Film

Faculty: See Drama and Film

Requirements for Concentration in Film:

  1. 11 units required.
  2. Film 210, Film 211, Film 392 required.
  3. Six (6) additional courses in Film at the 200- or 300-level, with the restrictions below:
    1. No more than 4 units in film, video, or digital production may be counted toward the major (including, but not limited to: Film 245, 320/321, 326/327, 331, 345/346).
    2. Two of the above 6 units must be Film Department courses in film history/theory. These 2 units must be completed prior to enrollment in Film 392, which must be taken in the senior year.
  4. Two additional elective units at the 200- or 300-level selected from the following categories:
    1. Courses offered by the Department of Film, including fieldwork and independent study.
    2. Courses offered by the Department of Drama
    3. Specifically film-related courses offered by other Vassar departments appearing on the Film Department’s Approved Elective List, or, with pre-approval, similar courses taken on Study Away or Exchange Programs.
  5. Senior Year Requirement: Film 392.

Related Links

I. Introductory

175a or b. The Art of Film (1)

An introductory exploration of central features of film and film study, including the relation of film and literature, film genre, silent film, formal and stylistic elements (color, lighting, widescreen, etc.), abstract and nonnarrative film. Subjects are treated topically rather than historically. The department.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

II. Intermediate

210a. World Cinema to 1945 (1)

An international history of film from its invention through the silent era and the coming of sound to mid-century. The course focuses on major directors, technological change, industrial organization, and the contributions of various national movements. In addition to the historical survey, this course teaches the terminology and concepts of film aesthetics, and introduces students to the major issues of classical film theory. The department.

Prerequisite: Film 175 strongly suggested by not required.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

211b. World Cinema After 1945 (1)

An international history of film from mid-century to the present day. The course focuses on major directors, technological changes, industrial organization, and the contributions of various national movements. In addition to the historical survey, this course explores the major schools of contemporary film theory, e.g., semiology, Marxist theory, feminism. The department.

Prerequisite: Film 210.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

[212. Genre: The Musical] (1)

Examines the development of American film musicals from The Jazz Singer to the present day. The course looks at major stars such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, and Judy Garland, and the contributions of directors such as Vincente Minnelli and Bob Fosse. Students examine the interrelationships between Broadway and Hollywood, the influence of the rise and fall of the Production Code, the shaping hand of different studios, the tensions between narrative and spectacle, sincerity and camp. Reading assignments expose students to a wide range of literature about film, from production histories to feminist theory. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2005/06.

[214. Genre: The War Film] (1)

An examination of how American films have represented World War I, World

War II, and the Vietnam War. Films chosen include both those produced while the conflicts raged (Bataan, 1942), and those made many years later (Saving Private Ryan, 1998). This class focuses on such issues as: propaganda and patriotism, pacifism and sensationalism, the reliance on genre conventions and the role of changing film technologies. For comparison, we look also at documentaries, at films focusing on the “home front,” and at war poetry, posters, and music. Reading assignments cover topics such as the government’s Office of War Information, the influence of John Wayne, and the racism of the Vietnam films. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2005/06.

[215. Genre: Science Fiction] (1)

The course surveys the history of science fiction film from its beginnings in the silent period (culminating in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and The Woman in the Moon) to the advent of digital technologies. The “golden age” of the 50s, the emergence of a new kind of science-fiction film at the end of the 60s (Kubrick’s 2001, and the “resurgence/revival” of science-fiction film in the late 70s-early 80s (Star Wars, Blade Runner, Alien, The Terminator) are given special attention. Topics include subgenres (end of the world, time travel, space exploration/the “new” frontier, technology/robots/atomic energy), the relation of science-fiction films to their social context and their function in popular culture, the place of science in science-fiction, film’s relation to science-fiction literature (and issues of adaptation), the role of women and feminist criticism, and remakes. In addition to film history and criticism, a small amount of science fiction literature is read. While passing mention will be made to television science-fiction, the course focuses on film.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2005/06.

