Introduction to Film



Fall 2013
Monday and Wednesday, 12:50 pm - 2:50 pm
Manoogian 226

Web address for this page:
On Blackboard, log in to: "Introduction to Film Fall 2013 (English 2450/Communications 2010, section 5)(COMBINED)."

Steven Shaviro ( or )

5057 Woodward, Room 9309
Office hours: Tuesday 10 am - 12 noon, and by appointment

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-scene, 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 some of the major types of films (genres).

LEARNING OUTCOME: Students will learn how to understand and interpret the basic formal elements of film.

I have not ordered a textbook for this class, because all the available textbooks are excessively expensive. Instead, the lectures will be supplemented by three Concept Guides, giving definitions of key terms in Mise-en-scene, Cinematography, and Editing. These Concept guides will be made available on Blackboard. Lecture slides for each lecture will be available on Blackboard as well. 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.

Some classes will be devoted to the screening of full-length feature films. Other classes will consist of lecture and discussion. Each lecture will be accompanied by a slide presentation and some short film clips. The aim of each lecture/discussion will be twofold: to analyze the films that we have seen, and to discuss more general concepts important for the critical understanding of film.

Many of the films we will watch are old ones, made in the years between 1924 and 1982. 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, including silent films. black-and-white films, and 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. We will also see some recent films in the course of the semester, and a number of recent music videos; one of our tasks will be to consider how these recent films are similar to, and different from, older ones.

Class requirements include regular attendance, participation in discussions, and five short assigned papers (approximately 800 words each). Each assigned paper will count for 20% of your grade. Points may be deducted for non-attendance and for late papers. Points may be added for positive participation in class discussions.

August 28
Screening: Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window (1954)

September 4
Lecture: The film experience
Discussion of Rear Window

September 9
Screening: Josef von Sternberg, The Scarlet Empress (1934)

September 11
Lecture: Mise-en-scene (1)
Discussion of The Scarlet Empress

September 16
Screening: Ridley Scott, Blade Runner(1982)

September 18
Lecture: Mise-en-scene (2)
Discussion of Blade Runner

September 23
Screening: Jean Renoir, Grand Illusion (1937)

September 25
Lecture: Cinematography (1)
Discussion of Grand Illusion

September 30
Screening: Orson Welles, Touch of Evil (1958)

October 2
Lecture: Cinematography (2)
Discussion of Touch of Evil

October 7
Screening: Sergei Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin (1925)

October 9
Screening: John Ford, Stagecoach (1939)

October 14
Lecture: Editing (1)
Discussion of Battleship Potemkin

October 16
Lecture: Editing (2): The Continuity System
Discussion of Stagecoach

October 21
Screening: Tony Scott, Domino (2005)

October 23
Lecture: Editing (3): Other Editing Styles
Discussion of Domino

October 28
Screening: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain (1952)

October 30
Lecture: Film Sound (1)
Discussion of Singin' in the Rain

November 4
Screening: Francis Ford Coppola, The Conversation (1974)

November 6
Lecture: Film Sound (2)
Discussion of The Conversation

November 11
Screening: Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity (1944)

November 13
Screening: Roman Polanski, Chinatown (1974)

November 18
Lecture: Film Genres: Film Noir and Crime Films
Discussion of Double Indemnity and Chinatown

November 20
Screening: Rian Johnson, Brick (2005)

November 25: NO CLASS

December 2
Screening: Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers (2013)

December 4
Lecture: Crime films today
Discussion of Brick, and Spring Breakers

December 9
Final Class: Summary on crime films, and discussion of music videos


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