UC Berkeley Department of Film and Media

Department of Film & Media UC Berkeley

Courses / Undergraduate

Spring 2018

140-001 | CCN: 24298

Special Topics in Film - The Close-Up and Scale in the Cinema

Mary Ann Doane,

4 Units

In this course, we will examine the use of the close-up and the concept of scale in the cinema and in film theory, from the early “cinema of attractions” to widescreen cinema of the 1950s to IMAX.  Films have always been able to manipulate scale, through both shot size and the use of special effects such as scale models and animation.  There will be three primary focuses:  1.) the way in which the close-up has been associated insistently with the face and its heightened cultural significance, as well as with the concepts of expression, interiority and affect  2.) the insistent historical emphasis in film theory on the close-up as an isolable (and even the “smallest”) unit of “cinematic language”  3.) questions of cinematic space and scale in relation to both shot size and the size of the screen.  Throughout much of the 20th century, the size and aspect ratio of the screen/image was standardized and stable.  But today we see a proliferation of different sizes of screens—mobile phones, tablets, laptops, televisions, computer screens, IMAX, large public displays of images in urban areas.  What are the implications of the growing number of screen sizes that surround us?  How is cinema related to changes in the ability to negotiate space in modernity or even to our very ability to conceptualize space?  Films by Melies, Griffith, Hitchcock, Bergson, Godard and others and readings by Tom Gunning, Béla Balázs, Susan Stewart, Gilles Deleuze, and Fredric Jameson.