Fall 2009
Monday/Wednesday, 12:50pm-2:50pm
Manoogian 226

Steven Shaviro ( or
5057 Woodward, Room 9309
Office hours: Monday/Wednesday 3:30pm-4:30pm, and by appointment

This class offers an introduction to the study of film. First, we will look at the film experience as a whole. Then, we will take a detailed look at the major formal elements of film (mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound). Finally, we will put these elements back together again, in order to consider how film narrative works as a whole, and to look at the major types of films (genres).

I have not ordered a textbook for this class, because all the available textbooks are excessively expensive. Instead, the lectures will be supplemented by a number of Concept Guides (handouts, also available online) that summarize the most important film terms and concepts developed in the course of the semester. Lecture notes for each lecture will be placed online as well. The final exam, on the last day of the semester, will test your knowledge of the concepts and arguments developed during the class lectures, as well as of the films screened and discussed in the course of the semester.

Full-lenth feature films will be screened on Mondays. [In weeks when there is no Wednesday class, Monday class will consist of screening of short films, plus lecture].
Wednesday class sessions will consist of:

  1. A lecture segment analyzing the film shown on the previous Monday.
  2. A lecture segment discussing more general concepts for understanding film.
  3. Class discussion, and/or a written exercise, devoted to making use of the concepts discussed in order to analyze a film or video clip not previously seen.

We will mostly be watching classic films, made in the years between 1924 and 1982. Though the class does not survey the history of film in any detail, one of its aims is to introduce you to older films that you may not have seen before, and to make you more aware of the variety of film art over the past century. For each film, the online syllabus includes a link to a page listing the director and main actors, and giving some study suggestions and questions for the film.

Class requirements include regular attendance, five in-class written exercises, of which you must do at least four; one short (2-3 pages) paper; and a final exam.
Attendance will count for 10% of your grade.
Each in-class exercise will count for 10% of your grade, for 40% total; if you do all five exercises, then the lowest of the five grades will be dropped. There will be no makeups offered for the in-class exercises.
The midterm paper will count for 20% of your grade.
The final examination will count for 30% of your grade. [Note that the Final Examination will be given in class, on the last day of classes, rather than during the Exam Period].

September 9: Introduction
Buster Keaton, Sherlock Junior (1924)

September 14/16: The Experience of Film
Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window (1954)

September 21/23: Mise-en-scène (1)
Josef von Sternberg, The Scarlet Empress (1934)

September 28/30: Mise-en-scène (2)
Ridley Scott, Blade Runner (1982)
First in-class written exercise.

October 5/7: Cinematography (1)
Jean Renoir, Grand Illusion (1937)

October 12/14: Cinematography (2)
Orson Welles, Touch of Evil (1958)
Second in-class written exercise.

October 19/21: Editing (1)
Sergei Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin (1925)

October 26/28: Editing (2): The Continuity System
John Ford, Stagecoach (1939)

November 2: Editing (3)
Short films and film clips, and discussion of alternative editing systems.
Third in-class written exercise.
Midterm paper due.

November 4: NO CLASS

November 9/11: Film Sound (1)
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain (1952)

November 16/18: Film Sound (2)
Francis Ford Coppola, The Conversation (1974)
Fourth in-class written exercise.

November 23: Digital Film
Short films and film clips, and discussion of how digital technologies are changing the nature of film.

November 25: NO CLASS

November 30/December 2: Film Genres
Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity (1944)
Fifth in-class written exercise

December 7/9: Summary and Conclusions
Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, Gamer (2009)

December 14: Final Examination

Class Lecture Notes

Concept Guides