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CS6: European Film

This paper is available for the academic year 2022-23 at Part IB. It will be available as an Optional Dissertation in 2022-23 at Part II.

This paper offers the opportunity for comparative study of European Cinema. The paper opens with an introduction to film language and to cinema’s fundamental properties as a medium. Students will learn techniques for close analysis of film texts as well as developing an intellectual understanding of the ontology of film, of film as an indexical medium, and of key aspects of film language. The variety of lecture topics introduce students to key areas in European film history and film theory, through close work on a series of prescribed films and through theoretical reading as well as broader comparative work. The paper is taught in English, all prescribed readings are in English, and all prescribed films are subtitled in English. Should they wish to do so, however, students are welcome, with the advice of their supervisors, to expand their engagement to include materials in language areas in which they have proficiency.

Topics: 

The paper begins with two lectures on Film Language, which introduce cinema as a complex mode of representation. There are several further topics, including: ‘Cities and Bodies: Early Cinema’, ‘Art and Industry’, ‘The Neorealist Moment’, ‘Art Cinema’, ‘Migrant Lives’, ‘Queer Rules’, ‘Philosophy and the Moving Image’. There are generally two or more prescribed films per topic. Students may supplement the list of possible films for discussion with other appropriate examples, in consultation with their supervisor.

Information on the topics, films and suggested and essential reading can be found in the reading list (on Moodle, requires Raven login).

Preparatory reading: 

 

General Theory and Context

Jacques Aumont, ‘Griffith—the Frame, the Figure’, in Thomas Elsaesser, ed., Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative (London: BFI, 1990), 348-59

André Bazin, ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’, in Bazin, What is Cinema? vol. 1, Hugh Gray, ed. and trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), 9-1

_______, ‘The Virtue and Limitations of Montage’, What is Cinema? vol. 1, Hugh Gray, ed. and trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), 41-52

Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, Illuminations, Hannah Arendt, ed. (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 217-251

Sergei Eisenstein, ‘A Dialectic Approach to Film Form’, Film Form, Jay Leyda, ed. and trans. (San Diego, NY and London: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1949), 45-63

_______, ‘Dickens, Griffith, and the Film Today’, Film Form, Jay Leyda, ed. and trans. (San Diego, NY and London: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1949), 195-255

Tom Gunning, ‘The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, its Spectator and the Avant-Garde’, in Thomas Elsaesser, ed., Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative (London: BFI, 1990), 56-62

_______, D.W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 10-30; 188-232

 

Introductory texts on film form, film analysis, and writing about film

David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction (NY: McGraw Hill, 2008) other editions acceptable

Timothy Corrigan, A Short Guide to Writing about Film (New York and Harlow: Longman, 1998)

Amy Villarejo, Film Studies: The Basics (London: Routledge, 2007)

Moodle Reading List: 
Teaching and learning: 

You are expected to attend the lectures, seminars and supervisions for the entire paper. The first supervision assignment, accompanying the film language lectures and seminars, will be an exercise in close reading and formal analysis. Typically you will produce a substantial supervision essay for each of the subsequent lecture topics, although some supervisions may be organised around group work, presentations, and/or other assignments addressing the screenings and readings. Follow-up supervisions are offered in Easter Term as a means of preparing for the exam. Students work with one supervisor across the year. Seminars meet weekly. All students, including those writing Optional Dissertations, are expected to attend the seminars and to make one un-assessed seminar presentation.

Please see the Moodle site for CS6.

Assessment: 

The exam is structured in two parts. Part I is a comparative commentary question, in which students are asked to identify a pair of stills (from a range of three paired options) taken from two of the prescribed films, to analyse them individually, and to discuss them in relation to one another. Part II requires students to answer two (out of a range of ten) questions (some focusing on a particular topic, some inviting engagement across topics. Each answer must address films from more than one language area. Scripts as a whole must address films from at least two language areas (excluding English). This guidance also applies to the Optional Dissertation at Part II.

Course Contacts: 
Professor John David Rhodes
Dr Laura McMahon