Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Development of Film Language

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Media and Communications

DESCRIPTION This study-unit amalgamates two fundamental aspects of Film Studies: an understanding of the History of Film, tracing chronological development in a self-reflexive manner, and an appreciation of the notion of Film Genre through several key exponents – both in terms of the genres themselves and of their constituent films.

The study of the History of Film aims to provide a concise and critical guide to the historic past and present state of film. Each lecture takes as its focus a major technical and artistic achievement in film history, setting it against the background of the key concepts of the period. Topics considered include:

- Film Pioneers: Edison, Lumière, Méliès;
- American Film Narrative: Porter, Griffith;
- Soviet Film Montage: Pudovkin, Eisenstein;
- German Film Expressionism: Wiene, Lang, Murnau;
- Italian Neo-Realist Cinema: Visconti, Rossellini, de Sica.

The consideration of Film Genre begins with a study of the development of several culturally significant (and often commercially successful) film genres and then proceeds to an analysis of a wide variety of relevant issues ranging from the problem of generic overlapping and/or parallelism to the debate on the appropriateness of structural, mythical, psychological, ideological, iconographic and philosophical approaches of film genres critics. Topics considered include:

- Wood's Familial Horror Film: Genre as Ideological Psychoanalysis;
- The Sobchak/Kawin/Lucanio Hypotheses: Defining the Cinefantastic;
- McArthur's Gangster Film: A Study in Generic Iconography;
- Porfirio's 'Film Noir': An Existential Film Genre?;
- Mythicising History: French's Anatomy of the Western.

Study-Unit Aims:

To shape the student's understanding of film language, by first dismantling notions acquired automatically as a person born into the pervasive consumption of audiovisual texts, and enable the student to look at the various stages in film's historical journey, and identify and comprehend the developments that led to the current evolutionary stage of film.

To give the student an appreciation of the manner in which films congregate along thematic, iconographic, historical and aesthetic lines, with particular attention being paid to the manner in which genres, moods and movements approach and differentiate themselves from the others, leading to the creation of other genres and movements.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Identify the main traits of key historical cinematographic milestones;
- Identify and analyse points of influence and contrast between various historical developments, genres and movements;
- Comprehend how a film is influenced by, and influences in turn, its position in the continuum of historical and generic development, through its use of key formative elements of film language;
- Appreciate that film exists as an art amongst other arts, within a network of artistic cross-fertilisation;
- Approach further courses in film studies, with a steady base for focussed readings in film theory and genre studies.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Discuss basic theoretical preoccupations behind, and critical readings of, key developments of film language;
- Analyse a modern day film in the light of its generic affiliations and dependence on key historical developments and movements.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:


Basic texts:

Since the latest editions of History of Film books are being sold at inflated prices, students are welcome to source and use a second-hand copy of an older edition.

- Bordwell, David & Thompson, Kirstin (2009). Film History: An Introduction, 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Wexman, Virginia Wright (2009). A History of Film, 7th ed. Old Tappan, NJ: Pearson Education.
- Scans of various articles – supplied via VLE.

Other texts:

- Armes, Roy (1971). Patterns of Realism: A Study of Italian Neo-Realist Cinema. London: Tantivy Press.
- Cook, David A. (2004). A History of Narrative Film. 4th ed. New York: Norton (Main Library: 2004 edition).
- Eisner, Lotte H. (1973). The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema. London: Secker & Warburg.
- Elsaesser, Thomas & Barker, Adam, eds. (1990). Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative. London: BFI Publishing (Main Library: 1990 edition).
- Jacobs, Lewis (1970). The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Perkins, V.F. (1993). Film As Film: Understanding and Judging Movies. London: Da Capo Press. (First published by Penguin Books, 1972).
- Leyda, Jay (1983). Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film. London: George Allen & Unwin (Main Library: 1983 edition).


Basic texts:

- Grant, Barry Keith, ed. (2012). Film Genre Reader IV. Austin: University of Texas Press (Main Library: 2003 edition).
- Scans of various articles – supplied via VLE.

Other texts:

- Copjec, Joan, ed. (1993). Shades of Noir: A Reader. London: Verso Books.
- Grant, Barry Keith, ed. (1984). Planks of Reason: Essays on the Horror Film. Metuchen NJ: Scarecrow Press.
- French, Philip (2005). Westerns: Aspects of a Movie Genre, 2nd ed. Manchester: Carcanet Press.
- Hirsch, Foster (2001). The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir. London: Da Capo Press.



