L53 Film 110 Freshman Seminar: Race and Ethnicity on American Television
This course presents a historical overview of the forms that racial and ethnic representations have taken in American television. The course attempts to chart changes in public perception of racial and ethnic difference in the context of sweeping cultural and social transformations. The course examines notions of medium and ponders the implications for these identities of the contemporary practice of “narrowcasting.” Required screenings.
L53 Film 112 Freshman Seminar: Race and Ethnicity in American Cinema
From the early documentary roots of cinema through the Civil Rights movement and to the recent democratization of the means of media production, questions of race and ethnicity have proved crucial both to the content of American films and also to the perspective from which they are made. This class looks at the representation of historical moments from the Civil War to Hurricane Katrina, the production of cinematic stereotypes as well as their appropriation for subversive purposes, and the gradual evolution of multiculturalism as a central factor in the stories told and the telling of stories on the American screen. Students use film texts to develop a critical understanding of one of the most important issues in American history. Required screening TBA.
L53 Film 114 Freshman Seminar
Enrollment limited to freshman. Topics vary, see current semester Course Listings for current topic.
L53 Film 115 Freshman Seminar: Reality on Screen
This course explores the complex relationship between moving images and ideas of the real in both movies and television. It explores theories of representation, surveillance, authenticity, truth and realism in this context. From the earliest “actuality” films to the recent phenomenon of reality television programming, it asks if screen images capture what is “really” happening in front of the camera or if conventions of representation, genre and narrative mediate the reality of these images. More significantly, it inquires into why such questions matter. At issue is the role that moving images on both the big and the small screen have in our understanding of the world as it is and ourselves as we experience it.
L53 Film 116 Freshman Seminar: Cult TV: Critical Approaches to Fans and Fictions
What do such disparate television series as Dr. Who, Star Trek, The Avengers, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena: Warrior Princess and Sealab 2021 have in common? They all attract loyal audiences, stimulate “subcultural” sensibilities, lend themselves to “textual poaching,” and thus qualify as examples of “Cult TV,” a term that has become increasingly salient within critical studies of the medium. In this course we explore the subject of cult television from a variety of social, cultural and thematic perspectives, so that by the end of the semester students have gained a deeper understanding of its historical importance as a barometer of both popular and oppositional tastes. We examine how these and other examples of genre-based network and cable programming complicate distinctions between lowbrow and highbrow tastes while sustaining worldwide “interpretative communities” years after their original air dates. Students also examine the importance of syndication, home video technologies, ancillary markets, publishing and the Internet in the construction of fan cultures. Required screenings.
L53 Film 117 Freshman Seminar: Asians in American Film
This course surveys the history of Asian representations in American cinema from the silent period to the contemporary era. Throughout the semester we focus on images of Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos and Vietnamese that have become most ingrained in American popular culture over the past century, from Fu Manchu and Madame Butterfly stereotypes popular during the classical studio era to more recent reconfigurations of racialized imagery in Jackie Chan and Jet Li films. We also examine selected works by Asian-American independent writer-directors; films and videos such as Chan is Missing, History and Memory, and Better Luck Tomorrow that challenge the stereotypes and normative tropes of “Orientalism” still permeating mainstream media. Students are asked to frame textual analyses of key films (such as The Cheat, Daughter of Shanghai, Battle Hymn, Flower Drum Song, and Enter the Dragon) within various political, social, cultural and industrial contexts (e.g., anti-Asiatic immigration and labor policies; U.S. foreign policies; the practice of “yellowface”; censorship codes; wars in East and Southeast Asia; anti-miscegenation laws; grassroots campaigns to stem the tide of stereotypes and hate-crimes; etc.).
Credit 3 units. A&S: TH
L53 Film 118 Freshman Seminar: Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: James Bond in Film, Literature and Popular Culture
Originally a character in Cold War spy literature, James Bond has emerged as an international pop culture phenomenon. In this course, we explore the evolution of James Bond from Ian Fleming to the “spy” parodies in international cinema. We read several of Fleming’s novels and short stories, including Casino Royale (1953), Octopussy (1966) and The Property of a Lady (1967), and discuss these texts in light of post-war spy literature. We screen numerous Bond films, and compare and contrast James Bond the literary and cinematic character, how Bond emerged as a franchise hero through the vision of producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, and critical aspects of the film franchise, including its storytelling roots in Hollywood serials, its use of gadgets and special effects, and the role of stardom in their marketing (Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Roger Moore, Madonna, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig). Finally, we explore the re-envisioning of Bond in various media and art forms in global popular culture, including music, DC and Marvel Comics, games, children’s television and in Asian cinema (Stephen Chow’s 1994 From Beijing with Love). Required screenings.
L53 Film 119 Freshman Seminar: Anime as Popular Culture
In the contemporary media landscape, film, television, games, publishing, and merchandizing are increasingly connected and help distribute cultural products across the globe. Japanese animation is one of the earliest and most successful examples of this powerful strategy. This course examines the global franchising industry of Japanese anime to explore basic questions about media and popular culture: How do we define a medium? How do consumer practices shape media and popular culture? What is the impact of globalization on media, and global media on national culture? Our investigations of Japan “cool” and its avid consumer cultures cover: animation aesthetics and technology; media convergence; anime fan cultures; science-fiction and remaking the body, history, and identity through global media. No prerequisites. Enrollment limited to fifteen college freshmen. In addition to class meetings, there is a mandatory weekly scheduled screening.
L53 Film 121 Freshman Seminar: Youth Culture and Visual Media
Since the advent of cinema through the recent development of online social networking, visual media in the United States and around the world have been identified with a market of youthful consumers and producers. This course looks at the development of youth culture in the United States and its unique relationship to visual media, including film, television, comic books, video games and the Internet, in the 20th and 21st centuries. We examine youth culture as a social phenomenon generated by the young, a means of representing the experience of being youthful, and as part of the ongoing debates over the effects of media on the young. As alternately mass culture, popular culture, counter culture and participatory culture, youth culture holds a privileged place in the history of American visual media and continues to influence production and innovation within the media marketplace.
