On Three Campion Films Tied by Touch
Veronica Phillips explores tactility in film through three works in Jane Campion's oeuvre.
In the Cut’s Frannie (Meg Ryan) stands in the dingy downstairs of a shitty New York bar, entranced by the unexpected sight of a woman giving a man a blowjob in semi-public. The couple is faceless, the man shrouded in the shadows of the dim yellowy light, the woman never turning to glance at Frannie. It feels like the man may be looking back at Frannie as she stares, but one couldn’t be certain. A close-up of the mystery woman’s clawed blue acrylic nails trailing along the black polyester of the faceless man’s slacks — the material so cheap it’s almost shiny — is seared into my mind.
The Power of the Dog’s Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) lays out in a grassy clearing, tracing the kerchief of his deceased implied lover, Bronco Henry, along his face. On this pretty day, the sun and the breeze play with the kerchief (embroidered with curly initials: B.H.), helping guide the material along Phil’s nose, his brow. The kerchief has a dusty softness to it — a well-worn, well-loved softness.
“In particular, I want to focus on my sensual and sense-making experience of The Piano’s first two shots — for they, in fact, generated this essay,” Vivian Sobchack writes in “What My Fingers Knew: The Cinesthetic Subject, or Vision in the Flesh.” Sobchack writes of Ada’s (Holly Hunter) peering through her own fingers, of the moment where George Baines (Harvey Keitel) touches a hole in Ada’s stockings, of the woolly weight of Ada’s heavy skirts in the mud, in the ocean, against her body, and of the way that Sobchack can feel these things, not just in a figurative, imagined sense, but perhaps in a literal, synesthesia-esque way.