ENG 254: Introduction To Film
Office: ST 311
Office hours: TH 12-1; others by chance or appointment
Office phone: 3587; office mailbox in the English Department
A historical and critical approach; films are chosen to illustrate the work of particular film artists (Griffith, Eisenstein, and Welles) and particular genres or styles (film noir, screwball comedy, melodrama). Students are introduced to a basic technical vocabulary, and to major critical perspectives. Films are shown on Tuesday and Wednesday nights during the second half of the semester, and attendance at one of these night screenings is required each week.
Phillips, Film: An Introduction (4th ed., rentable)
Film admissions ($5.50? each) n.b. DVD viewing on your own is not an acceptable substitute.
Swarup, Slumdog Millionaire (or you may find a copy under its original title, Q & A)
PowerPoint lecture notes and handouts, including the course syllabus, are posted on Blackboard. Your grades will also be posted on Blackboard.
Course Requirements and Policies:
Your grade will be averaged according to the following formula:
|Exams, Phillips and other technical material||30%|
|Short paper (3-4 pages)||10%|
|Longer paper (5-6 pages)||20%|
|Informal writing (response papers)||10%|
Two exams will focus on Phillips (Film: An Introduction) and other technical material about filmmaking presented in class. They will emphasize multiple choice and matching, and may include some short-answer questions. The syllabus does not always list specific assignments in Phillips; you should look ahead to see which chapters will be covered on the exams. You will receive a study guide before each exam. Samples of past exams are posted on Blackboard. If you have a learning disability which makes timed exams or multiple choice exams especially challenging for you, please see me at least a week before the first exam.
Midterm and Final Exams:
These exams will include a take-home writing assignment and an objective/short answer section completed in class or during the exam period. Although it will obviously be to your benefit to know the terminology presented to you in Phillips and class lectures, the objective sections of these exams will emphasize the historical material presented and discussed in class, and the films themselves. The writing section of the midterm will involve writing a script for a silent film. The writing section of the final will offer both traditional topics and creative options. Should you decide to write a traditional critical essay, you should avoid reiterating class discussion. Sample past exams are posted on Blackboard.
This shorter paper will involve writing a “coverage” of the novel. “Coverage” is the term used in the movie industry to describe a writer’s assessment of material for a prospective film. You’ll be given a specific format to follow. A sample coverage is posted on Blackboard.
This paper will be a shot-by-shot analysis of a shot sequence. You will choose a film from among a group of films I’ve selected, and find a shot sequence to work with. The final paper will have two sections: an accurate shot-by-shot shot description, including camera angles, dialogue, music, and shot transitions; and an analysis of the sequence and how technique informs meaning. A sample is posted on Blackboard.
Beginning with Citizen Kane, you should submit the following class (after Kane, every Thursday) a brief commentary on the film for that week. (Unless you are ill, I will not accept submissions to my mailbox or e-mail.) The minimum length should be one typed page, double-spaced, though they need not be typed (maximum length 1 ½ pages). You can use these to record at least three things you noticed about the film (e.g., What struck me was how little the camera moved, and how static that made the film seem. This stasis seemed to parallel the characters’ lives; they were always doing something, but they never seemed to progress emotionally.), or questions the film raised for you, whether stylistic or thematic (e.g., What was the purpose of the scene in the grocery store? It seemed to go on forever, which made me think it was important, but I don’t know why. Was it supposed to illustrate John’s materialism, or just his confusion about the choices in his life?) If the film is one you’ve seen before on a small screen, you might want to compare your experience of the film on small and big screens. These writings should not contain plot summary, nor should they simply record whether or not you liked the film or what you thought of the acting. Their primary purpose is analytical, not evaluative. They will not be graded; this part of your grade will be determined by quantity according to the following formula: 9=A, 8=B+, 7=B-, 6=C, 5=C-; fewer than five=F. I will read them, however, and will not give you credit for a minimal effort. These informal writings provide you with an opportunity to develop ideas for exam essays, as well as class discussion. They are also a good place to record character names for future reference.
Beginning with the first film at The Strand, the initial Thursday discussion of the film for that week will be led by a group of students. I will ask you to express your preference in films early in the semester and will attempt to assign you to a group in accordance with your preferences. Groups should consider that they are responsible for the first hour of the class time on the day when the film discussion takes place. Groups should feel free to consult with me if they wish to supplement the discussion with written materials. Film clips can often be useful in detailed analysis and to illustrate a point. As a group, your task is not to lecture on the film, but to lead a general discussion. You may share your insights with the class, but try to use these insights as a point of departure for discussion. Class members will expect you to be better informed about the film than they, and to have thought about it more. As a class member, you should afford other groups—and the course instructor—the same attention and energy level that you hope they will afford you when your turn comes. Groups should consider creative ways of stimulating discussion—informal writing, small group discussions, debates, alternative endings, confrontations between several critics or directors, whatever. In my experience, coming prepared to ask questions to a class of 25 is usually doomed to failure; it works better to propose specific questions or problems to small groups before undertaking a discussion in the class as a whole. Group members will be graded, to the extent possible, on their individual performances.
