Category: Slow Writing


Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema

Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema will be celebrated at many events beginning in Autumn 2017. This listing will be updated as more events are confirmed.

Los Angeles Plays Itself @ Aero Theatre
Sep 3 all-day

Los Angeles Plays Itself

Thom Andersen, Los Angeles Plays Itself, 2003, 169 min

Annual Labor Day weekend screening of Los Angeles Plays Itself at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. More details to follow.

This event coincides with the launch of Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinemea, a collection of essays by Thom Andersen issued by The Visible Press in September 2017.

Thom Andersen in Vienna @ Österreichisches Filmmuseum
Sep 22 – Sep 29 all-day

Thom Andersen in Vienna

A week-long retrospective, and carte blanche of films selected and presented by Thom Andersen. Full details to follow.

Launch event for Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinemea, a collection of essays by Thom Andersen issued by The Visible Press in September 2017.

Thom Andersen in Paris @ Centre Pompidou
Sep 30 – Oct 5 all-day

Thom Andersen in Paris

Thom Andersen retrospective in the presence of the filmmaker. Full details to follow.

Launch event for Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinemea, a collection of essays by Thom Andersen issued by The Visible Press in September 2017.

Festival of Disruption @ The Theatre at Ace Hotel
Oct 14 – Oct 15 all-day

The Festival of Disruption

Thom Andersen’s film Los Angeles Plays Itself will screen at the Festival of Disruption, a benefit for the David Lynch Foundation, on 14 or 15 October 2017. More details to follow.

This event coincides with the launch of Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinemea, a collection of essays by Thom Andersen issued by The Visible Press in September 2017.

About the Authors

Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema
Edited by Mark Webber
The Visible Press, September 2017

Thom Andersen has lived in Los Angeles for most of his life. His knowledge of and enthusiasm for the city has deeply informed his work, not least his widely praised study of its representation in movies, Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), which was voted one of the 50 Best Documentaries of All Time in a Sight & Sound critics’ poll. Andersen made his first short films and entered into the city’s film scene as a student of USC and UCLA in the 1960s. His hour-long documentary Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1974) was realised under an AFI scholarship and has lately been restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. His research into the victims of the Hollywood Blacklist, done in collaboration with film theorist Noël Burch, produced the video essay Red Hollywood (1996) and book Les Communistes de Hollywood: Autre chose que des martyrs (1994). Andersen’s recent films include Reconversão (2012) on the work of Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, and The Thoughts That Once We Had (2015), a personal history of cinema loosely inspired by Gilles Deleuze. A published writer since 1966, Andersen has contributed to journals such as Film Comment, Artforum, Sight & Sound and Cinema Scope. He has taught at the California Institute of the Arts since 1987, and was previously on faculty at SUNY Buffalo and Ohio State University. Also distinguished for his skills as a film curator, he has acted as programmer for Los Angeles Filmforum and curated thematic retrospectives for the Viennale. Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema is the first collection of his essays.

Mark Webber is a film curator based in London, who has been responsible for major screening events or touring programmes hosted by institutions such as Tate Modern, LUX and ICA (London), Whitney Museum (New York), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Oberhausen Kurzfilmtage, IFFR Rotterdam and international festivals, museums and art centres. He was a programmer for the BFI London Film Festival from 2000-12, and is also the editor of Two Films by Owen Land, Film as Film: The Collected Writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos, Shoot Shoot Shoot: The First Decade of the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative 1966-76 and co-editor of Flare Out: Aesthetics 1966–2016.

Table of Contents

Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema
Edited by Mark Webber
The Visible Press, September 2017

Why I Did Not Become a Film Critic, 2017

Sex in Limbo, 1966 (on exploitation films)
Camp, Andy Warhol, 1966
Two Films by Andrew Meyer, 1966
Eadweard Muybridge, 1966
De Mille’s Ded Zeppelin, 1978 (on Madam Satan)
What is Wrong with this Picture? Almost Everything, 1978 (on The Desert People)
JB, 1978 (on James Benning)
Twelve Films by Five American Filmmakers, 1979 (on Conner, Sharits, Gehr,
   Brakhage & Fisher)
From the Cloud to the Resistance (Dalla Nube alla Resistenza) by Jean-Marie
   Straub & Danièle Huillet, from two texts by Cesare Pavese, 1981
Reagan at the Movies, 1986 (on Ronald Reagan)
“The Time of the Toad”, 1992 (on the Hollywood Blacklist)
The Misogyny Game, 1993 (on The Crying Game)
Looking Over an Underground, 1994 (on the Los Angeles underground)
The Whole Equation, 2005 (on David Thomson’s The Whole Equation)
The Political Documentary in America Today, 2005
The Sixties Without Compromise: Watching Warhol’s Films, 2005
Painting in the Shadows, 2007 (on Pedro Costa)
Passing Through Twilight, 2007 (on Night on Earth)
Los Angeles: A City on Film, 2008
This Property is Condemned, 2008 (on The Exiles)
Pebbles Left on the Beach: The Films of Morgan Fisher, 2009
Against the Grain, 2009 (on Lorna’s Silence)
A Band of Outsiders, 2010 (on In Vanda’s Room)
Happy Daze, 2010 (on Dusty and Sweets McGee)
The Decade in Review: Sketches of History 2000-2009, 2010
Unchained Melodies: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector and
   It Felt Like a Kiss, 2010
Get Out of the Car: A Commentary, 2011
Random Notes on a Projection of The Clock by Christian Marclay
   at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 4:32 p.m., July 28, 2011
   – 5:02 p.m., July 29, 2011, 2011
Barbarians at the Gate, 2012 (on Los Angeles film culture)
Yasujirō Ozu: The Master of Time, 2012
Too Late to Stop Now, 2013 (on Jean-Marie Straub)
Fire in Every Shot: Wang Bing’s Three Sisters, 2013
The Allure of Failure, 2014 (on Francesco Vezzoli)
500 Words (as told to Travis Diehl), 2016

