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The Art of the Film

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
June 22, 2015 - July 10, 20153M-F 12:15-3:05POpenJeremy Powell10091

Course Description

Everyone loves the movies. In addition to entertaining us, the greatest works of cinema provoke thought, inspire us, move us, and enrich our lives. However, because of the close connection between film and entertainment, we often take movies for granted and watch them strictly for pleasure or in order to evaluate or judge them instead of analyzing them for deeper meanings. Furthermore, we tend to be most familiar with mainstream Hollywood fiction films, and less so with early films, documentaries, art films, and global cinema. This class aims to remedy both problems. In this course, you will become familiar with the techniques and technologies that go into making a motion picture, with the precise terminology that filmmakers and film scholars use to describe how films are put together, and with some critical and theoretical tools that help explain what a film is doing aesthetically, narratively, and ideologically. The goal is to move from description to argument: after learning cinema’s critical vocabulary and reading a little bit of film theory and criticism, you can turn close analysis into your own interpretations.

Over three weeks, we will consider a wide range of films, including canonical works of film art and more recent global films. Finally, we’ll end with a week that examines the origins and global translations of the ever-popular genre of film noir, paying particular attention to how this genre has been employed, revised, and renewed within global film cultures like Hong Kong Cinema and the New German Cinema.

Throughout the class, you will be asked to watch films critically instead of passively, to step back and look beyond the surface pleasures of cinema to ask how different types of films are put together and what formal, stylistic, and narrative choices are made, and what they mean on both philosophical and poetic, and ideological and historical levels. By the end of the course, you will have developed a critical eye and a form of visual literacy that will help you to see films differently. You will be able to describe shot scale, camera angles and movement, lighting and editing choices, and stylistic, technical, and narrative aspects of various types of films. You will gain a basic familiarity with major concepts in film theory (montage, style, narrative structure, spectatorship, the avant-garde, the representation of gender, race, culture, etc.), and more generally, you will also have practiced developing your critical thinking and academic writing skills.

No previous knowledge of film studies is required.