- TMW Media Group: A Movie Lover’s Guide to Film Language – Classic Scenes From Timeless Films (2005).

Pioneers & Early Filmmakers

- BFI: Early Cinema – Primitives & Pioneers, Vols. I & II (anthology of films by early pioneers, 1895-1910, not least by the Lumière Brothers).
- Brownlow, Kevin & Gill, David: Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood (documentaries on early silent European cinema, 1995).
- Méliès, Georges: Journey to the Moon / Le Voyage Dans la Lune (1902).
- Porter, Edwin S.:
    - Life of an American Fireman (1903);
    - The Great Train Robbery (1903).
- Griffith, D.W.:
    - The Lonedale Operator (1911);
    - The Birth of a Nation (1915);
    - Intolerance: Love’s Struggle through the Ages (1916);
    - Broken Blossoms, or the Yellow Man and the Girl (1919).
- Brownlow, Kevin & Gill, David: D.W. Griffith – Father of Film (documentary, 1993).
- Chaplin, Charles: The Gold Rush (1925).

Horror & Scifi

- Nyby, Chris & Hawks, Howard: The Thing from Another World (1951).
- Wise, Robert: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
- Hitchcock, Alfred: Psycho (1960).
- Polanski, Roman: Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
- Roeg, Nicholas: Don’t Look Now (1973).
- Spielberg, Steven: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
- Kubrick, Stanley: The Shining (1980).
- Dante, Joe: The Howling (1981).
- Cronenberg. David: The Fly (1986).

Soviet Montage

- Eisenstein, Sergei M.:
    - Strike (1924);
    - Battleship Potemkin (1925);
    - October / Ten Days that Shook the World (1928).
- Bertelli, Gian Carlo: The Secret Life of Sergei Eisenstein (documentary, 1987).
- Vsevolod, Pudovkin: Mother (1926).

German Expressionism

- Weine, Robert: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919).
- Murnau, F.W.: Nosferatu (1922).
- Dreyer, Karl Th.: Vampyr (1932).
- Lang, Fritz:
    - Metropolis (1927);
    - M (1931).

American Gangster Film

- Wellman, William A.: The Public Enemy (1931).
- LeRoy, Mervyn: Little Caesar (1931).
- Hawks, Howard & Rosson, Richard: Scarface (1932).
- Keighly, William: G-Men (1935).
- Curtiz, Michael: Angels with Dirty Faces (1938).
- Walsh, Raoul: White Heat (1949).
- Penn, Arthur: Bonnie & Clyde (1967).
- Ford Coppola, Francis: The Godfather 1 (1972).
- Malick, Terrence: Badlands (1973).

Film Noir

- Huston, John: The Maltese Falcon (1941).
- Curtiz, Michael:
    - Casablanca (1942);
    - Mildred Pierce (1945).
- Garnett, Tay: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).
- Ray, Nicholas: They Live By Night (1948).
- Reed, Carol: The Third Man (1949).
- Louis, Joseph H.: Gun Crazy (1950).
- Huston, John: The Asphalt Jungle (1950).
- Welles, Orson: Touch of Evil (1958).
- Polanski, Roman: Chinatown (1974).

Italian Neo-Realism

- Visconti, Luchino:
    - Ossessione (1942);
    - La Terra Trema (1948).
- De Sica, Vittorio:
    - I Bambini ci Guardano / The Children are Watching Us (1942);
    - Ladri di Biciclette / The Bicycle Thieves (1948);
    - Sciuscià (1946);
    - Umberto D. (1952).
- Rossellini, Roberto:
    - Roma Città Aperta / Rome Open City (1945);
    - Paisà (1946).
- Antonioni, Michelangelo: L’Avventura (1960).
- Olmi, Ermanno: Il Posto (1961).


- Ford, John:
    - Stagecoach (1939);
    - My Darling Clementine (1946);
    - The Searchers (1956);
    - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
- Vidor, King: Duel in the Sun (1946).
- Zinnemann, Fred: High Noon (1952).
- Stevens, George: Shane (1953).
- Sturges, John: Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957).
- Peckinpah, Sam:
    - Ride the High Country (1962);
    - The Wild Bunch (1969);
    - The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970).
- Altman, Robert: McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971).

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-requisite Study-unit: MCS1010


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) SEM1 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Saviour Catania (Co-ord.)
Kenneth Scicluna

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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.