French Institute, London
18 April 2007



This one-day conference will explore the relationship between film and the senses in French cinema. Over the past couple of decades, cinema scholarship has increasingly recognised that film is not a purely visual medium, that the film-spectator relationship is fundamentally an embodied one which goes beyond the ocular to call upon other senses. Laura Marks (The Skin of the Film, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media) has written about this relationship as haptic visuality, while other theorists (Vivian Sobchack, The Address of the Eye; Steven Shaviro, The Cinematic Body; Jan Campbell, Film and Cinema Spectatorship) have taken phenomenological or affective approaches to their examinations of the body, film and spectatorship, arguing that both are rooted in the senses and in our embodied experience of the world. Much of this recent work draws in turn on the approaches of French theorists (including writers as diverse as Merleau-Ponty, Bazin, Mitry and Deleuze), and their contributions to the debates surrounding the relationship between film, the body and the senses. 

French cinema has often been categorized in Britain and the USA as overly cerebral, unable to escape the art house connotations of subtitled, continental European fare. And yet arguably, the body and the senses have always been central in French film, both in terms of representation and perception. This cinematic sensuality and/or corporeality has been displayed in many different ways, from the films of Vigo, Bu˝uel and Cocteau to the comedies of Jacques Tati or le Splendid, via pornography to contemporary fascination with action and horror genres more usually associated with Hollywood or East Asian cinema, or the melodrama of Ozon. 

We welcome papers exploring the relationship between film and the senses, and in particular, in the following three broad areas: 

Body: star bodies, bodies and performance, erotic bodies, the body and the senses, representation and perception, bodies that can see and be seen, the body of the audience

Genre: 'body genres' (action, horror, melodrama, comedy, pornography, etc), realism and/or fantasy, genre and memory, generic bodies 

Audiences: conditions of viewing; film viewing as a social practice; the relationship between consumption, identification and desire; the relationship between film and cultural identity; spectatorship as an embodied activity; individual spectators vs collective audiences, perception and reception.

Further areas of intersecting interest may include: 

Film and the real
Memory and the senses

Please send abstracts of 200 words to Sarah Leahy ([log in to unmask]) by 31 December 2006. 

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