Introduction to Film



Fall 2014
Monday and Wednesday, 9:35 am - 11:35 am
State Hall 326

Web address for this page:
On Blackboard, log in to: "Introduction to Film -- Section 7." (Ignore the separate sections for English and Communications).

Steven Shaviro ( or )

5057 Woodward, Room 9309
Office hours: Monday & Wednesday, 11:40 am - 12:40 pm, 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 consider how film works as a whole, by looking at films genres.

By the end of the course, successful students should be able to:
1. Use a basic vocabulary of film analysis when discussing film texts, as well as other media.
2. Analyze the basic formal elements of cinema (narrative, mise-en-scene, editing, sound, etc.) to identify how they work separately and how they work together as a meaningful whole.

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 on Blackboard, together with weekly lecture slides.

Monday classes will be devoted to the screening of full-length feature films. Wednesday 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 1961. Though the class does not survey the history of film in any detail, one of its aims is to is to make you more aware of the variety of film art over the past century, by introducing 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). We will also see some more recent films (1985-present) in the course of the semester, and a number of music videos; one of our tasks will be to consider how these recent films are similar to, and different from, older ones.

Class requirements: 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 27
General introduction to film. From silent film to music videos.
Buster Keaton, Sherlock Junior (1924)

September 3
Film and expression.
Martin Scorsese, Life Lessons (1989)

September 8/10
The film experience.
Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window (1954)

September 15/17
Mise-en-scene (1)
Josef von Sternberg, The Scarlet Empress (1934)

September 22/24
Mise-en-scene (2)
Kathryn Bigelow, Near Dark (1987)

September 29/October 1
Cinematography (1)
Jean Renoir, Grand Illusion (1937)

October 6/8
Cinematography (2)
Orson Welles, Touch of Evil (1958)

October 13/15 Editing (1): Continuity Editing
John Ford, Stagecoach (1939)

October 20/22
Editing (2): Expressive Editing
John Woo, The Killer (1989)

October 27/29
Editing (3): Other Editing Styles
Tony Scott, Domino (2005)

November 3/5
Film Sound
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain (1952)

November 10/12
Film Genres (1)
Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity (1944)

November 17/19
Fim Genres (2)
Rian Johnson, Brick (2005)
Michael Mann, Collateral (2004)

November 24
Lecture on Brick and Collateral

December 1/3
Film Genres (3)
Joseph Kahn, Detention (2011)
Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers (2012)

December 8
Lecture on Detention and Spring Breakers


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Grade Appeals:
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences stipulates that course grade appeals must be initiated within 30 days from the time the grade is posted. The English Grade Appeal Form can be obtained at the English Main Office on the 9th Floor of 5057 Woodward or by emailing Royanne Smith at More information on this process, including the limited grounds for appeal, can be found at

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