L53 Film 200 Special Projects
This course is intended for freshmen and sophomores who wish to register for internships. Students must receive program approval prior to beginning the internship. Please consult the program guidelines governing internships.
Credit variable, maximum 3 units.
L53 Film 220 Introduction to Film Studies
How do film images create meaning? What are the tools the film artist uses to create images? This course introduces students to basic techniques of film production and formal methodologies for analyzing film art. Students learn the essential components of film language — staging, camera placement, camera movement, editing, lighting, special effects, film stock, lenses — to heighten perceptual skills in viewing films and increase critical understanding of the ways films function as visual discourse. The course is foundational for the major in Film and Media Studies. Required screenings.
L53 Film 225 Making Movies
This course introduces the core concepts and skills for producing dramatic narrative film and video, building on the Hollywood paradigm. No previous technical experience is required, but students should have taken or be concurrently enrolled in Film 220. This course teaches students how films are put together to tell stories, negotiating between the possibilities of cinematic language and the practicalities of working with machines and other people. In order to develop an understanding of filmic narration, students learn the basics of camera operation, lighting, digital video editing, sound design and recording, casting and directing actors, visual composition and art direction, and production planning and organization. These concepts are put into practice through a series of exercises culminating in a creative, narrative short digital video. This course fulfills the prerequisite for 300- and 400-level video and film production courses in Film and Media Studies and the production requirement in the FMS major. Admission by wait-list only. Prerequisite: Film 220.
L53 Film 310 Video Production
An advanced course exploring the creative and technical aspects of video production. Students sharpen their knowledge of cameras, directing, lighting, sound recording, nonlinear systems and narrative structures. In addition to acquiring a theoretical understanding of the production process, students gain practical experience by producing, outside of class time, a short project reflecting their visual and conceptual maturity. Prerequisite: Film 230 Moving Images and Sound or permission of the instructor.
L53 Film 311 Documentary Production
In parallel with an overview of various documentary genres, ranging from the personal, the poetic, the agitprop and cinema verité, this course offers students the opportunity to produce a short documentary piece on the topic of their choosing. Aesthetic and ethical issues are explored by considering the overall methodology in terms of subjectivity, content, structure and the possible usage of music and/or voice-over. For the sake of completing the project in time, it is recommended that students be familiar with the subject matter of their investigation before taking the course. Prerequisite: Film 230 Moving Images and Sound or permission of the instructor.
L53 Film 320 British Cinema: A History
In cinema, as in politics, Britain is caught awkwardly between America and Europe, never quite knowing how to position itself. Should it try to compete seriously with Hollywood, or develop a smaller-scale and more distinctive national cinema on the French or Swedish model? This uncertainty has commonly been seen as a weakness but it can be seen, conversely, as a strength, fostering a rich diversity and complexity both in the output overall and in the work of key British filmmakers such as Michael Powell, David Lean and, in the first half of his career, Alfred Hitchcock. This course traces the fortunes of British cinema from its lively beginnings through a switchback history of slump and recovery, giving equal attention to the work of high-profile directors such as Hitchcock and to important genres such as 1930s documentary, Ealing comedy and Hammer horror. A continuing theme is the complex economic relationship between British cinema and Hollywood: co-productions, trade barriers, the drain of talent to Hollywood, and the intermittent success of British films such as The King’s Speech in the American market. Required screenings.
L53 Film 322 Contemporary East Asian Cinema
This course focuses on films made in Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea over the past three decades. Students examine how the global/local geopolitics specific to the post-Cold War period, the passing of authoritarian regimes, the boom and bust of the Asian economy, and international film festivals have influenced the shaping of New East Asian cinemas across borders. Required screenings.
L53 Film 323 The Cinema of Eastern Europe in the Cold War Era
This course has two objectives. On the one hand, we watch masterpieces of European cinema, awarded at international festivals and directed by legendary names such as Milos Forman, Emir Kusturica and Andrzej Wajda, and focus on their artistic genius. On the other hand, we study the way in which the confrontational politics of the Cold War inform these films, with a special focus on the perplexing predicament of a divided and antagonized Europe. The readings for this class emphasize our dual exploration. We work with texts dealing with both film history and its aesthetics and with broader analyses of the intellectual and political landscape of the Cold War context. Required screenings.
L53 Film 324 History of Chinese Cinemas: 1930s–1990s
This course offers an overview of Chinese cinemas, including those of Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, over the 20th century. We study major trends such as the left-wing filmmaking in the 1930s, the Maoist revolutionary narratives, Taiwanese healthy realism, the New Cinemas of the three regions, and contemporary transnational productions. Major topics include urban modernity, gender formation, national and transnational cinemas within specific historical contexts. All films come with English subtitles. Required screenings.
L53 Film 325 French Film Culture
Called “the seventh art,” film has a long tradition of serious popular appreciation and academic study in France. This course offers an overview of French cinema, including the origins of film (Lumière brothers, Méliès), the inventive silent period (which created such avant-garde classics as Un chien andalou), the poetic realism of the ’30s, the difficulties of the war years, the post-war emphasis on historical/nationalist themes in the “tradition of quality” films, the French New Wave’s attempt to create a more “cinematic” style, the effects of the political turmoil of May ’68 on film culture, the “art house” reception of French films in the United States, and the broader appeal of recent hypervisual (“cinéma du look”) films, such as La Femme Nikita and Amélie. While the primary focus of the course is on French cinema, we also discuss the reciprocal influences between American and French film culture, both in terms of formal influences on filmmaking and theoretical approaches to film studies. French film terms are introduced but no prior knowledge of the language is expected. Required screenings.
