Film

Requirements for Concentration in Film:

  1. 11 units required.
  2. Film 210, Film 211, Film 392 required. Film 392 must be taken senior year.
  3. 2 additional Film Department units in cinema studies at the 200-level or above. These units must be completed before enrolling in Film 392. 1 film history unit in a national cinema that is not American. This course, which must be at the 200-level or above, may be taken within the Department of Film or another Vassar Department. With prior approval, a film history course taken while a student is attending a JYA or Exchange Program may satisfy this requirement
  4. 5 additional Film Department units. These may be any combination of courses at the 200-level or above in cinema studies, film, and video production, dramatic writing and screenwriting, and film industry.

175 a 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. Ms. Kozloff, instructor to be announced.

May not be used toward the Major requirements.

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. Ms. Mask, instructor to be announced.

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. Ms. Kozloff.

Prerequisite: Film 210.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

[212b. 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.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2008/09.

214a Genre: The War Film (1)

An examination of how American film have represented World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War and the Gulf Wars. Films chosen include both those made while the conflicts rages (Bataan, 1942), and those made many years later (Saving Private Ryan, 1998, and Three Kings, 1999). 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 film focusing on the “home front, “ and at war-time poetry, posters, and music. Reading assignments cover topics such as the government’s Office of War Information, the influence of John Wayne, the racism of the Vietnam films, the ways in which the Iraq war movies have been influenced by the genre. Ms Kozloff.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

215b. Genre: Science Fiction (1)

The course surveys the history of science fiction film from its beginnings in the silent period 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 (Blade Runner, Alien) are given special attention. Topics include subgenres (end of the world, time travel, space exploration, 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, and the role of women in science fiction and feminist criticism. In addition to film history and criticism, a small amount of science fiction literature is read. While passing mention is made of television science-fiction, the course focuses on film. Mr. Kalin.

Prerequisite: Film 210

Two 75-minute periods, plus required weekly evening screenings.

[217. Chinese Film and Contemporary Fiction] (1)

(Same as Chinese 217) An introduction to Chinese film through its adaptations of contemporary stories. Focus is on internationally well-known films by the fifth and sixth generation of directors since the late 1980s. Early Chinese films from the 1930s to the 1970s are also included in the screenings. The format of the course is to read a series of stories in English translations and to view their respective cinematic versions. The discussions concentrate on cultural and social aspects as well as on comparison of themes and viewpoints in the two genres. The interrelations between texts and visual images are also explored. Mr. Du.

Prerequisite: one course in language, literature, culture, film, drama or Asian Studies course, or permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2008/09.

[219. 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. 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 appeal, however, we discuss film noir’s antecedent in French poetic realism in the 1930s, its influence on New Wave (e.g. Truffaut’s 1960 Shoot the Piano Player, Melville’s 1967 The Samourai) and on Japanese cinema (Yositaro Nomura’s 1957 The Chase, Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 High and Low), as well as its later return as “neonoir” (Polanski’s 1974 Chinatown, Takeshi Kitano’s 1990 Boiling Point, 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.

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

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2008/09.

[230. Women in Film] (1)

(Same as Women’s Studies 230) This course both examines the representation of women in male-dominated cinema (such as the films of Hitchcock), and explores the work of key female filmmakers. Issues about Hollywood films that are addressed include: genre conventions (e.g. women as femmes fatales in film noir), the power of stars (e.g. Mae West), and the use of the cinema to objectify female bodies. We then study women directors of feature films, such as Dorothy Arzner, Agnès Varda, Marleen Gorris, and Kathryn Bigelow; female directors of documentaries, such as Barbara Kopple and Connie Field, and women who have produced path-breaking avant-garde cinema, such as Maya Deren and Sally Potter. Ms. Kozloff.

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

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2008/09.

[231a. Minorities in the Media] (1)

This 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 2008/09.

232a. African American Cinema (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 232) This course provides a survey of the history and theory of African American representation in cinema. It begins with the silent film of Oscar Micheaux and examines early Black cast westerns (Harlem Rides the Range, The Bronze Buckaroo, Harlem on the Prairie) and musicals (St. Louis Blues, Black and Tan, Hi De Ho, Sweethearts of Rhythm). Political debate circulating around cross over stars (Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt, and Harry Belafonte) are central to the course. Special consideration is given to Blaxploitation cinema of the seventies (Coffy, Foxy Brown, Cleopatra Jones) in an attempt to understand its impact on filmmakers and the historical contexts for contemporary filmmaking. Realist cinema of the late 80’s and early 90’s is examined before the transition to Black romantic comedies and genre pictures (Coming to America, The Best Man, Brown Sugar, Deliver Us from Eva, The Pursuit of Happiness). Ms. Mask

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings

[233a. 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 The House on 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 such as Good Night and Good Luck, 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 2008/09.

