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.
In weeks when the class only meets on one day, the class session will include both a screening and a lecture.
Although we will look at some contemporary works, including music videos, we will mostly be watching classic films 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, 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, several brief in-class spot quizzes (dates not announced in advance), four short assigned papers (2-3 pages each), and a final exam.
Attendance and spot quizzes will count for 10% of your grade.
Each assigned paper will count for 15% of your grade, for 60% total.
The final examination will count for 30% of your grade.
September 1: Introduction
Chris Marker, La Jetée (1962).
September 8: Film, Reality, and Fantasy
Buster Keaton, Sherlock Junior (1924)
September 13/15: The Experience of Film
Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window (1954)
September 20/22: Mise-en-scène (1)
Josef von Sternberg, The Scarlet Empress (1934)
September 27/29: Mise-en-scène (2)
Ridley Scott, Blade Runner (1982)
October 4/6: Cinematography (1)
Jean Renoir, Grand Illusion (1937)
Wednesday, October 6: first paper (on mise-en-scène) due.
October 11/13: Cinematography (2)
Orson Welles, Touch of Evil (1958)
October 18/20: Editing (1)
Sergei Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Wednesday, October 20: Second paper (on cinematography) due.
October 25/27: Editing (2): The Continuity System
John Ford, Stagecoach (1939)
November 1/3: Editing (3)
Jean-Luc Godard, Breathless (1960)
November 8/10: Film Sound (1)
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Wednesday, November 10: Third paper (on editing) due.
November 15/17: Film Sound (2)
Francis Ford Coppola, The Conversation (1974)
November 22: Digital Film
Short films and film clips, and discussion of how digital technologies are changing the nature of film.
November 29: Music Videos
[December 1: NO CLASS]
December 6/8: Film Genres
Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity (1944)
Wednesday, December 8: Fourth paper due.
December 13: Summary, Conclusions, and Preparation for Final Exam
FINAL EXAMINATION: Monday, December 20, 10:40 am - 1:10 pm
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:
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