L53 Film 326 Samurai, Rebels and Bandits: The Japanese Period Film
Tales of heroism, crime, revolt and political intrigue. Bloody battles, betrayal, madness and flashing swords. This is the world of jidaigeki eiga, the Japanese period film. In this course, we analyze the complex (and often flamboyant) narrative, visual and thematic structures of films about the age of the samurai. We discuss jidaigeki representations of violence and masculinity, self-sacrifice and rebellion, and the invention of tradition as well as critical uses of history. In addition to the historical content of the films, we study the historical contexts that shaped jidaigeki film production and discuss relevant transformations in Japanese cinema and society. Period films have been shaped by and exert strong influences on Japanese theater, oral storytelling, popular literature, comics, and international film culture, all of which are helpful for understanding the films. As we track changes in jidaigeki style and subject matter, the course introduces theories for interpreting narrative structure, genre repetition and innovation, intertextuality, and representations of “the past.” All readings are in English. No knowledge of Japanese required. No prerequisites. Required screenings Tuesdays @ 7 p.m.
Credit 3 units.
L53 Film 328 History of German Cinema
This course explores the major developments of German cinema throughout the 20th century. More specifically, this course engages with issues relating to German film culture’s negotiation of popular filmmaking and art cinema, of Hollywood conventions and European avant-garde sensibilities. Topics include the political functions of German film during the Weimar, the Nazi, the post-war, and the post-wall eras; the influence of American mass culture on German film; the role of German émigrés in the classical Hollywood studio system; and the place of German cinema in present-day Europe and in our contemporary age of globalization. Special attention is given to the role of German cinema in building and questioning national identity, to the ways in which German feature films over the past hundred years have used or challenged mainstream conventions to recall the national past and envision alternative futures. Films by directors such as Murnau, Lang, Fassbinder, Herzog, Tykwer and many others. All readings and discussions in English. May not be taken for German major or minor credit. Required screenings.
L53 Film 329 Italian Neorealism
This course explores the visual language of one of the most influential film movements of the 20th century. We concentrate on the origins of neorealism in Italian post-war cinema and history, and focus on the works of filmmakers such as Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica and Luchino Visconti. We also consider the longer-term influence of the movement both in Italy and elsewhere. Throughout this course, we reflect on the possibilities of mimesis in cinema, on the social and political engagement of neorealist film, and on the factors that caused its decline.
L53 Film 330 History of American Cinema
This course traces the history of the American cinema from the earliest screenings in vaudeville theaters through the birth of the feature film to movies in the age of video. The course examines both the contributions of individual filmmakers as well as the determining contexts of modes of production, distribution and exhibition. The course aims to provide an understanding of the continuing evolution of the American cinema, in its internal development, in its incorporation of new technologies, and in its responses to other national cinemas. Required screenings.
L53 Film 331 The New Hollywood Cinema
This course examines the history of film culture and the film industry in the United States since the end of the classical Hollywood studio system. It pays special attention to the period of auteur-centered filmmaking in the 1970s. During this time, the end of the production code, the financial crisis of the industry, the unparalleled influence of European New Wave and Art films, and the introduction of the first generation of film school graduates (the so-called “movie brats”) all combined amidst the tumultuous cultural politics of such movements as the counterculture, civil rights and second-wave feminism to form a film-historical moment often called the Hollywood Renaissance. This brief period was soon followed by a newly reinvigorated Hollywood industry focused on the high-concept blockbuster. Such rapid transformations in the practice and nature of American film not only continue to influence commercial filmmaking today but also continue to shape our understanding of the role of authorship, genre and ideology within Hollywood. The course consider films of the New Hollywood in the context of tensions between radicalism and populism, progressivism and nihilism, entertainment and ideology, artistic and commercial success. Required screenings.
Credit 3 units. BU: HUM
L53 Film 333 Making Movies II: Intermediate Narrative Filmmaking
In Making Movies II, students advance their skills in filmmaking through a series of exercises and individual short films culminating in a final narrative project shot in high definition digital video and edited in Final Cut Pro. With faculty guidance and working in groups, students collaborate in producing a narrative film that is a minimum of 10 minutes in length, following three-act structure and involving elements of motivation, conflict and resolution. In addition to this structured approach to content, students are encouraged to achieve a unified aesthetic approach to picture and soundtrack that reinforces/enhances the meaning of their final projects. The course develops student skills through lectures, demonstrations, in-class screening of excerpts and critiques. Topics covered include idea development, preproduction planning, directing actors, composition, lighting and editing. Students are required to assist other students in their productions and attend all classes. Admission by waitlist only. Prerequisite: Film 220 and Film 225 or 230.
L53 Film 336 Cinema and Ireland
Like many other Anglophone and Francophone countries, Ireland only even started to develop a robust national cinema in the 1970s. As in, for instance, Australia and New Zealand, growth had previously been blocked by the dominance of local screens by films from, on the one hand, the overbearing “imperial” power, Britain, and, on the other, Hollywood, center of an even stronger cultural imperialism. Increased national self-assertion coincided with the weakening of the grip of those two cinemas in the post-classical period. A major focus of the class is on some of the key works of the filmmakers who established themselves in the 1980s, notably Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan. But, as the title indicates — not simply Irish Cinema — it deals with more than this. Like Ireland itself, Irish cinema is deeply marked by, and preoccupied with, the political and cultural struggles of the past, and recent cinema is illuminated by seeing it in the context of earlier films: Hollywood and British versions of Ireland, whether shot on location or in the studio, as well as the isolated earlier landmarks of an indigenous Irish cinema. We also look at the rich topic of the representation of Irish immigrants in Hollywood films. Required screenings.
