History of Film Art

Open, Lecture—Spring

This class will introduce students to the art of film through a survey of its rich history. We will begin with the emergence of the technologies for making and exhibiting films around 1894 and the major genres of early cinema (1895-1904), most of which were non-narrative. We will then turn our attention to the development of "classical" narrative film in the United States in the 1900s and 1910s; the creation of alternatives to classical cinematic storytelling in the 1920s in France, Germany, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere; the rise of documentary and experimental film; and the coming of sound in the late 1920s. We will see how European filmmakers on both the Left and Right responded to the increasing political turmoil in the lead-up to World War II in the 1930s, while filmmakers in Japan created popular traditions of filmmaking. We will consider the impact of World War II on film history; the emergence of Italian Neo-Realism and “modernist” art cinema in the late 1940s and 1950s; the New Waves of the late 1950s; and political modernist, postcolonial, feminist, and other radical forms of filmmaking that arose in response to the political crises of the 1960s. Finally, we will survey world cinema since the 1970s, focusing on the changes that have occurred in mainstream Hollywood filmmaking and the contributions to film art of filmmakers in Hong Kong and in other non-Western countries.