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In Praise of "Boring" Films

Last Friday, in our suggestions for end-of-the-week time killers, we directed your attention to Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott’s “In Defense of the Slow and Boring” piece in that day’s New York Times. A response, of sorts, to Dan Kois’ lament of ingesting your “cultural vegetables” (which also inspired one of our most divisive posts in recent memory), Dargis and Scott’s two-handed article sings the praises of films that risk alienation by taking their time to tell stories (and, occasionally, to forgo even that) in a more contemplative manor. “Long movies,” Dargis writes, “take time away even as they restore a sense of duration, of time and life passing, that most movies try to obscure through continuity editing. Faced with duration not distraction, your mind may wander, but there’s no need for panic: it will come back. In wandering there can be revelation as you meditate, trance out, bliss out, luxuriate in your thoughts, think.”

Few moments, as a film fan, are more heartbreaking than talking movies with a friend or acquaintance and hearing that one of your most beloved favorites is “boring,” or “dull,” or “slow,” or some combination of all, occasionally with the descriptor “soul-crushingly” attached. Different strokes for different folks, of course, and everyone’s sense of monotony varies (or, as a friend of mine said over the weekend, “I don”t find slow movies boring. I find action movies boring”). We’ve collected a few of our favorite movies that tend to be described in those terms; check them out after the jump, and add your own in the comments.

Solaris

Andrey Tarkovskiy’s 1972 adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s novel runs 165 meditative minutes, and while it’s set (mostly) in outer space, it’s no Star Wars (or even 2001). The fact of the matter is, not a whole hell of a lot happens over the course of its nearly three hours, but what doesn’t happen does so beautifully. “Tarkovsky doesn’t script so much as paint and compose,” wrote Desson Howe in The Washington Post, “his work is a collection of living paintings, or visual symphonies, rather than narrative movies. Though Solaris is one of the late director’s most plot-coherent and accessible films, its plot is still a mere conduit for mood, atmosphere and philosophy.”

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