L53 Film 340 History of World Cinema
The course surveys the history of cinema as it developed in nations other than the United States. Beginning with the initially dominant film producing nations of Western Europe, this course considers the development of various national cinemas in Europe, Asia and third world countries. The course seeks to develop an understanding of each individual film both as an expression of a national culture as well as a possible response to international movements in other art forms. Throughout, the course considers how various national cinemas sought ways of dealing with the pervasiveness of Hollywood films, developing their own distinctive styles, which could in turn influence American cinema itself. Priority given to majors. Required screenings.
L53 Film 341 Transnational Cinema(s): Film Flows in a Changing World
Across a century of extreme nationalism, Cold War imperialism and increased globalization, moving image culture remains deeply tied to the evolution of global economics, shifting notions of local identity, and human migration. Recent changes in the dynamic of international economics and cultural flow have led to new critical approaches that reassess international cinema as being constructed by relationships that transcend national borders. This course examines multiple ways in which cinema works “transnationally,” focusing on recent theories of modernism, globalization and borderless cultures. Exploring a range of contexts from American domination of the early international market, to the recent evolution of Chinese blockbuster action films, to contemporary Palestinian video art, this course looks at the way in which material developments, narrative and aesthetic conventions, and film professionals have circulated over the past century. We also look at how new technologies of production, distribution and exhibition challenge traditional notions of cultural borders. Required screenings and in-class textual analysis are used to complement industrial studies of how transnational flows have come to define contemporary audiovisual media practices. Required screenings.
L53 Film 345 Sexual Politics in Film Noir and Hard-boiled Literature
Emerging in American films most forcefully during the 1940s, film noir is a cycle of films associated with a distinctive visual style and a cynical worldview. In this course, we explore the sexual politics of film noir as a distinctive vision of American sexual relations every bit as identifiable as the form’s stylized lighting and circuitous storytelling. We explore how and why sexual paranoia and perversion seem to animate this genre and why these movies continue to influence “neo-noir” filmmaking into the 21st century, even as film noir’s representation of gender and sexuality is inseparable from its literary antecedents, most notably, the so-called “hard-boiled” school of writing. We read examples from this literature by Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, Raymond Chandler and Cornell Woolrich, and discuss these novels and short stories in the context of other artistic and cultural influences on gendered power relations and film noir. We also explore the relationship of these films to censorship and to changing post-World War II cultural values. Films screened in complete prints or in excerpts likely include many of the following: The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, Murder My Sweet, Phantom Lady, Strangers on a Train, The Big Sleep, The Killers, Mildred Pierce, The High Wall, Sudden Fear, The Big Combo, Laura, The Glass Key, The Big Heat, Kiss Me Deadly, The Crimson Kimono, Touch of Evil, Alphaville, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, Devil in a Blue Dress, The Bad Lieutenant and Memento. Required screenings.
L53 Film 346 From Golden Age to Wasteland: U.S. Television in the 1950s and 1960s
How did television become the dominant news and entertainment medium of the second half of the 20th Century? How did the medium come to define itself and American identities in the post-WW II era? In an era where various social movements began to lay claim to the cultural center, why did “mad men” eventually give way to magical women and fantastic families? This course examines the cultural, industrial and aesthetic changes in U.S. television broadcasting during a time that was crucial to defining its relationship to the public as well as to Hollywood, the government, critics and American commerce. The class explores the relationships and shifts that made television the U.S.’s most popular consensus medium but one that also would profit by the expression of alternative tastes, politics and identities. Required screenings.
L53 Film 349 Media Cultures
This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of cultural and media studies. Through a focus on television and new media, it analyzes current theoretical ideas and debates about culture. Main topics include the relationship between new technologies and everyday life and popular culture; analysis of media messages and images; how media help construct new identities and mark differences between groups; analysis of the globalization of the production and circulation of media culture; the rise of multimedia cultural industries; and the role of the audience. Required screenings.
L53 Film 350 History of Electronic Media
This course traces the history of electronic media as they have become the dominant source for entertainment and information in contemporary culture, starting with over-the-air broadcasting of radio and television through to cable and the “narrowcasting” achieved by digital technologies. While some attention is paid to other national industries, the chief focus of the course is on electronic media in the United States to determine, in part, the transformative role they have played in the cultural life of the nation. The course explores the relationship of the electronic media industries to the American film industry, determining how their interactions with the film industry helped mutually shape the productions of both film and electronic media. Required screenings.
L53 Film 352 Introduction to Screenwriting
Writers explore the various elements, structures and styles used in crafting a motion picture screenplay. They experience this process as they conceive, develop and execute the first act of a feature-length script. Writers create a screenplay story, present an outline for class discussion and analysis, then craft Act One. Writers are encouraged to consult with the instructor at various stages: concept, outline, character and scene development, and dialogue execution. While the students fashion their screenwriting independently, the class also explores the general elements of theme, genre and voice. A more specific examination of mechanics, the nuts-and-bolts of story construction, plotting, pacing, etc. follows to support the ongoing writing process. In-class exercises aid the writer in sharpening skills and discovering new approaches to form and content. Writers’ work is shared and discussed regularly in class. Screening of film scenes and sequences provides students with concrete examples of how dramatic screenwriting evolves once it leaves the writer’s hands.
L53 Film 353 Writing Episodic Television
This class focuses on all the factors that go into preparing and writing an episode for a network TV series (dramas only). Students begin with a “pitch” (verbally or in short outline form) for an idea for a show currently on a network schedule. Once the “pitch” is accepted, the student then completes a “beat sheet,” and ultimately a spec script that can run from 62 to 75 pages. Two drafts of the script are required. During the course of this process, students also learn how to research their narrative premises by contacting legal, medical and law enforcement experts in order to guarantee the accuracy of their scripts. In addition to learning the actual writing process, students are expected to watch several television shows and to read books, scripts and industry trade papers as they pertain to the craft and business of television writing. Finally, students also meet agents, producers, directors and other television industry professionals in order to gain their insights into the scriptwriting process and to gain a more global view of the steps involved in bringing their ideas to the screen.
