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Jean Epstein, the French filmmaker and theorist, used and wrote extensively
about slow motion in the twenties. His film "THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER"
was filmed almost entirely in slow motion, as he felt it heightened the
emotional content of all acting. When I was working on time in cinema, he was
the only theorist I could find who studied slow-motion as a figure of
rhetoric, but as his writings are so early, they lack the academic
methodology that today's film theory demands. Still, they are wonderful
articles. He saw slow motion as a temporal microscopic, doing in time what a
microscope does in space: magnifying, rendering details apparent, heightening
the mystical, contemplative nature of seeing. He also wrote about accelerated
motion.
Slow motion was used often in the twenties by the european avant-garde,
especially Hans Richter, the Themersons, Germaine Dulac, Henri Chomette, Jean
Cocteau. Also by American, Rochester NY based filmmakers James Watson and
Melville Webber in 1928 and 1930 (USHER and LOT IN SODOM). Of course, Maya
Deren did whole studies on speed and motion in the 1940's (cf A STUDY IN
CHOREOGRAPHY FOR CAMERA, 1943, sequence 4, in which she turns the filming
speed on the Bolex from 64 to 12 during the shot, speeding up a spinning
dancer).
 
-Pip Chodorov
 
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