Attendance is a basic course requirement. You can fail this course on the basis of poor attendance alone, even if you are a graduating senior. The films constitute course texts, and you are expected to see every film in the course at the Strand. Attendance will be taken at the theatre. Penalties for poor attendance will be imposed on final grades as follows: 5-7 absences will lower your final grade by 1/3, 8-9 absences by 2/3, and you will fail the course for more than 9 absences.
Some Film-Related Websites:
Internet Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com information), incl. historical
Rotten Tomatoes (http://www.rottentomatoes.com), film reviews
Drew’s Script-O-Rama (http://www.script-o-rama.com/scripts.shtml), screenplays
For the first seven weeks of the semester, films will be screened during class time. After that, films will be shown on successive Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 9:15 on Tuesday night and 7:00 on Wednesday night at The Strand Theatre on Winter Street. You will need to sign in on the attendance sheet at the theatre. These films show at these times only. If you are forced to miss a film because of illness, you can watch the film at the AV Center on DVD, but unless you are ill, DVD is not an acceptable alternative to viewing the film in the theatre. If you should be forced to miss a film because of illness, see me.
Jan. 12: Introduction, Early filmmaking, miscellaneous one-shot films of the 1890s
Jan. 14: Introduction to early film technique: Méliès and Porter Méliès, A Trip to the Moon (1902); Porter, Life of an American Fireman (1903), The Great Train Robbery (1903), Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)
Jan. 19: D. W. Griffith Broken Blossoms (1919, 90 mins.)
Jan. 21: Discussion of Griffith, introduction to basic film terminology
Jan. 26: German Expressionism The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919, 69-82 mins.)
Jan. 28: Influence of German Expressionism, introduction to Russian formalism Exam 1: Phillips, Chs. 1 and 3; Ch. 2, “The Camera”; study guide
Feb. 2: Sergei Eisenstein and Russian formalism Battleship Potemkin (1925, 65? mins.)
Feb 4: Discussion of Eisenstein The studio system, Hollywood in the 1920s, silent comedy
Feb. 9: Early black filmmaking, introduction to sound film
Feb. 11: Fritz Lang and early sound experimentation: M (1930; 110 mins.)
Feb. 16: Introduction to three-point lighting, introduction to Orson Welles; introduction to adaptation; discussion, M Reading: Phillips, Ch. 5, “Fiction”
Feb 18: Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (1941; 119 mins.); class will begin 5 mins. early (R only: draft due, short paper)
Feb. 23: Exam 2: Phillips, Ch. 2, excluding “Color”; Chs. 4, 5 and 6; study guide First reaction paper due, Citizen Kane Discussion, Citizen Kane
Feb. 25: Short Paper (Coverage) due Introduction to classical Hollywood style; discussion of Citizen Kane, cont’d. Reading: Phillips, Ch. 7, “Classical Hollywood Cinema”
March 1 Introduction to screwball comedy, classical Hollywood style cont’d.
Mar. 1-2: Ball of Fire (Hawks, 1941, 111 mins.)
Mar. 3: Film discussion
Mar. 7-13: Spring Break
Mar. 15: Midterm Introduction to film noir Reading: Phillips, Ch. 7, “Film Noir”
Mar. 15-16: Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947, 97 mins.)
Mar. 17: Film discussion; European avant garde Reading: Phillips, Ch. 9, “Experimental Films”
Mar. 22: Adaptation; Bollywood, European avant garde, cont’d. Reading: Phillips, Ch. 7, “Other Cinemas: Bollywood”
Mar. 22-23: Slumdog Millionaire (U.K, USA, Boyle and Tandan, 2008, 120 mins.)
Mar. 24: Reaction paper due, shot-by-shot (R only: shot-by-shot description due) Film discussion
Mar. 29: Shot-by-shot description due Introduction to French New Wave and other postwar European film movements Reading: Phillips, Ch. 7, “Other Cinemas: Italian Neorealist Cinema, French New Wave Cinema”
Mar. 29-30: Cinema Paradiso (Italy, Tornatore, 1988, 124 mins.)
Mar. 31: Film discussion; Introduction to animation (R only: shot-by-shot, full paper due)
Apr. 5 Introduction to Latin American film; animation, cont’d. Reading: Phillips, Ch. 9, “Animation”
Apr. 5-6: 7 Boxes (Paraguay, Maneglia and Schembori, 2012, 105 mins.)
Apr. 7: Film discussion; animation, cont’d.; CGI 12 Introduction to Asian film; Documentary Reading: Phillips, Ch. 8
Apr. 12-13: The Piano in a Factory (China, Meng, 2011, 119 mins.)
Apr. 14: Film discussion; documentary, cont’d.
Apr. 19: Shot-by-shot, full paper due Introduction to Arab film
Apr. 19-20: Frame by Frame (Afghanistan, Bombach and Scarpelli, 2015, 85 mins.)
Apr. 21: Film discussion; documentary, cont’d.
Apr. 26: Independent filmmaking Reading: Phillips, Ch. 7, “Other Cinemas: American Independent Cinema”
Apr. 26-27: While We’re Young (Baumbach, 2014, 97 mins.)
Apr. 28: Film discussion, final review