Credit 3 units. A&S: LA
L53 Film 356 Television Culture and Cult TV: Critical Approaches to Fandom
Why do television series inspire passionate involvement on the part of some viewers? What are the differences among being a viewer, an audience member, and a fan? How can we make scholarly sense of cultural practices such as learning to speak Klingon or building a “repli-car” of the General Lee? Studies of fandom have attempted to answer such questions and continue to explore issues that are crucial to understanding contemporary television culture. The phenomenon of “Cult TV” offers fertile ground for examining the complex dynamics at play among fans, popular culture, the institutions of American media, and individual programs. In its exploration of cult television and fans, this course engages with key issues in contemporary media such as the proliferation of new media technologies and the repurposing of existing media forms, the permeable boundaries between high and low or mass and oppositional culture, and the fragmentation and concentration of media markets. The class combines close textual analysis with studies of fan practices to examine a variety of television programs, from canonical cult texts such as Star Trek and Doctor Who to “quality” fan favorites such as Designing Women and Cagney & Lacey to contemporary cult/quality hybrids such as Lost and Heroes. In mapping out this cultural territory, we develop a set of critical perspectives on audience identities and activities and examine the continuing and conflicted imagination of fans by media producers, distributors, regulators and critics. Required screenings. Prerequisite: Film 220 or Film 350, or consent of instructor.
L53 Film 357 Quality Television and the “Primetime Novel”
Over the past four decades, the cultural status of television in the United States has been reconfigured and complicated with changes in industrial structures, audience formations, regulatory presumptions and production techniques and strategies. This course examines these interrelated forces, particularly as they have fostered a set of programs and practices often hailed as “Quality Television.” The class surveys the institutional paradigms that gave rise to particular generations of programming celebrated as “quality” and analyze the systems of distinction and cultural value that make the label socially and industrially salient. We critically investigate the role of audiences and the conceptions of viewer choice at play in these developments. In addition, the course analyzes the textual features that have come to signify narrative complexity and aesthetic sophistication. We examine foundational historical examples of this phenomenon from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Hill Street Blues and Cagney & Lacey to Northern Exposure as well as more contemporary broadcast and cable fiction such as Lost, The Wire and Mad Men. In addition, students are expected to watch a complete series, chosen in consultation with the instructor, as part of their final research project. Required screenings. Prerequisite: Film 220 or Film 350, or consent of instructor.
L53 Film 358 Combat Movie Music and Sound after Vietnam
This course considers the Hollywood combat movie genre after the Vietnam War (post 1975) by listening closely to how these always noisy films use music and sound effects to tell stories of American manhood and militarism. Centering on an elite group of prestige films — action movies with a message for adult audiences — the course examines 35 years of Hollywood representations of World War II, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and post-9/11 wars against terrorism. Close analysis of how combat film directors and composers have used music and sound in conjunction with the cinematic image are set within a larger context of ancillary texts (source materials, soundtrack recordings, published and unpublished scripts), media folios ( press kits, reviews, editorials, newspaper and magazine stories and interviews), and scholarly writing from across the disciplines. Films screened include Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Hamburger Hill, Courage Under Fire, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, We Were Soldiers, Flags of our Fathers, The Hurt Locker and Act of Valor, as well as pre-1975 combat films starring John Wayne. The ability to read music is not required. Required screenings. Prerequisite: none.
L53 Film 359 The American Musical Film
Film musicals were crucial to the success of the American film industry from the dawn of sound film in the late 1920s to the demise of the studio system in the late 1950s. This course examines the American film musical from a variety of aesthetic, critical and historical perspectives, with particular attention to how the genre interacted with popular music and dance and the major political and social trends of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Required screenings.
L53 Film 360 The History of the Film Score
This course looks at the role of music in Hollywood films from the beginning of the sound era to the present. Larger themes include the importance of technology, industry structures shaping the nature of scores, notable film music composers, the relationship between music, gender and genre, music’s role in the adaptation of literary texts to film, the power of directors to shape the content of film scores, and the importance of popular music as a driving economic and aesthetic force in film music history. Films screened include From Here to Eternity, Stagecoach, High Noon, The Night of the Hunter, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Born on the Fourth of July, Casino, Jarhead and The Social Network. Required screenings.
L53 Film 361 Film Sound
Although film critics and theorists tend to think of cinema as a “visual art,” this shorthand description of the medium overlooks the importance of film sound in cinematic storytelling. This course is intended to provide a general overview of the way in which film theorists have treated the issue of sound in the cinema. Among the issues addressed in the course are: the contribution sound technology and practice make to film form; the various possible formal relationships between sound and image; the effects of sound technologies on notions of realism and verisimilitude; the importance of sound to particular genres, such as the horror film; and lastly, the role of sound in film spectatorship. The course also showcases the work of the most important sound stylists in film history, such as Fritz Lang, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman and David Lynch. Required screenings.
Credit 3 units. A&S: TH
L53 Film 363 Video Post-Production
While post-production of the soundtrack has been around for years, post-production of the “visual track” has increasingly become a major phase in the video and movie-making process. It often allows filmmakers to enhance existing footage with potentially dazzling results. As in all our production courses, we are concerned with developing strong content. The focus is not on special effects per se, but rather on how they may be used to enhance the message. Students find a nonprofit organization of vital importance in need of exposure and produce a Public Service Announcement to be broadcast. Key post-production software such as Commotion, AfterEffects and Motion are explored throughout the semester. Prerequisite: Film 230 Moving Images and Sound or consent of instructor.