16 pages of colour and black & white images including film stills and photographs

Thom Andersen Filmography

Thom Andersen Bibliography


Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema
Edited by Mark Webber
The Visible Press, September 2017

“There are few writers and few filmmakers who make me rethink what cinema is more than Thom Andersen. Sometimes this is a matter of introducing fresh perspectives, such as making cinema and architecture more mutually interactive. It’s always a political matter of figuring out just who and where we are, and why.”
—– Jonathan Rosenbaum

“In his disarmingly plainspoken introduction, Thom Andersen more or less apologizes for not becoming a film critic, and for not delivering a manifesto. Personally I’m relieved, and I think you should be as well, because we instead have his superb films, and that is something much more valuable. And now we have Slow Writing, where he shows us just how terrific a critic he hasn’t (mostly) bothered to be, and where he is also free to write brilliantly about his own films. The result of the resonance between this conjunction — writing about his own work alongside that of others — forms, in truth, a kind of quiet manifesto. This book belongs on a very small and special shelf of the most incisive and ungrandiose books by artists, alongside The Collected Writings of Robert Smithson.”
—– Jonathan Lethem

“This collection is a long time coming. Anyone who has seen Los Angeles Plays Itself, that most Proustian of contemporary films, surely agrees that there is no filmmaker quite like Thom Andersen. The intellectual pleasure found on screen comes across gangbusters in his alternately trenchant and jocular criticism. Thom’s writing may not concretely alter the way you see the given films he’s chosen to discuss; the power of his writing is a function of his selectivity. But in a period where generic writing has proliferated, it certainly might change the way you see film criticism. More critics should write so seldom!”
—– Mark Peranson, editor of Cinema Scope magazine

Introduction Excerpt

Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema
Edited by Mark Webber
The Visible Press, September 2017

An excerpt from Thom Andersen’s newly written introduction to the book :-

Looking over this collection, I realize that what I miss is a manifesto. David James wrote one (in Allegories of Cinema) and Jonathan Rosenbaum has written several (in Movie Wars, Essential Cinema, and Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia). More are still needed because the cinema I value has become marginalized, at least in the U.S. Does it have a chance?

There is a myth that cinema has declined after reaching an artistic peak in the 1960s and early 1970s. This myth survives and thrives because the best directors today do not come from the traditional centers of film culture (U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy); they come from Portugal, Romania, Finland, Belgium, Argentina, Mexico, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Philippines, and Iran. Because of racism and nativism, their films receive little distribution or attention in the United States.

It is true, however, that the cinema is no longer at the center of our culture. But that culture has splintered. Pluralism rules. But, as Bill Cosby says to Robert Culp in Hickey & Boggs, lamenting the decline of their vocation as private detectives, “It’s not about anything.” Is this the postmodern condition?

But it is possible to contest and combat what Peter Wollen has called “totalizing Western postmodernism.” We need to make cinema about something. We need to be more radical. After all, as Lenin said, you can never be as radical as reality. So let us suppose everything we read about movies in the newspapers and magazines is a lie. The movies about which they write don’t matter. I’m not just referring to the comic-book work made for young people, but also to the movies reviewed in the New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. At best, these are the films we watch with pleasure and forget immediately afterward. Critics and reviewers must pretend that these films matter because so much money is invested in them. But, as Jean-Marie Straub has said, movies must be made as if money doesn’t exist.

Then there is television. Just before he died, Chris Marker told an interviewer, “The exponential growth of stupidity and vulgarity [in television] is a concrete quantifiable fact and a crime against humanity.” To put it another way, television is a bigger killer than tobacco. In its rhetoric, the propaganda of the most tyrannical government is less insulting than the ads we see on American TV today (including the so-called public service announcements). We waste years of our lives watching advertisements we don’t want and we don’t need, advertisements that insult us and try to make us stupid. We would be better off if we spent that time smoking; at least then we would have engaged in some thinking.

And often enough, the ‘content,’ as it is now called, is no better. If there is no life in ‘reality TV,’ what hope can there be for the rest? Television has achieved “the trivialization of everything” – and Noël Burch wrote that thirty years ago. How can it get worse? There is always a way.

Something better is possible. Most of us who think about movies and television know it. We don’t need to eliminate comic book movies: most of us read comic books at some time in our lives without rotting our brains. We don’t need to eliminate movies that entertain as long as they risk boring us, as long as they leave something that lasts. We need to eliminate work that does not honor our intelligence. We need to eliminate advertising where it is inescapable, that is, on television, billboards, and internet sites.

We don’t need more masterpieces. We need work that is useful and work that is modest. We need work that acknowledges what we know but don’t believe. We need true and valid images in which we can recognize the world and its beauty; images that teach us about ourselves and our world. Not just an image, but an image that is just, to paraphrase Godard. Such work exists, and it demands of us who write about cinema our attention and our unyielding support.

Thom Andersen, April 2017