Interpretation of Film

Film was the dominant medium of the last century and yet we have only begun to understand it, especially in the post-celluloid period of digital and convergent screen cultures. What is the “language” of cinema? What are the conventions of style through which films communicate? What are the audiovisual literacy skills necessary to “read” films as texts within aesthetic systems? In this course, we will approach these broad but fundamental questions to the interpretation of film. Based in close analysis, the course will introduce you to how films are composed through mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound. We will then consider the structures of narrative and genre that organize those formal elements, as well as the economic contexts of film promotion, reception, and stardom that determine cinematic meaning. As the semester draws to a close, we will examine film techniques in relation to issues of authorship, including race and ethnicity, gender, sexualities, transnationalism, and intermediality. The films in this course derive from a range of traditions, such as studio filmmaking in the Classical Hollywood era, independent and art-house cinemas, animation, documentary, the avant-garde, and the Hollywood blockbuster.