Introduction to Film



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

Web address for this page:
On Blackboard, log in to: "Winter 2014 ENG/COM 2450/2010 Sec 001 (COMBINED)."

Steven Shaviro ( or )

5057 Woodward, Room 9309
Office hours: MW 12:00 pm - 1:00 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 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.

January 6
Screening: Buster Keaton, Sherlock Jr. (1924)
Lecture: Introduction to this class

January 8
Screening and discussion: music videos

January 13
Screening: Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window (1954)

January 15
Lecture: The film experience
Discussion of Rear Window

January 22
Screening: Martin Scorsese, Life Lessons (from New York Stories, 1989)
Lecture: Film as an expressive medium

January 27
Screening: Josef von Sternberg, The Scarlet Empress (1934)

January 29
Lecture: Mise-en-scene (1)
Discussion of The Scarlet Empress

February 3
Screening: Ridley Scott, Blade Runner(1982)

February 5
Lecture: Mise-en-scene (2)
Discussion of Blade Runner

February 10
Screening: Jean Renoir, Grand Illusion (1937)

February 12
Lecture: Cinematography (1)
Discussion of Grand Illusion

February 17
Screening: Orson Welles, Touch of Evil (1958)

February 19
Lecture: Cinematography (2)
Discussion of Touch of Evil

February 24
Screening: Sergei Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin (1925)

February 26
Lecture: Editing (1)
Discussion of Battleship Potemkin

March 3
Screening: John Ford, Stagecoach (1939)

March 5
Lecture: Editing (2): The Continuity System
Discussion of Stagecoach


March 17
Lecture: Editing (3): more about continuity editing

March 19: NO CLASS

March 24
Screening: Tony Scott, Domino (2005)

March 26
Lecture: Editing (4): Other Editing Styles
Discussion of Domino

March 31
Screening: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain (1952)

April 2
Lecture: Film Sound (1)
Discussion of Singin' in the Rain

April 7
Screening: Francis Ford Coppola, The Conversation (1974)

April 9
Lecture: Film Sound (2)
Discussion of The Conversation

April 14
Screening: Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity (1944)

April 16
Lecture: Film Genres
Discussion of Double Indemnity

April 21
Screening and discussion: music videos


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