[236b. African Cinema: A Continental Survey] (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 236) African national cinemas reflect the rich, complex history of the continent. These films from lands as diverse as Chad, Senegal, and South Africa reveal the various ways filmmakers have challenged the representation of Africa and Africans while simultaneously revising conventional cinematic syntax. This survey course examines the internal gaze of African-born auteurs like Ousmane Sembene (Le Nor de Z, Xala, Mandabi), Djbril Diop Mambety (Hyenes), Desire Ecare (Faces of Women), Manthia Diawara (Conakry Kas), and Mahmat-Saleh Haroun (Bye-Bye Africa). It places these films alongside the external gaze of practitioners Euzan Palcy (A Dry White Season), Jean-Jacques Annaud (Noir et Blancs en Couleur) and Raoul Peck (Lumumba). The films of documentary filmmakers Anne Laure Folly, Ngozi Onwurah and Pratibah Parmaar are also examined. This course utilizes the post-colonial film theory and scholarship of Imruh Bakari, Mbye Chain, Nwachukwu Frank Ukadike and Manthia Diawara. Screenings, readings and papers required. Ms. Mask.

Two 75-minute periods plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2008/09.

[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 a range of musical resources including classical, popular, and non-Western music. Specific topics to be considered this semester include music in film noir and the movie musical. Mr. Mann.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

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

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 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.

280a. Contemporary Southeast Asian Cinemas (1)

This course is designed to introduce students to the dynamic and diverse film texts from Southeast Asia.  It examines how these texts image and imagine Southeast Asia and/or particular nations within the region.  More specifically, the course focuses on the new wave of filmmakers to emerge from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia.  Themes to be covered include the representations of urban space, the intersections between trauma and memory, and the dialogues between class, ethnicity, and nation. Ms. Harvey.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

282a. The Blockbuster: Hollywood and Beyond (1)

This course explores the Blockbuster from a variety of economic, political, and aesthetic perspectives.  It begins by analyzing the rise of the "Blockbuster Mentality" in the 1970s Hollywood film industry and then proceeds to study the evolution of the Hollywood "Event Film" through a variety  of technological, generic, and ideological platforms up to the present.  This leads into a discussion of issues of participatory culture and the ways in which the Blockbuster populates diverse media fields, such as the Web (film web sites, spoof trailers, blogs, chat rooms, etc.).  The second half of the course examines non-Hollywood Blockbusters with a double purpose: first, to map out the exact coordinates of the continuous cross-fertilization between Hollywood and other national film industries and markets; second, to analyze alternative audiovisual and narrative models to Hollywood and their different trajectories in distribution and exhibition networks around the world.  Readings include Fredric Jameson, Thomas Elsaesser, Slavoj Zizek, Justin Wyatt, and Linda Willaims, among othere.  Films to be analyzed include THE EXORCIST, JAWS, DIE HARD, TERMINATOR 2, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, BASIC INSTINCT, SHOW GIRLS, INDEPENDENCE DAY, SCREAM, CITY OF GOD, TROPA DE ELITE, TESISTHE KILLER, THE HOST, NIGHT WATCH, DIL SE, and DELICATESSEN.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

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 (1/2or 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. Ms. Kozloff, Ms. Mask.

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 Dramatic Writing (1)

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

Prerequisites: Drama 102 or Film 210 and permission of instructor.

Writing sample required two weeks before pre-registration.

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. Instructor to be announced.

One 2 hour period plus outside screenings.

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

320a. Filmmaking (1)

This course concentrates on a theoretical and practical examination of the art of visual communication on 16 mm. film. Individual projects emphasize developing, visualizing, and editing narratives from original ideas. Ms. Man, Mr. Robinson.

Fees: see section on fees.

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

One 2-hour period, plus 3-hour lab.

321b. Narrative Filmmaking (1)

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. Editing is in Final Cut Pro. May not be taken concurrently with Film 322. Instructor to be announced.

Fees: see section on fees.

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

One 2-hour period, plus 3-hour lab.

322b. Modes of Filmmaking (1)

In this intensive course, students explore innovative approaches to cinema-making through a series of 16mm. and digital short projects, engaging experimental, documentary, and narrative modes. Students shoot black and white and color negative 16mm. film, and 24P digital video, and utilize advanced editing techniques in Final Cut Pro. May not be taken concurrently with Film 321. Ms. Man.

Fees: see section on fees.

Prerequisites: Film 320 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period, plus 3-hour lab.

