Courses / Undergraduate

Fall 2024

  • Special Topics in Film Genre – The Stylized, the Pretty, the Picturesque: On Ornamental Cinema

    171 003 | CCN: 26339

    Annie Golda Felix

    Location: Dwinelle 188

    Date and Time: M, W 11:00am - 12:29pm

    4 Units

    This class traces the genre of decorative or ornamental films over the course of the 20th century. Theorized variously as ‘hyper-stylized,’ ‘picturesque,’ or even as ‘pretty,’ these films are identified for their imagistic qualities, where meaning is conveyed on and through the surface of the cinematic image, its textures, tones, tints etc. In thinking with the visual surface of cinema, its ‘skin,’ this class will look towards examples from mainstream as well as avant-garde films, examining as wide ranging a set of genres as early silent cinema, the postwar American avant-garde, the LA Rebellion, and Italian neorealism. There is a particular emphasis on how the various visual styles of these films render their mise-en-scenes ornamental, as recurring visual patterns –like those seen on wallpapers, or the doodled margins of notebooks– etched, carved, or drawn on the cinematic surface. As a class, we will consider questions such as: What is filmic surface? How do films render their surfaces decorative? By what means do the ornamental properties of filmic surfaces accumulate aesthetic and political value?

    We will be guided in this by the writings of such theorists as Jean Epstein, Walter Benjamin, Suzanne Césaire, Noel Burch, Rosalind Galt, and Laura Marks, as well as the films of Julie Dash, Oskar Fischinger, Annabel Nicolson, Michelangelo Antonioni, Douglas Sirk, Carolee Schneemann, and Edward Yang, among others.