose works such as Kanchana Sita, Thampu and Esthappan have been regarded as embodying a uniquely original style of contemplative cinema where the aesthetic sensibility and philosophical insights of Indian culture could find a meditative mode of expression within more universal contexts of humanism and transcendentalism.
The AV Festival held a Slow Cinema Weekend at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle in March 2012, including the films of Rivers, Lav Diaz, Lisandro Alonso and Fred Kelemen.
Recent examples include films by Kelly Reichardt, Bruno Dumont, Albert Serra, Lech Majewski, Benedek Fliegauf, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Anocha Suwichakornpong, Vimukthi Jayasundara, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Ming-Liang, Lav Diaz, Sergei Loznitsa, Carlos Reygadas, Amat Escalante, Nicolas Pereda, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Sharunas Bartas, Pedro Costa, and 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.
Slow cinema has been criticized as 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".
The American director Paul Schrader wrote about slow cinema in his book Transcendental Style in Film, and called it an aesthetic tool. He argues that most viewers find slow cinema boring, but that a "slow film director keeps his viewer on the hook, thinking there's a reward, a payoff just around the corner."
Recently, film scholars Katherine Fusco and Nicole Seymour have written that the slow cinema movement's supporters and detractors have both mischaracterized it. 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."