This course provides an introduction to the history and theory of the cinema by exploring fifty years of aesthetic, industrial, cultural, and technological changes in film. Topics covered include primitive cinema and actualite, the rise of the studio system, German expressionism, Soviet Montage, the Hays Code, popular genres (American Noir and Mexican Comedy), and Italian Neorealism. In addition to engaging the history of motion pictures through screenings and textbook readings, we will also use primary and secondary theoretical texts to help us understand what cinema meant to is audiences and critics in the first half of the 20th century, and how scholars have conceptualized it since. All assigned readings and screenings are required. Assignments include a midterm reading journal, five quizzes, a take-home final, and constant participation.
This course offers a survey of American avant-garde film in all its modes, ranging from experimental work like Jennifer Proctor’s Jen Proctor: A Movie, to surrealist-influenced documentary like Naomi Uman’s Mala Leche, to innovative narrative cinema like Agnes Varda’s Lions Love (…and Lies). While the course covers major avant-garde movements like mytho-poeticism and structuralism, it is organized thematically rather than chronologically. The course is divided into three units, each of which interrogates one of the terms in the title. The first unit explores films that expand our perception of what it means to be American and challenge received ideas about individual and collective identity. The second unit examines how the avant-garde constitutes itself both in opposition to commercial film and as its own industrial form. The third unit investigates film itself – how and why medium specificity and technology are important to these moving images. Assignments include an historical presentation, a short analytic essay, and a final position paper on the future of the American avant-garde film.