FILM 392 - Research Seminar in Film History and Theory
Semester Offered: Fall and Spring
This course is designed as an in-depth exploration of a theoretical topic. Students contribute to the class through research projects and oral presentations. Their work culminates in lengthy research papers. Because topics change, students are permitted (encouraged) to take this course more than once. Preference is given to film majors who must take this class during their senior year; junior majors and others admitted if space permits.
Topic for 2017/18a: American Horror Cinema. An advanced seminar in American horror cinema. It facilitates in-depth analysis and close readings of classic horror films. This course explores the production, reception, aesthetics and politics of an evolving genre. We begin with the classic 1930’s studio monster movies like Dracula, Frankenstein and Cat People. Next, we examine Cold War politics and its influence on films like, I Married a Monster from Outer Space. Landmark movies responsible for shifts in the genre’s paradigm (like Psycho) are contextualized. We trace the genealogy of zombie movies from the Vietnam era to the present - considering their relationship to the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex. Teen slasher pictures reached their apex in the Seventies, only to be re-invented in the Nineties for the Scream franchise. Television also exploits the appeal and popularity of teen horror genres with programs like True Blood. The course concludes with post-apocalyptic horror and its expression of millenarian anxiety in films such as Avatar, Legion and World War Z. The work of Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Brian DePalma, David Cronenberg and Mary Harron, among others, is studied. Mia Mask.
Topic for 2017/18b: The City Symphony and its Afterlives. City symphonies are a recurrent intersection of experimental, documentary, and fiction techniques that use montage to represent a typical day in the life of an urban environment. Or three distinct historical cycles of essay films. Or a sub-thread of the 1920s continental avant-garde. Or fascist iconography adopted by nationalist movements. Or the blueprint for how moving images represent cities. This course studies these elusive and allusive films from their roots in primitive cinema to their recent re-emergence in environmental video and attempts to build a collaborative definition of city symphonies. The course emphasizes the three recognized cycles and canonic symphonies like À propos de Nice (1930), In the Street (1948), and Singapore GaGa (2005), but it also examines the influence of city symphonies on such different movements as Italian Neo-Realism, New American Cinema, and Third Cinema. Assignments include discussion leadership, an analysis paper proposing your own definition of city symphonies, an annotated bibliography, and a research paper. Erica Stein.
Prerequisite(s): FILM 210 /FILM 211 ; two additional units in film history and theory, and permission of the instructor.
One 2-hour period plus outside screenings.
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