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The looking machineEssays on cinema, anthropology and documentary filmmaking$
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David MacDougall

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526134097

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526134097.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use.date: 28 July 2021

Sensational cinema

Sensational cinema

(p.77) 6 Sensational cinema
The looking machine

David MacDougall

Manchester University Press

This chapter explores the role of the senses and the evocation of physical sensations in the cinema. These evocations go well 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 prior experience, which may explain why films are more effective at evoking sensations of touch than those of taste and smell. The aesthetic profile of different cultures is another determining factor. The cinema can be coercive in forcing us to see what we would ordinarily avoid, challenging our moral and cultural 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, the author argues, should not become an end in itself; it only achieves value within the context of other human relations.

Keywords:   cinema, filmmaking, the senses, sensation, sound, aesthetics

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