Slow Glass

John Smith

1991 | 00:40:00 | United Kingdom | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 |

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: European Film/Video, Experimental Film, History, Humor, Labor

A nostalgic glazier shows off his knowledge and expounds his theories. Taking glassmaking processes and history as its central theme, Slow Glass explores ideas about memory, perception and change.

“The rich visual surface and engaging voiceover of Slow Glass convey an extended metaphor, which links light, glass, and lens. An ‘opening’ shot (a smashed windowpane) and a ‘closing’ one (the window bricked up) frame the film. As it slowly reveals its own artifice, the realist surface is interrupted, as when a car mirror shows reflections of a different journey than the one visible through the windscreen. These constructed ‘mistakes,’ which break the flow, are so crafted as to invade the image and unsettle the word. Direct evocation of the past—a 1950s childhood—allows the film to question its depiction of the present… Smith brings formidable skill to bear in a film which scrutinizes the very ‘speculations’ it incites.”

—A.L. Rees, A History of Experimental Film and Video (London: British Film Institute, 1999)

"There are jokes galore in Slow Glass but the seriousness of it all is what stays with me. There is loss, and frustration, and irony, and irritation, and confinement, and terrible tension in the long glassblowing sequence. The film’s visual attack—fast editing, split screen effects and jump-cuts—is heightened because belied by the laconic voice-over. The authority of the voice track, so important to the uninspired documentary film-maker, is thoroughly debunked in this film along with the authority of official cultural histories...The story is a personal reflection on changing attitudes to labour, and it is also the story of an industry."

—Penny Webb, Agenda 30/31 (1992)

This title is also available on John Smith: Program 2.

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Exhibitions + Festivals

Royal College of Art, John Smith Solo Show, 2010