Courses / Undergraduate

Summer 2019

  • History of Film

    25A | CCN: 15485

    Eliot Bessette

    4 Units

    M/W/F 2:00 PM – 4:30 PM, Dwinelle 142; Screening Mon. 4:30 PM – 7:30 PM, Dwinelle 142 ///

    Spanning the inception of cinema in the late nineteenth century to the dawn of World War II, this course covers five decades of immense growth and experimentation within cinema. We trace the development of the art, the entertainment, and the industry of film in American and European contexts throughout the silent era, culminating in the transatlantic artistic efflorescence of 1925-1928. We discuss the introduction of sound as an unwieldy problem and an aesthetic opportunity. We conclude with a brief survey of American film censorship, new aesthetic strategies in the sound era, and a comparative glimpse of the origins of sound cinema in Japan.

    The course is organized around a series of conceptual and auteurist juxtapositions—spectacle and narrative, long take and montage, Chaplin and Keaton—in the hope that this framing will reveal particularities and similarities of style and substance. How, for instance, do Chaplin and Keaton engage objects? How much are they in control of their surroundings? And how often do they utilize framing in depth for a gag? Students will have an opportunity to develop their own stance on these juxtapositions in class discussions and in their writing.

    Readings will include contemporaneous film theory (Arnheim, Balázs, and Eisenstein) as well as more recent historical texts (Bordwell, Gunning, and Jacobs). Screenings will include Méliès, Griffith, Feuillade, Lang, Eisenstein, and Mizoguchi.