L53 Film 366 Women and Film
The aim of this course is primarily to familiarize students with the work of prominent women directors over the course of the 20th century, from commercial blockbusters to the radical avant-garde. Approaching the films in chronological order, we consider the specific historical and cultural context of each filmmaker’s work. In addition we discuss the films in relation to specific gender and feminist issues such as the status of women’s film genres, representations of men and women on screen and the gender politics of film production. Required screenings.
L53 Film 370 American Horrors
Horror movies. Fright films. Scream marathons. Blood and gore fests. Why should we want to look at movies that aim to frighten us? What is the attraction of repulsion? Is there an aesthetics of ugliness? Except for some early prestigious literary adaptations such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the horror film began as a low-class genre, a notch above exploitation movies. In the 1970s and 1980s, it became the dominant commercial genre by offering increasingly graphic images of violence and mayhem. The horror film had arrived: lavish budgets, big stars and dazzling special effects in mainstream major studio films competed with low-budget, no frills productions that helped establish artistically ambitious and quirky filmmakers such as George Romero and David Cronenberg. By a chronological survey of the American horror film, this course explores how differing notions of what is terrifying reflect changing cultural values and norms. Throughout, we consider the difficult questions raised by horror’s simple aim of scaring its audience. In addition to weekly screenings, work for the course includes analytical and theoretical essays on the horror film. Written analyses of films with a close attention to visual style is required. Prerequisite: Film 220. Required screenings.
L53 Film 371 Making War
This course examines the cinematic representation of war. Using World War II as a case study, students examine a series of combat pictures, documentaries and “home front” films from the 1940s to the present. Several key questions guide the class discussion: How do war films respond to and shape the political worlds in which they are produced? How do these films confront the aftermath of war and the soldier’s homecoming? Where is the line between the home front and the front line? More broadly, what does it mean to portray the violence and suffering that war inevitably brings? At the close of the semester, students partake in an in-class symposium presenting their research on the cinematic treatment of other conflicts, from the Civil War to the “War on Terror.” Films include: The Boat, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Why We Fight and Mrs. Miniver. Readings include works by Susan Sontag, Kaja Silverman and W.G. Sebald. Required screenings.
L53 Film 375 Screening the Holocaust
The course surveys ways in which the story of the Holocaust is conveyed through film. Focusing on the individual and aesthetic pleasure, modern Western film seems to be an inappropriate genre to depict the German mass murdering of 6 million Jews. But since the broadcasting of the NBC series Holocaust in 1975, feature films have replaced documentaries and historiographies in educating the public about the traumas of the unprecedented genocide. With the continuing impact of the Holocaust on Jewish, American and German identity and politics, Holocaust films are more scrutinized than any other genre. We examine these aesthetic and philosophical controversies as well as the narrative and editing strategies filmmakers use to relate collective history and individual trauma. Special attention is given to the complex cinematographic perspectives on human agency in a world of bureaucratically administered killing. In the course, we try to close the gap between reading film theory and watching a Holocaust movie: we analyze the properties of cinematic language, reconstruct the sociohistorical and psychological formation of memory and imagination, and even question our own evaluation of a film. Screenings include Shoah; The Wannsee Conference; Europa, Europa; Enemies, A Love Story; Jakob the Liar; Schindler’s List; and Life Is Beautiful. Required screenings.
L53 Film 376 French New Wave
French cinema from 1958 to 1968 offered La Nouvelle Vague or The New Wave, one of the most innovative, influential and critically discussed movements in film history. The New Wave marked a major turning point in the relationship between film, thought and politics in France, as well as a unique bridge between art cinema and pop culture. Speaking for more than just the youth generation of its own country, it had a major influence on new approaches in subsequent European, American and Asian cinemas. This course offers a detailed look at the social values, artistic motivations and aesthetic experiments embodied in the French New Wave through the films of Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda, François Truffaut, Alain Resnais, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer and others, positioning their work within the larger social, political and cultural environment of this period. As many of these directors collaborated as filmmakers and also were active as film critics and theorists, this class provides a unique insight into the overlapping between visual theory and practice, film and other media, culture and society. Weekly screening required.
L53 Film 379 Expressionism in Theater and Film
Same as Drama 379
L53 Film 419 Theories of Mass Media
This course explores theories of the mass media with an emphasis on television as well as its convergences with other media and computer technologies. It starts by examining theories that posit the media as instruments of societal maintenance or transformation and then examines the ways in which various theorists have refined or rejected elements of these theories in a quest for both specificity and complexity. In particular, the course examines media and cultural studies’ attempts to synthesize critical paradigms ranging from political economy to semiotics to feminism. The course concludes with an examination of the challenges and opportunities posed to theorizations of the mass media by contemporary circumstances such as media conglomeration, niche marketing and microcasting, and global flows of information, capital and people. Required screenings.
L53 Film 420 Film Theory
This course is an introduction to both classical and contemporary film theory. Beginning with the earliest attempts to treat cinema as a new and unique art form, the course initially reviews the various ways in which film theory attempted to define cinema in terms of its most essential properties. The course then examines more contemporary developments within film theory, more specifically its attempt to incorporate the insights of other critical and analytical paradigms, such as semiotics, psychoanalysis, feminism, queer theory and postmodernism. Throughout the course, we consider questions regarding the ontology of cinema, its relation to spectators, and the various ways in which its formal properties create meaning. Readings for the course include the major works of Sergei Eisenstein, Andre Bazin, Christian Metz, Laura Mulvey and Fredric Jameson. Required screenings.
L53 Film 421 Film Historiography
This course is a seminar on the writing of film history for advanced students. Through an engagement with the historiographical writings of scholars, such as Dominic LaCapra, Hayden White and Michel Foucault, students gain an understanding of various genres of film historical writing, an appreciation for the kinds of research that film historians do, and a familiarity with the ways in which film historians delimit their field of study, form research questions and develop hypotheses. In addition to reading and classroom discussions, students are expected to write a fairly lengthy paper (17 to 20 pages) that involves original historical research and the close examination of trade press, professional journals, fan magazines and news articles. As preparatory assignments leading up to the final project, students also prepare project descriptions, bibliographies and outlines that are shared and discussed in a workshop format.