216b. Genre: Romantic Comedy (1)

This class studies the genre of romantic comedy in American film from the “screwball comedies” of the 1930s (It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby) to the resurgence of the genre in the 1990s (You’ve Got Mail). The course focuses on the work of major stars such as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Meg Ryan, as well as the contribution of such directors as Ernst Lubitsch, George Cukor, Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, or Nora Ephron. We place these films in the context of other representations of romance—such as Shakespeare’s comedies—and in the context of the changes in American culture, particularly in the role of women. Readings lead students to a deeper understanding of the history of American film, genre, and the star system. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

218a. Genre: The Western (1)

A historical and cultural exploration of the Western film genre, with emphasis on the relationship between the Western and the central myths of American experience and such themes as masculinity, violence and the role of women. Specifically, the course examines Westerns directed by filmmakers D. W. Griffith, Tom Mix, William S. Hart, John Ford, Howard Hawks, George Stevens, John Huston, Anthony Mann, Fred Zinnemann, Sam Peckinpah, and Clint Eastwood among others. Ms. Mask.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

[219b. Genre: Film Noir] (1)

The term “film noir” was coined by French critics at the end of WWII to describe Hollywood adaptations of hard-boiled crime fiction (Cain, Hammett, Chandler). In this course we first consider “film noir” as an American genre, defined historically (from Huston’s 1941 The Maltese Falcon to Welles’ 1958 Touch of Evil) and stylistically (hard­ edged chiaroscuro, flashbacks, voice-over). In order to account for its broad and lasting impact, however, we then follow film noir’s influence on the French New Wave (e.g. Godard’s 1960 Breathless, Truffaut’s 1950 Shoot the Piano Player) and its later return as “new noir” in American and French cinema (Polanski’s 1974 Chinatown, Scorcese’s 1990 The Grifters, Claire Denis’ 1997 I Can’t Sleep). We observe the transformation of recurrent themes, such as urban violence, corruption, the blurring of moral and social distinctions, the pathology of the divided self, and the femme fatale. Readings in film history and theory, including feminist theory. Ms. Arlyck.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 or French 244, 252, or 262 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2005/06.

[230b. Women in Film] (1)

(Same as Women’s Studies 230) Women filmmakers have successfully directed, scripted, and edited commercial, independent, and avant-garde films. The class emphasizes the diversity (aesthetic, ideological, racial, and cultural) among women filmmakers. Class reading assignments delve into a broad range of theoretical perspectives.

Prerequisite: One unit in Film or Women’s Studies.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2005/06.

[231. Minorities in the Media] (1)

This course teaches students to develop a critical understanding of mediated culture through discourse analysis. It examines various texts (i.e., film, video, television, and advertising) in which the dynamics of race, gender, class, and sexuality are expressed and intersect in America. Course literature addresses the identity categories “minority” and “majority” as they have been constructed and deployed in mainstream society. Readings also examine the media’s role in reinforcing socially constructed ideas about difference and the ways visible versus invisible minorities are represented. Black British cultural theory, feminist theory, African American studies and whiteness studies are employed. Screenings may include La Haine, Our Song, Hide & Seek, Traffic and Requiem for a Dream. Ms. Mask.

Prerequisite: 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2005/06.

232 African American Cinema (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 232) This course provides a survey of the history and theory of African American cinema. It begins with the silent films of Oscar Micheaux, and examines the early all black cast westerns and musicals of the twenties, thirties, and forties. The political debates circulating around stars like Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt and Harry Belafonte are the focus for discussing the racial climate of the fifties. Special consideration is given to Blaxploitation cinema of the late sixties and seventies, in an attempt to understand the historical contexts for contemporary filmmaking. The new wave of late 80’s and early 90’s black romantic comedies, including The Wood, The Best Man and Coming to America, are also addressed. Ms. Mask.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

[233. The McCarthy Era and Film] (1)

This class focuses both on the history of anti-communist involvement with the American film industry and on the reflection of this troubled era in post-war films. We trace the factors that led to House un-American Activities Committee’s investigation of communist influence in Hollywood, the case of the Hollywood Ten, the operation of the blacklist and its final demise at the end of the 1950s. We look at films overtly taking sides in this ideological conflict, such as the anti-Communist I Was a Communist for the FBI and the pro-labor Salt of the Earth, as well as the indirect allegories in film noirs and science fiction. Reading assignments are drawn from a wide range of sources, including HUAC transcripts, government documents, production histories, and genre studies. The course concludes with a look at how more contemporary films have sought to frame our understanding of this era. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2005/06.

