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Slow Glass

John Smith
1988-91
40mins Colour 16mm

Slow Glass

Taking glassmaking processes and history as its central theme, Slow Glass explores ideas about memory, perception and the constancy of change.

'The film begins with a shout in the street and a smashed pane, and ends with a bricked-up window. Between these literal images of opening and closing, Slow Glass spins immaculately shot puns and paradoxes that play on reflection and speculation - words that refer both to acts of seeing and of mind. Glass is the key, as a narrator's running commentary sketches the glassmaker's art, splicing a history lesson with a quasi-autobiography. The authority of word, voice and picture is questioned through the film's gradual revelation of its own (highly pleasurable) artifice. The cutting of glass is matched to the editing of film, and the camera's lens to the surface which it captures. Through the pub-talk and the downing of glasses, other themes emerge, among them is the constancy of change, as the face of London alters and the past becomes present (conveyed in jump-cuts showing streets and shops changing over time and season, and in a gently ironized evocation of a 50's childhood). The flowing Thames echoes the theme of flux, but also underscores the renewed attacks on East London life in the age of the property war - another kind of speculation. Slow Glass suggests that the living past has been turned into capitalized 'Heritage', that the British Documentarist's noble craftsman only survives as a museum piece, and that reality in film is itself a fiction. In this film, the fiction is a crafted illusion that always has a human face.' - A.L. Rees.

Commissioned by Channel 4 TV/Arts Council of England.

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