325a. Writing and Directing the Short Film (1)

This course explores the development of the short narrative film through the processes of writing, directing, and acting. Students write two short scripts and direct two short digital videos. Students who complete this course are eligible to apply for writing and directing positions in Film 327. May not be taken concurrently with Film 326. Ms. Man.

Fees: see section on fees.

Prerequisites: Film 320 plus Film 321 or 322 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period, plus 3-hour lab.

326a. Documentary Workshop (1)

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. May not be taken concurrently with Film 325. Mr. Robinson.

Fees: see section on fees.

Prerequisites: Film 320, plus Film 321 or 322 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period, plus 3-hour lab.

327b. Narrative Workshop (1)

In this course student crews create short 16mm sync/sound narrative films from original student scripts. Individual members of each crew are responsible for the major areas of production and post- production: direction, camera, editing, and sound. The projects are shot on 16mm. negative film and edited digitally using Avid. Students wishing to compete for writing or directing positions in Film 327 must have completed Film 325. Ms. Man, instructor to be announced.

Fees: See sections of fees.

Prerequisite: Film 325 or Film 326 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period, plus 3- hour lab.

389a. The Film Industry and the New Millennium (1)

This course examines different aspects of contemporary entertainment industry with specific focus on the film (feature and documentary) and television industry as well as the internet. The essential stages involved in the creation, development, production, and distribution of motion pictures and television programming are analyzed and discussed. The majority of the classes feature experienced guest speakers from the film, television, and internet industries who are currently working in the industry. The remainder of the classes are taught by the instructor. This seminar allows students the opportunity to analyze and question the behind-the-scenes creative process, in depth, for the first time, and is meant to complement their other course work in the major. The class examines and discusses the film and television industry, as well as the role of he internet, and the creative process, taking students behind what they see on the screen, and what they read in newspapers, trade journals, and on the internet. The seminar also challenges the students to examine their potential role within the industry as it might relate to different societal issues. Selected weekly readings and film viewings, active class participation, two essays, and a final paper are required. Mr. Levine.

One 2-hour period.

Special permission from the instructor. The class is limited to 12 students who are Senior Film Majors.

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 2008/09a: Violence, Sex, and Censorship. Like all forms of mass culture, American movies have served as cultural flash points in terms of their representation of violence and sexuality. This seminar examines how the industry’s Production Code worked to forestall criticism and maximize profits, and then analyzes the effect of the fall of the Code in the 1960s. Films central to our discussion include Scarface (Hawks, 1932) and Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 1967), as well as films by Mae West and Sam Peckinpah, and Brian de Palma. Readings concentrate on recent archival research into the actual workings of the Production Code Administration and the Motion Picture Association of America, on the interrelationships between gender and race and filmic representations, and on the latest psychological and sociological studies of screen violence.. Ms. Kozloff.

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

One 3-hour period plus film screenings.

Topic for 2008/09b: Fright Night, the Ethics of Horror. The Horror film has undergone significant change throughout the past one hundred years. From The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) to the current resurgence of campy sequential blockbusters like the zombie films, the genre continues to be recycled and reformulated. This course traces the evolution of horror from its origins in mythology and pagan literature to its cinematic beginnings in the silent era. This course concludes with contemporary films. Historically, monsters have symbolized social intolerance, xenophobia, McCarthyism, Cold War anxiety, menarche, and public health crises. Vampirism, for instance, has long been a metaphor for various communicable and sexually transmitted diseases. Screenings may include Frankenstein, Dracula, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Friday the 13th, La Jetée, and 28 Days Later. Readings are by Carol Clover, Mary Douglas, Vera Dika, Barry Grant, Ed Guerrero and Julia Kristeva. Ms. Mask.

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

One 3-hour period plus film screenings.

Additional topic for 2008/09b. 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 consider what is at stake in the foregrounding of spectacle—which stretches from Méliès’ magic tricks to Claire Denis’ balletic Beau Travail (1999)—and in the opposite denunciation of it. Films we discuss may include Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise (1945), Renoir’s The Golden Coach (1953), Ophuls’ Lola Montès (1955), Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou (1965), Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1967), Jacques Demy’s Donkey’s Skin (1970), Leos Carax’s Lovers on the Bridge (1991), Régis Wargnier’s Indochine (1992). As counter-examples of anti-spectacular films, we may look at Robert Bresson’s A Man Has Escaped (1956) and Chantal Akerman’s Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978). Readings by André Bazin, Robert Bresson, and Guy Debord, among others. Ms. Arlyck.

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

One 3-hour period plus film screenings.

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

To be elected in consultation with the adviser.