Film is so overwhelmingly a visual experience, with sound and perhaps a few subsonic rumbles or haptic effects thrown in by more aggressive cinemas, that at first one would think the other senses are left out. And in that sense it seems impossible to convey that something is silky to the touch, or has the scent of new-mown grass; or that somebody feels protected, or cherished. But of course the most creative directors have always somehow pulled off this alchemical trick, and the ways in which this is done have been of increasing interest in the academic study of film. See for example Cinema and Contact: The Withdrawal of Touch in Nancy, Bresson, Duras and Denis, by Laura McMahon, one of the first authors in our Moving Image series, and who has just this month joined its editorial committee.
And see also one of the series's newest titles: Luxury, Sensation and the Moving Image, by Alice Blackhurst. One of the effects Alice draws attention to is the use of pace, the sense of deliberative leisure, which in such a quick-cut medium is itself a form of luxury. Few things are as dated as the look of luxury furnishings — think of all those awful hotel suites which Sean Connery's Bond checks into, with all their wedding-cake-icing plasterwork — and yet, despite the now-unfashionable bathroom fittings, isn't this a rather pleasingly calm bath, in the eye of Chantal Akerman? Even from this one glimpse, we can already feel it stretching out before and after the actual frames shown in the film. The water is not even visible, but we know its warmth.
Luxury, Sensation and the Moving Image is due out in our Moving Image series in late 2021.