David MacDougall
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Sensational cinema
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Evocation of physical sensations in the cinema go beyond the five primary senses, for combinations of images and sounds are capable of evoking a much wider range of sensations, including those of movement, pressure, nearness and distance, wetness and dryness, viscosity, and so on. Citing Michel Chion, the author examines how the sound-image becomes a new phenomenon that produces a heightened sense of material presence. Although some of our responses are innate, others are dependent on context and experience, which may explain why films are more effective at evoking sensations of touch than of taste and smell. The aesthetic profile of different cultures is another factor. The cinema can be coercive in forcing us to see what we would ordinarily avoid, challenging our assumptions. On the other hand, its very technology often misrepresents our seeing, leading to an anodyne version of reality. The sensations and emotions of the filmmaker while filming are also important, and for filmmakers the cinema can become a way of reaching out to the subjects of their films. But ‘sensory’ cinema should not become an end in itself; it achieves value only within the context of human relations.

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The looking machine

Essays on cinema, anthropology and documentary filmmaking

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