on leave yearlong
BA, MA, University of Kent, UK. PhD, New York University. Author of Doubting Vision: Film and the Revelationist Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2008) and The Filming of Modern Life: European Avant-Garde Film of the 1920s (MIT Press, 2011). Co-editor of Wittgenstein, Theory, and the Arts (Routledge, 2001) and Camera Obscura/Camera Lucida: Essays in Honor of Annette Michelson (University of Amsterdam Press, 2003). Editor and writer for October. Author of numerous articles on film theory, the philosophy of film, avant-garde film, and film and modernism. Currently working on a book about Jacques Tati, modernism, and comedy. Winner of a residential fellowship at the Stanford Humanities Center (2011-2012). SLC, 2000–
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.
This lecture is designed to introduce students to the rich art of film. We will begin by studying cinema’s basic aesthetic features: its stylistic techniques such as editing, cinematography, and sound, as well as its major narrative and non-narrative forms. We will then consider aesthetic concepts relevant to film art such as genre and auteur. Throughout, we will watch a variety of films from the United States and abroad that exemplify cinema’s myriad forms and styles: mainstream and avant-garde, fiction and nonfiction, narrative and non-narrative, black-and-white and color, silent and sound. The class will heighten students’ aesthetic appreciation of any film by enabling them to notice and evaluate the creative choices made by filmmakers of all kinds. We will meet twice a week; in addition, there will be two separate mandatory screenings per week.
What is a story? How do films and other audiovisual mediums tell stories, and what kinds of stories do they tell? Are audiovisual and verbal storytelling the same; for example, do films and TV shows, like novels, have narrators and single authors? And are there significant differences between storytelling in film and television? These are the major theoretical questions that we will address in this comprehensive survey of narrative and narration in television and film. We will begin by considering how filmmakers in the early part of the 20th century developed a “classical” mode of storytelling that proved enormously popular and profitable. We will examine the reasons for its appeal, such as the opportunity it affords viewers to “identify” strongly with characters. We will then look at experiments with alternative modes of cinematic storytelling that first arose in the 1920s and reemerged in the great flowering of “art cinema” in the post-World War II era. We will see how these alternatives have influenced studio and “independent” American filmmakers since the late 1960s and will then turn our attention to contemporary Hollywood to determine the extent to which popular cinematic storytelling has or has not changed since the 1910s. The second half of the semester will be devoted to television. We will consider how the “classical” mode of cinematic storytelling was adapted to television beginning in the 1940s and examine the characteristic genres that arose as a result, such as the police procedural and the sitcom. We will spend the last part of the semester on the emergence of more complex and challenging storytelling in television since the 1990s, considering the narrative and stylistic innovations in shows such as Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead.
Frankenstein, Dracula, The Thing from Another World, Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Alien, Videodrome, The Silence of the Lambs...these are just some of the influential films we will be watching in order to study the ways in which American horror films and their monsters have been designed to make their audiences feel horrified. We will pay equal attention to the creative innovations of individual filmmakers and the conventions of the genre within which they work. We will examine whether the genre reflects, if not promotes, the fears of American society and address some of the larger philosophical questions it raises: What, precisely, is horror? Why do we enjoy watching films that make us feel ostensibly undesirable emotions such as fear and disgust—emotions which, in our ordinary lives, we tend to avoid? Finally, we will compare and contrast American and Japanese horror films, a number of which have recently been remade in the United States.
The New Wave is often assumed to be a uniquely French development in which, around 1960, a group of young film critics modernized filmmaking in their innovative first feature films that appealed to the tastes of young people as never before. In fact, the years 1958-67 saw a host of new cinemas emerge throughout Europe and beyond, as young filmmakers entered the film industry in unprecedented numbers and pioneered new film forms and styles. This course will consider The New Wave as an international phenomenon. Hence, although we will begin in France with the films of Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Resnais, and Varda, we will quickly shift focus to young filmmakers working in other countries in Europe in the 1960s, such as Bertolucci and Pasolini in Italy, Reisz and Anderson in Great Britain, and Kluge and Straub/Huillet in Germany. We will then turn our attention to the Young Cinema in Poland, the Czech New Wave, and the New Cinemas in Yugoslavia and Hungary; we will end the first semester with the work of Tarkovsky and Paradzhanov in the Soviet Union. We will begin the second semester with the extraordinary films of Oshima, Teshigahara, Yoshida, Shinoda, Imamura, Suzuki, and other members of the Japanese New Wave before moving on to the New Hollywood of the late 1960s, in which filmmakers such as Kubrick, Scorsese, and Altman combined classical Hollywood genres with modernist innovations. Finally, we will consider the more politicized Cinema Novo in Brazil. Throughout, we will pay attention to the innovations of individual filmmakers, what they shared in common, the extent to which they transformed their film industries, and the social and economic conditions that made their innovations possible.