[234. Film and “The Sixties”] (1)

The era from Bonnie and Clyde (1967) to Chinatown (1974) can be thought of as a distinct period in the history of American film in terms of the demise of the studio system, the transformation of traditional genres, the influence of the French New Wave, the emergence of new auteurs, and the relaxation of censorship, leading to more explicit sex and violence. This course focuses on directors such as Altman, Kubrick, Peckinpah, Penn, and Scorsese, as well as films, such as Easy Rider, Shaft, or Diary of a Mad Housewife, which reflect topical subjects. Emphasis is placed on the changes in filmmaking techniques (wide-screen, jump cuts, the zoom lens, improvisational acting), the role of film critics and theorists of the time, the changes in industry economics and demographics, the influence of television and popular music, and the ways in which social change is reflected by the cinema. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2005/06.

237 Non-Western Cinema (1)

Although Americans are most familiar with Hollywood and European offerings, countries around the world long and rich cinematic traditions. This course examines the history and aesthetics of a given international cinema, such as India, Iran, Hong Kong, or Brazil. Screenings showcase films not easy to see in the United States and readings address how the cinemas reflect their countries’ cultures and heritage. Instructor to be announced.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

238 Music in Film (1)

(Same as Music 238) A study of music in sound cinema from the 1920s to the present. The course focuses on the expressive, formal, and semiotic functions that film music serves, either as sound experienced by the protagonists, or as another layer of commentary to be heard only by the viewer, or some mixture of the two. Composers studied include Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman and others as well as film scores that rely upon arrangements of musical styles including classical, popular, and non-Western. Mr. Pisani.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: one course in music (not performance) or film.

Offered in Spring 2006.

240b. Experiments in Video (1)

This course explores the ultra-short video form. During the first half of the semester, students concentrate on in-camera video exercises and projects, while during the second half they also learn video editing procedures. In addition, the course examines and discusses the work of a number of distinguished video artists who concentrate on producing videos in the ultra-short form. Open only to sophomores who are not concentrating in film. Mr. Roques.

Prerequisite: one unit in film.

One 2-hour period.

[260b. Documentary: History and Aesthetics] (1)

Beginning with an exploration of film pioneers such as Robert Flaherty and Margaret Mead, the course also examines the impact of John Grierson on documentary production in both Great Britain and Canada. In addition, the development of cinema verité and direct cinema is traced through the work of such filmmakers as Jean Rouch, Richard Leacock, Robert Drew, D. A. Pennebaker, Frederick Wiseman, and the Maysles Brothers. Other topics might include propaganda films, the lyrical documentary, and the personal essay film. Ms. Mask.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2005/06.

290a. or b. Field Work (1⁄2 or 1)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser and the Office of Field Work.

298a. or b. Independent Work (1⁄2 or 1)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser.

III. Advanced

300a. or b. Film Research Thesis (1)

An academic thesis in film history or theory, written under the supervision of a member of the department. Since writing a thesis during fall semester is preferable, film majors should talk to their advisers spring of junior year. In Film, a research thesis is recommended, especially for those students not writing a Screenplay Thesis or enrolled in Documentary workshop, but it is not required. The department.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211, two additional courses in film history and theory, and permission of the instructor.

301a or b. Film Screenplay Thesis (1)

The creation of a feature-length original screenplay. Open only to students electing the concentration in film. Senior status required. Students wishing to write a screenplay instead of a research thesis must have produced work of distinction in Film 317 (Dramatic Writing) and Film 319 (Screenwriting). Mr. Steerman.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211, Film 317 or Drama 317, Film 319, and permission of instructor.

317a or b. Dramatic Writing (1)

(Same as Drama 317a or b.) Studies of dramatic construction, analysis of, and practice in writing stage plays and/or screenplays. Mr. Steerman.

Prerequisites: Drama 100 or Film 210 and permission of instructor.

Writing sample required two weeks before preregistration.

Open only to juniors and seniors.

One 2-hour period.

319b. Screenwriting (1)

An exploration of the screenplay as a dramatic form. Students study the work of major American and international screenwriters and are required to complete a feature-length screenplay as their final project in the course. Open only to students who have produced work of distinction in Drama or Film 317. Mr. Steerman.

One 2 hour period.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211, Drama or Film 317, and permission of the instructor.

320a/321b. Filmmaking (1)

A-semester: The course concentrates on a theoretical and practical examination of the art of visual communication in 16 mm film. Individual projects emphasize developing, visualizing and editing narratives from original ideas.

B-semester: Further exploration of a variety of narrative structures from original ideas. Includes working in a partnership with divided responsibilities to develop, visualize and execute films. Emphasis is placed on writing and production planning, as well as how lighting and sound contribute to the overall meaning of films. (Students must concurrently enroll in a 3-hour lab period each semester.) Mr. Robinson, Mr. Roques.

