Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions for Fall 2020

01:175:201:02 Intro to Film 1

This course introduces students to the close analysis of film and provides students with tools for understanding how films “work” at the levels of form, theme, and culture. Through close readings of individual films, we will see how spectators’ experiences and interpretations are shaped powerfully by cinematic techniques such as lighting, editing, sound design, and camera movement, among others; and by historical and cultural questions related to genre, authorship, and the politics of race and gender. Particularly because films engage with the assumptions, expectations, values, and habits of their audiences, this course is as much about understanding how films work as it is about understanding how we experience them.


01:175:202:01 Intro to Film 2

In this course, we will discuss some of the major modes and styles of fiction and non-fiction filmmaking, inside and outside of Hollywood, as well as several key approaches to film analysis. We will begin with an intensive introduction to Hollywood classical filmmaking and close textual analysis: mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing and sound (this may be a review for students who have taken Introduction to Film 1 or equivalent courses elsewhere). This will be followed by an exploration of genre and its permutations within different cultural contexts (looking at specific examples of the Western and melodrama), together with the concept of authorship (auteur theory), and performance and star image. We will then briefly discuss alternatives to classical narrative filmmaking from experimental filmmaking to the New Cinema and Counter Cinema movements of the 1960s and beyond. In the last part of the semester we will consider (mostly) non-fiction filmmaking: documentary, mockumentary, and doc-fiction hybrids.


01:175:265:01 Experimental Film (cross-listed with 01:050:265:01)

A remote learning lecture-discussion survey course focusing on the history and development of the various American experimental cinema movements from its beginnings to the 1980s.

In-depth analyses of the structure and content of films by Andy Warhol, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Sidney Peterson, Kenneth Anger, Bruce Baillie, Yoko Ono, and others. Emphasis on the "mise-en-scene," editing, narrative form, sound, and special effects in the films of these celebrated experimental filmmakers. Warning: some films may contain nudity, sexual situations, violence, profanity, substance abuse, and disturbing images.


01:175:320:01 World Cinema I

A survey of the history of world cinema (including American cinema, to the extent that it participates in the global evolution of the medium), from its beginnings in the 1890s to post-World War II developments such as Italian Neorealism.


01:175:365:01 Bollywood

India is the second most populous country in the world and has a cultural tradition that has evolved over 5,000 years. It is also the world’s largest film-producing nation, releasing over 900 films every year. Of these, approximately 200 films are made in Hindi in India’s film capital—Bombay. Driven by the growth and spread of the Indian diaspora in recent decades, the popular Bollywood has become a ubiquitous presence in theaters and film festivals across the globe. While remaining India’s most beloved art form, this cinema today is also India’s most visible and fascinating export. Bollywood remains an exceptional industry that has successfully resisted the onslaught of Hollywood films in the country of its birth. These and other factors have contributed in making academic exploration of Bombay cinema a relatively new, but extremely exciting field of study. What makes Hindi cinema different? How are such a staggering number of films made in India? How do these ‘song and dance’ movies challenge our perceptions of narrative forms? How do Bombay films negotiate the polarities of tradition and modernity? How do they bear the burden of postcoloniality? Despite the plethora of languages and cultures that comprise India, how does Hindi cinema maintain its hegemonic position both within the subcontinent and without? What is the status of Bollywood as a national cinema? These are some of the larger questions with which we will engage in this canopic overview.


01:175:377:01 TPCS in World Cinema: Dream Factories

Almost since its inception, Hollywood has been considered a “Dream Factory,” a striking concept that weds the intangible with the industrial. In this course we will explore the historical, political, economic, and cultural inflections of this phrase, which appears to be a contradiction in terms. Beginning with understandings of the “dream” by thinkers such as Freud and Bergson, we trace how the notion of dreaming informed a diverse set of cultural practices, from the shock-montage aesthetics of the Surrealists and Hollywood’s industrialized form of collective dreaming to post-war poetry by Langston Hughes, contemporary mixed media art, and more. Self-conscious texts (i.e., movies about movies), which thematize the notion of a dream factory, will make up a section of the syllabus. The course will culminate with a critique of the “American Dream” by Black and working class people in the United States. By the end of the semester, students will have a sophisticated sense of the cultural and political stakes of dreaming in an age of perpetual productivity and connectivity, and will start to dream up alternatives—even techniques of wakefulness and wokeness—to what the culture industries provide.


01:175:390:01 Global Horror

The horror genre has found its determined creators, passionate followers and scornful detractors across the globe. Often derided by critics for relying on questionable aesthetics and tasteless sensationalism, horror continues to inspire animated debates. The horror genre is local as well as global: deeply rooted in specific regional myths, folklore, rituals and traditions, it simultaneously regurgitates stock images, predictable narratives and pat conclusions across cinematic traditions. In this sense, the horror genre taps into what Carl Jung famously called the “collective unconscious”—a nightmarish substratum that all of humanity is wired into. In this course we will interrogate precisely this conundrum—how does the horror genre work in each national/cultural context and still resonate with audiences in other parts of the globe? Is fear a culturally determined response, or is there something universal about our deeply emotional response to frightening images/stories? Do audiences respond to horror in the same way everywhere, or is our response mitigated by socio-cultural and political contexts? Our ghosts, spooks, vampires, zombies, headless horsemen and serial killers will come from far-flung regions—USA, Japan, Germany, India, South Korea, Italy, Mexico, among others. We will engage with globally celebrated filmmakers such as Mizoguchi Kenji and Dario Argento to lesser-known horror producers such as the Ramsay brothers from India. The faint of heart and the squeamish be forewarned!


Professor Nigrin's Experimental Filmmaking class

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