Global Cinema, an Introductions to International Film
International cinema is composed of more than a dozen traditions, with films from Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Japan and China offering up enough masterpieces alone to beggar the imagination. Major international films encourage us to reconsider what cinema is and how new ideas, feelings, and worlds come into being outside the dominant Hollywood tradition. In this class we will take up important voices from East and West and examine their styles and come to understand how they create their effects. We will look at some of the most visually intelligent and stylish films ever made -- by Luis Buñuel (Belle de Jour), Ingmar Bergman (Persona), Michelangelo Antononio (L’eclisse), Jean-Luc Godard (Contempt), Roman Polanski (Repulsion), and, among others, Wong Kar-Wai (In the Mood for Love).
Our text will be The Oxford History of World Cinema. Students will be assigned pages each week that will help them understand the historical context and the innovative styles of the films they are watching; each reading will inform class discussion and analysis as well as written and oral assignments.
Objectives and Approach
The approach will be, as much as in a literary classroom, to begin with close reading of the images, and through that slow practice, to explore the architecture of story and the way the images produce meanings, effects and pleasures. Classes will be conducted as seminars, with discussion focused on the films themselves, in examining clips for composition, story and meaning. Whole hours may be spent examining a few minutes of a film, including shot-by-shot breakdowns important scenes. Our presumption will be that the text of each film, what it means, what it is, is up for grabs for everyone (including the teacher). We will listen to authorities on the films but the final authority will be the films themselves, which we will examine to understand for their aesthetic as well as their intellectual power.
You will acquire a vocabulary for describing your film experience – how a ‘wipe’ edit differs in tone and effect, for example, from a straight cut; how dolly shots, close-ups, flashbacks, tracking shots and handheld cameras form a cinematic grammar that has a parallel in the subordinating and coordinating grammar of written language. Students will emerge with a deepened appreciation for the way cinema makes meaning and they will come away with a enlarged sense of the way these films work.
I expect you to arrive in class having seen each film. Films are available at Netflix (DVD or streaming), Hulu+, Scarecrow Video, iTunes and Amazon.com. Small costs are associated with each. (Note: a Hulu+ account gives you access to the Criterion Collection, or much of it, all streaming. Criterion films have all been transferred from the highest-quality available print.)
Class 1: Introduction
Includes partial viewing of M. (dir. Fritz Lang), 1931
Week 2: Germany and England
The Third Man (dir. Carol Reed), 1949
Read: pp. 196-197; from Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler.
Week 3: Japan
Rashomon (dir. Akira Kurosawa), 1950
Read: World Cinema, p. 716 (Kurosawa)
Week 3 cont’d: Japan 2
Tokyo Story (dir. Yasujiro Ozu), 1953
Read: World Cinema, pp. 420-21 on Ozu; Donald Richie, pp. 18-73, from
Ozu: His Life and Films; from Rashomon, ed. By Donald Richie. (Handout.)
Week 4: Italy
L’eclisse (dir. Michelangelo Antonioni), 1962
Read: World Cinema, pp. 586-96; 568-69 (shaded text on Antonioni); Christopher Sharrott, “L’eclisse.” (Handout.)
Week 5: France
Contempt (dir. Jean-Luc Godard), 1963
Read: World Cinema, pp. 752-53; Richard Brody, Everything is Cinema, pp.
Week 6: Sweden
Belle de Jour (dir. Luis Bunuel), 1967
Read: World Cinema, pp. 432-33; from Peter William Evans, The Films of Luis Bunuel. (Handout.)
Week 7: Spain
Persona (dir. Ingmar Bergman), 1966
Read: World Cinema, pp. 572-73; Hamish Ford, “Radical Intimacy of Ingmar Bergman.” (Handout.)
Week 8: Poland
Repulsion (dir. Roman Polanski), 1965
Blue (dir. Kryzsztof Kieslowski), 1994
Read: World Cinema, pp. 632-40, selection from Marek Haltof, The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski: Variations on Destiny.
Week 8: Italy, Spain
Once Upon a Time in the West (dir. Sergio Leone), 1968
Read: World Cinema, pp. 472-73 (on Clint Eastwood); “Sergio Leone” by Dan Edwards. (Handout.)
Week 9: Africa and England
Black Girl (dir. Ousemane Sembene), 1965
Kes (dir. Ken Loach), 1969
Read: World Cinema, pp. 668-69; 667-72.
Week 10: Hong Kong
In the Mood for Love (dir. Kar-wai Wong), 2001
Read: Stephen Teo, “Like a Ritual in Transfigured Time.” (Handout.)
Week 10 cont’d: Russia
Russian Ark (dir. Alexander Sokurov), 2003