L53 Film 422 Film Stardom, Performance and Fan Culture
This course focuses the Hollywood star system. We explore stars in relation to celebrity and consumerism, especially how “stardom” is created by a system that seeks to create effects in film viewers whether conceived as audiences, fans or spectators. We examine the performance element of stardom and its relationship to genre, style and changing film technology. Also of concern is how stars and the discursive construction of stardom intersect with gender representation, race, ideology, sexuality, age, disability, nationality and other points of theoretical interest to and historical inquiry in contemporary film studies. While emphasis is placed on mainstream commercial U.S. cinema, students are encouraged to pursue questions beyond this framework within their own research. Required screenings.
L53 Film 423 Histories of Media Convergence
Entertainment and communications forms combine and blend, and they have done so across millennia. However, the phenomenon of media convergence has taken on a special salience over the last one-and-a-half-centuries, as exemplified by the growing intermixture of film, radio, television, gaming and the internet. In particular, critics, consumers, politicians and producers used convergence as structuring principle in understanding, regulating and planning for the future of media culture. This course engages with contemporary worries and enthusiasms about convergence by considering the specific conditions in which the phenomenon has been understood and practiced. Tracing a historical arc though the 20th century, we first examine convergences of radio and film, film and music publishing, television and film exhibition, and disparate corporate entities as basis for understanding more recent media combinations. Building on that foundation, the majority of the course consists of case studies of media convergence since 1980, considering it in terms of industry, technology, regulation and audiences. These case studies also provide students with a survey of and inquiry into questions of historiographic theory and method. Note: This course satisfies the history and historiography requirement for the FMS Graduate Certificate. Required screenings.
L53 Film 430 Clown Princes
“Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” runs an old theatrical adage. Nevertheless, some of the most popular actors in American film have chosen the hard path by typecasting themselves in comedy, playing repeated variations on the same character. “Comedian comedy,” representing films that showcase the distinctive skills of great clown-actors, is the central concern of this course. We analyze how individual comedians rework performance traditions through the distinctive concerns of their time and culture to create idiosyncratic comic personae. We look at films starring Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny, Peter Sellers, Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy. Work for the course requires reading in comic theory and analytical essays. Required screenings.
L53 Film 432 Global Art Cinema
How do art films tell stories? The dominant storytelling genre of the contemporary festival circuit, the art film has since World War II combined “realist” and “modernist” impulses. Influenced by Italian neorealism, art films grant priority to characters from working class, sexual and other exploited and imperiled minorities. Drawing on the fine arts, literature and music, art films also experiment with modernist themes and formal principles, such as subjectivity, duration serial structure, denotative ambiguity and reflexivity. This course explores art cinema from a variety of national contexts, analyzing storytelling techniques and themes that challenge the “economical” and diverting forms associated with mainstream commercial filmmaking. Required screenings.
L53 Film 444 Topics in Chinese Language Cinema
Variable topics associated with the shaping of Chinese-language cinema, whether originating from the PRC, Hong Kong or Taiwan. This course may take up themes, directors, film genres, special subjects (such as independent film), formal elements (such as cinematography or sound) or issues (the relationship of film to literature, specific cultural movements or political events). Required screenings.
L53 Film 450 American Film Genres
By close examination of three or four specific types of film narratives, this course explores how genre has functioned in the Hollywood mode of production. Students gain an understanding of genre both as a critical construct as well as a form created by practical economic concerns, a means of creating extratextual communication between film artist/producers and audience/consumers. Genres for study are chosen from the Western, the gangster film, the horror movie, the musical, screwball comedy, science fiction, the family melodrama, the woman’s film and others. In addition to film showings, there are readings in genre theory as well as genre analyses of individual films. Required screenings.
L53 Film 451 American Television Genres
Questions of genre are central to any exploration of television’s texts, whether they are being analyzed as craft, commerce or cultural phenomenon. Genre has been used by critics and historians to ascribe “social functions” to groups of programs and to diagnose cultural preoccupations, while genre has been used industrially to manage expectations among audiences, advertisers, programmers, producers and creative professionals. Investigating genres ranging from the soap opera to the Western, workplace situation comedies to sports, and game shows to cop shows, this course explores the role of genre in the production, distribution and reception of American television. Students gain a critical understanding of genre theory and key arguments about the form and function of television texts; they develop a set of tools for analysis of televisual narrative and style; the social uses and meanings of genre; the institutional practices and presumptions of the American television industry; and the persistence of textual forms and audience formations in the face of structural changes such as deregulation, media convergence and globalization. Required screenings.
L53 Film 452 Advanced Screenwriting
This course is intended for students who already have taken Film 352 Introduction to Screenwriting. Building on past writing experiences, students explore the demands of writing feature-length screenplays, adaptations and experimental forms. Particular attention is paid to the task of rewriting.
L53 Film 4529 Seminar in Cultural Theory
Same as German 529
Credit 3 units.
L53 Film 454 American Film Melodrama and the Gothic
American film melodrama has been considered both the genre of suffering protagonists, incredible coincidences and weeping spectators as well as a mode of action, suspense and in-the-nick-of-time rescues. In this course, we examine American film melodrama as a dialectic of sentiment and sensation that draws heavily on Gothic tropes of terror, live burial and haunted internal states. We trace the origins of film melodrama and the cinematic Gothic to their literary antecedents, the horrors of the French Revolution, and classical and sensational stage melodramas of the 19th century. In addition to the 1940s Gothic woman’s film cycle, we excavate the Gothic in the maternal melodrama, the suspense thriller, film noir, domestic melodrama, the slasher film and the supernatural horror film. Required screenings.
