Wednesday, March 09, 2005

On the Olfactory Game

Back at the alma mater we would play a game-of-sorts every time we rode The El: the "Olfactory Game." Whoever got stuck standing next to the most noisome of his or her fellow riders would be the winner--and the loser too, of course. I imagine that we would all be losers in one of his environments.
When [filmmaker Les Blanks] shows the 1978 film "Always for Pleasure," about the food, music and indigenous culture of New Orleans, he has been known to whip up a pot of red beans and rice in the back of the theater. At presentations of the 1980 documentary "Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers" -- about the joys of cooking and eating "the stinking rose" -- Blank can occasionally be spied tossing several heads of garlic into a toaster oven so that the aroma wafts over the audience at just the right mouth-watering moment.
What a great idea! I don't know how often a Food Network host wishes out loud for "smell-o-vision"--it's become a commonplace phrase for whenever something flavorfull goes up the nose. It's odd that this sort of thing hasn't caught on more. Apparantly, theater-owners might not be so keen on it.
"I never insist on it," Blank says of his signature bit of showmanship, a technique he has dubbed "Smellaround." "Sometimes theater owners worry that the garlic smell will stay in the theater forever."
But, I think that if it was done right--right smells, right ventilation system--it might not only add to the movie experience but inspire more of us to head off to the concession stand.


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