Setter’s ‘Spective: The Slo-Mo and the Furious

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I blame you, Akira Kurosawa.

Remember: You started it. Or rather, you helped popularize the use of slow-motion photography in fight scenes–specifically via two different shots of villains dying in The Seven Samurai.

I adore your films, Akira. But I’m not happy with the seeds you’ve sown.

Ok, so you’re not responsible for all that ludicrous pseudo-Spartan posturing in 300. Or the (prolific) guts and glory in The Wild Bunch. But without those scenes in Samurai, we wouldn’t be so deluged with half-speed onscreen violence.

Granted, you used slow motion judiciously–and I think that’s what separates you from the rest. Peckinpah’s technique can hardly be called subtle, but his Bunch certainly packs a punch. Not so much all that silliness in 300, where the idea seemed to be showing how cool it is to kill ancient Persians with as much CGI blood as possible.

And I think that’s where all this slo-mo falls rather quickly on its face.

We’ve diluted its purpose, the whole point of its effectiveness. See it once in a while, and it’s as startling as a flower in snow. Yet watch it over and over again, and it loses its potential impact. Today, it seems to be de rigueur in “action” scenes, as if directors have forgotten how to film normally. So it has become showy instead of telling, obvious instead of shocking.

Frankly, I’d rather see My Dinner with Andre. That’s got more action than any Matrix pose-a-rama.

So Kurosawa, I’m going to take time out from praising you to gripe a bit, though with a heavy heart. Because I know as much as I loathe what slo-mo has become, without it we wouldn’t be what we are today.

Old man Sykes says in Peckinpah’s Bunch: “It ain’t like it used to be, but it’ll do.”

I don’t think it should.

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