L53 Film 456 Soundtrack Studies: Music, Voices, Noise
This course considers the interaction of film, sound and music from the silent era to the present by screening representative films from around the world and exploring current directions in scholarship from the disciplines of film studies and musicology. Topics include: historical and critical understandings of the sound track, major film sound theorists (such as Michel Chion), technological shifts (such as synchronized sound, Dolby and digital surround sound), the uses of Richard Wagner (both his music and his ideas), the relationship between a film genre (noir) and sound and music and the relationship between a musical genre (opera) and film, and the juxtaposition of popular and classical, Western and non-Western musical styles in art cinema. Screened films include Meek’s Cutoff, Blow Out, Days of Heaven, Sous le toits de Paris, Love Me Tonight, Casablanca, Alien, Apocalypse Now, La cérémonie, Le Cercle rouge, The Pillow Book, The Scent of Green Papaya, and The Bourne Ultimatum. The course is in seminar format. Readings from recent scholarly work on film sound and music inform class discussions of the screened films. Close analysis of how music, sound and image interact in film making and the film experience lies at the heart of the course. The ability to read music is not required. A primary goal of the course is the development of specific listening skills that are useful when working in this area. Targeted writing assignments ask students to write about film sound and music from a variety of critical and historical perspectives. Prerequisites: graduate status or completion of Film 360 The History of the Film Score, or AMCS 360 or Music 328 and permission of the instructor. Required screenings.
L53 Film 458 Major Film Directors
What does the film director do? In the earliest movies, film directors modeled themselves on their theatrical counterparts: they chiefly focused on how to stage an action in a confined space for a stationary camera that represented an ideal member of the audience. As the camera began to be used to direct audience attention, first through cutting, then through actual movement, the film director evolved from a stager of events to a narrator. By analyzing the work of one or more major film directors, this course explores the art of film direction. We learn how film directors may use the camera to narrate a scene, to provide their own distinctive view of the actions playing out on the movie screen. May be repeated for credit with permission of the instructor. Required screenings.
L53 Film 460 Taboo: Contesting Race, Sexuality and Violence in American Cinema
Pushing the envelope or going too far? What is the boundary between films that challenge us and films that offend us? This is a course about films that crossed that boundary, most often by presenting images of race, sexuality and violence, images that could attract audiences as much as they offended moral guardians and courted legal sanctions. Because they were denied the First Amendment protection of free speech by a 1915 Supreme Court decision, movies more than any prior art form were repeatedly subject to various attempts at regulating content by government at federal, state and even municipal levels. Trying to stave off government control, Hollywood instituted forms of self-regulation, first in a rigid regime of censorship and subsequently in the ratings system still in use. Because taboo content often means commercial success, Hollywood could nonetheless produce films that pushed the envelope and occasionally crossed over into more transgressive territory. While control of content is a top-down attempt to impose moral norms and standards of behavior on a diverse audience, it also reflects changing standards of acceptable public discourse. That topics once barred from dramatic representation by the Production Code — miscegenation, homosexuality and “lower forms of sexuality,” abortion, drug addiction — could eventually find a place in American movies speaks to changes in the culture at large. In trying to understand these cultural changes, this course explores films that challenged taboos, defied censorship and caused outrage, ranging from films in the early 20th century that brought on the first attempts to control film content through to films released under the ratings system, which has exerted subtler forms of control. Required screenings.
L53 Film 485 Visualizing Orientalism: Art, Cinema and the Imaginary East 1850–2000
This seminar examines film and modern art within the framework of “Orientalism.” Reading foundational texts by Said, and incorporating theory and historical discourse concerned with race, nationalism and colonialism, we explore artistic practice in European photography, painting and decorative arts from 1850 to recent times and European and Hollywood film. We study how power and desire have been inscribed in Western visual culture across the bodies of nations and peoples through conventions such as the harem, the odalisque, the desert and the mysteries of ancient Egypt. To that end, we look at artists such as Delacroix, Ingres, Gérôme, Beardsley and Matisse and screen films such as The Sheik, The Mummy, Salome, Cleopatra, Pepe le Moko, Naked Lunch, Shanghai Gesture, Thief of Baghdad, Princess Tam Tam and The Sheltering Sky. Subjects include the representation of gender, sexuality, desire, race and identity as well as the cultural impact of stereotype and “exotic” spectacle. Students study methods of visual analysis in film studies and art history. All students must attend film screenings.
L53 Film 495 Special Projects
This course is intended for juniors and seniors who wish to register for internships. Students must receive program approval prior to beginning the internship. Please consult the program guidelines governing internships.
Credit variable, maximum 3 units.
L53 Film 499 Study for Honors
This course is intended for majors pursuing honors in Film and Media Studies. In order to enroll for this course, students must apply in advance for honors and be approved by a faculty committee. Please consult the Program guidelines for application deadlines and other requirements.
Credit 3 units.
L53 Film 500 Independent Study
This course is intended for students who wish to pursue areas of study not available within the standard curriculum. In order to enroll for this course, students must have a faculty adviser and submit a contract outlining the work for the course to the Film and Media Studies office. Please consult the Program guidelines governing independent study work. Opportunities for Independent Study are available to all undergraduate and graduate students working toward a degree in Arts & Sciences. Registration in an Independent Study requires sponsorship by a faculty member and approval of the Program Director. An Independent Study Proposal form can be obtained from the Film & Media Office. All proposals for Film 500 have to be submitted to the FMS main office no later than November 1 for Spring enrollment and April 1 for Film 500 to be taken in Fall semester. Approval is not automatic.
The Independent Study course may be taken for 1 to 3 units per semester, depending upon the proposed work load. A total of 3 units of independent study may be counted toward the 120 units required to complete the Bachelor of Arts degree. Independent Study courses cannot be used to replace required courses for the major or to replace courses that are regularly offered in the curriculum.