Touching Film: The Embodied Practice and Politics of Film Viewing and Filmmaking

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Journal Article
Senses & Society, 2009, 4 (2), pp. 163 - 178
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This article analyses the somatic experiences of film-viewing and film-making by reference to the sense of touch. For viewers the tactility of film is located in the film's deployment of sound and in the ways it challenges the viewer's proprioceptive sense; that is, sense of location in space. Both, it is argued, are deployed to incorporate the viewer into the film's narrative and its politics, as classical realist film is often said to suture the viewer into both the narrative and politics of the text. In contrast, the article also explores the work of a filmmaker, Stefan Popescu, who specifically works against this suturing effect, in order to enhance the viewer's own agency in generating meaning in a film. Popescu follows avantgarde filmmaker Stan Brakhage in physically manipulating his films - touching them in a variety of ways (scratching, cutting, burning the film stock) - in order to disrupt realist viewing practice and its coercive politics.
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