This class offers an introduction to the study of film. First, we will look at the film experience as a whole. Then, we will take a detailed look at the major formal elements of film (mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound). Finally, we will put these elements back together again, in order to consider how film narrative works as a whole, and to look at the major types of films (genres).
I have not ordered a textbook for this class, because all the available textbooks are excessively expensive. Instead, the lectures will be supplemented by a number of Concept Guides, available via Blackboard, that summarize the most important film terms and concepts developed in the course of the semester. Lecture slides for each lecture will be placed on Blackboard as well. The final exam will test your knowledge of the concepts and arguments developed during the class lectures, as well as of the films screened and discussed in the course of the semester.
Normally, full-length feature films will be screened on Mondays. Wednesday class sessions will be lectures, accompanied by a slide presentation and some short film clips. Each lecture will both analyze the film shown earlier in the week, and discuss more general concepts important for the critical understanding of film. (There will be some variations of this, because of weeks in which we only meet once because of holidays, and weeks when a class needs to be canceled).
Although we will look at some more recent works, including music videos, most of the films we will watch are old ones, made in the years between 1924 and 1974. Though the class does not survey the history of film in any detail, one of its aims is to introduce you to older films that you may not have seen before, and to films in foreign languages (shown with English subtitles). One of the aims of the course is to make you more aware of the variety of film art over the past century. For each film, the online syllabus includes a link to a page listing the director and main actors, and giving some study suggestions and questions for the film.
Class requirements include regular attendance, five short assigned
papers (2-3 pages each), and a final exam. In the assigned papers, you
will be given film sequences or clips to analyze that we have not
discussed in class, but to which the principles and concepts from the
lectures may be applied.
Each assigned paper will count for 15% of your grade, for 75% total.
The final examination will count for 25% of your grade.
Points may be deducted for excessive non-attendance.
August 31: Introduction
Buster Keaton, Sherlock Junior (1924)
September 7 and 12: The Experience of Film
Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window (1954)
September 14: NO CLASS
September 19/21: Mise-en-scène (1)
Josef von Sternberg, The Scarlet Empress (1934)
CONCEPT GUIDE: MISE EN SCENE
September 26/28: Mise-en-scène (2)
Ridley Scott, Blade Runner (1982)
October 3/5: Cinematography (1)
Jean Renoir, Grand Illusion (1937)
CONCEPT GUIDE: CINEMATOGRAPHY
Wednesday, October 5: first paper (on mise-en-scène) due.
October 10/12: Cinematography (2)
Orson Welles, Touch of Evil (1958)
October 17/19: Editing (1)
Sergei Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin (1925)
CONCEPT GUIDE: EDITING
Wednesday, October 19: Second paper (on cinematography) due.
October 24/26: Editing (2): The Continuity System
John Ford, Stagecoach (1939)
October 31/November 2: Film Sound
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Wednesday, November 2: Third paper (on editing) due.
November 7: More on film/video sound
Looking at music videos
November 9: NO CLASS
November 14/16: Film Genres: film noir (classical)
Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity (1944)
Wednesday, November 16: Fourth paper (on sound) due.
November 21/28/30: Film Genres: film noir (modern)
Roman Polanski, Chinatown (1974) Robert Altman, The Long Goodbye (1973)
December 5/7: Film Genres: film noir (contemporary)
Rian Johnson, Brick (2005)
December 12: Summary, Conclusions, and Preparation for Final Exam
Monday, December 12: Fifth paper due
FINAL EXAMINATION: Monday, December 19, 10:40 am - 1:10 pm
Please note the new University rules regarding withdrawals:
Students must send withdrawal requests through Pipeline by the end of the 10th week (November 12, 2011, Fall term); after November 12th, students WILL NOT be allowed to withdraw.
The Writing Center (2nd floor, UGL) provides individual tutoring
consultations free of charge for students at Wayne State
University. Undergraduate students in General Education courses
receive priority for tutoring appointments. The Writing Center
serves as a resource for writers, providing tutoring sessions on the
range of activities in the writing process: considering the audience,
analyzing the assignment or genre, brainstorming, researching, writing
drafts, revising, editing, and preparing documentation. The
Writing Center is not an editing or proofreading service;
rather, students are guided as they engage collaboratively in the
process of academic writing, from developing an idea to editing for
grammar and mechanics. To make an appointment, consult the
Writing Center website:
To submit material for online tutoring, consult the Writing Center HOOT website (Hypertext One-on-One Tutoring):
For more information about the Writing Center, please contact the Director, Jule Wallis (phone: 7-2544; email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Plagiarism is a very serious matter and should be recognized as such. The University has a very strict policy on plagiarism. Always refer to your sources when quoting, paraphrasing, or using the ideas of other writers. When paraphrasing, place in quotes any phrase of four words or more that comes directly from the source being used.