Fees: see section on fees.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211 and permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period, plus lab.

325a. Writing the Short Narrative Film (1)

Students learn the process of developing original ideas into twelve to fifteen minute narrative screenplays. Scripts produced in Film 327 are selected from those created in Film 325. Must be taken concurrently with Film 326. Instructor to be announced.

Prerequisites: Film 320-321 and permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

326a/327b. Documentary Workshop/Narrative Workshop (1)

A semester: This course addresses the aesthetic, ethical and theoretical issues specific to the documentary genre as students explore a variety of documentary styles. Student crews make fifteen-minute documentary videos about a person, place, event, or an issue. Students learn advanced video and sound-recording techniques, using professional grade digital cameras, field lights, microphones and tripods. Post-production is done on digital non-linear editing systems. Mr. Robinson, Mr. Roques.

B-semester: Student crews create short 16mm sync/sound narrative films from student scripts. Individual members of the crew are responsible for the major areas of production and post- production: directorial, camera, editorial, and sound. The projects are shot on film and edited on Avid. Mr. Robinson.

Open only to senior film majors who have produced work of distinction in Film 320/321.

Prerequisites: Film 320/321 and permission of the instructor.

331a or b. Advanced Workshop in Production (1)

Advanced study in production related areas. This class explores specialized aspects of film/digital production. Topics may include sound design, videography, animation, experimental film, etc. The department.

392a or b. Research Seminar in Film History and Theory (1)

This course is designed as an in-depth exploration of either a given author or 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 2005/06a: Kurosawa: A Cinema of Dreamers. Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) remains the best known Japanese director for international audiences, as well as being widely acclaimed in Japan. In the West he has been most associated with classic samurai films, but of his 27 postwar works, only 8 are historical dramas. While not neglecting these, the course focuses on Kurosawa’s contemporary films and the central motif of dreams and dreamers that threads through them, from the optimism of One Wonderful Sunday (1947) through the despair of Dodes’ka-den (1970) to the acceptance and celebration of Dreams (1990). Reading include standard texts, as well as recent reassessments of Kurosawa’s work and its scholarly reception in the West. Mr. Kalin.

Topic for 2005/06b: Spectacle in French Cinema. Cinema’s claims to being an art form or having a privileged access to reality have often been grounded in a rejection of its origins as spectacle (what Tom Gunning has called “the cinema of attractions”). Yet major filmmakers such as Jean Renoir and Max Ophuls have put spectacle at the center of their films, emphasizing cinema’s connections to theater, mime, cabaret, music hall, operetta. In this course, we follow this lively tradition, which stretches from Méliès’ magic tricks to Claire Denis’ balletic Beau Travail (1999). Other films we discuss may include Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise (1945), Renoir’s The Golden Coach (1953), Ophuls’ Lola Montès (1955), Jacques Demy’s Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Leos Carax’s Lovers on the Bridge (1991), Agnès Varda’s Jacuote de Nantes (1994), Jacques Rivettes Who Knows? (2002). As counter-examples of anti-spectacular films, we may look at Robert Bresson’s A Man Has Escaped (1956) and Chantal Akerman’s Les Rendezvous d’Anna (1978). Readings by André Bazin, Jacques Rivette, Robert Bresson, and Guy Debord, among others. E. Cardonne-Arlyck.

Additional Topic for 2005/06b: To be announced. Ms. Mask.

One 3-hour period plus film screenings.

Prerequisite: film 210/211, two additional units in film history and theory, and permission of instructor.

399a, b. Senior Independent Work (1⁄2 or 1)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser.

Summer Study

245-246. Workshop in Screenwriting and 16mm Film Production (2)

The summer workshop offers an integrated study of both the conceptual (screenwriting) and practical aspects of 16mm film production. The program concentrates on the techniques needed to create effective narrative films. Students develop their original ideas into screenplay form and produce these scripts in 16mm film. Mr. Robinson, Mr. Geisler.

Special application required.

Five 3-hour meetings per week plus film screenings.

Tuition/room/board-$3,100. Tuition/room only-$2,500

Tuition only-$2,200.

345-346 Advanced Workshop (2)

An advanced workshop concentrating on the writing and production of short synchronous sound films or videos. See Film 245-246 for general summer workshop detail. Mr. Robinson, Mr. Geisler.

Special application required.

Offered only in the event of sufficient demand.