Film Studies Course Descriptions
FS 100 Introduction to Film Study
This class provides students with the basic conceptual tools and vocabulary of film aesthetics and criticism. By the time you finish this course, you will be conversant with the concepts of mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, sound, genre, film acting, and narrative. We will explore these concepts by looking at examples from different film traditions, national cinemas, and artistic movements. By studying the basics of film form and film style, you will learn to analyze and write about films.
FS 201 Introduction to Film History I
An introduction to film history from its beginnings in the 1890s to about 1950. The course traces the origins and evolution of film storytelling, photography, editing, and staging from the earliest period to the blossoming of silent film power in the late 1920s (including German Expressionism and Soviet silent cinema), followed by successive emphases on the coming of sound, classical film style, Italian Neorealism, and film noir. Films are chosen not on the basis of historical typicality, but because of the richness of their expressive style within their historical context, and considerable time will be spent on historically informed aesthetic analyses of individual works. Prerequisite: FS 100 or permission of the instructor.
FS 202 Introduction to Film History II
A survey of world cinema from 1950 to present, with emphasis on major historical developments and important individual films and filmmakers possibly including such filmmakers as Agnes Varda, Vera Chitylova, Ingmar Bergman, Shirley Clarke, John Cassavettes, Zhang Yimou, Wong Kar-wai, Ousmane Sembene, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, and Spike Lee, among others. Prerequisite or co-requisite: FS 100 or permission of the instructor.
FS 203 Television from Broadcasting to Screen Cultures
Many people argue that television has been “revolutionized” in an age of technological convergence and streaming services. Yet there remains continuity amidst the radical shifts within the television industries. This course introduces students to the history of television broadcasting and the transition to a post-network era. It also provides an overview of the foundational theories of television criticism and issues of representation of race, gender, class and sexuality in televisual storytelling.
FS 215 Introduction to Film Theory
General survey of major currents and debates in film theory, including early theories on the ontology of the film image, semiotic approaches to film as language, Marxist and psychoanalytic concepts of spectatorship and the film image, the intersections of film and ideology, and the phenomenological theory of film as an embodied experience. Prerequisite: FS 100 or permission of the instructor.
Prerequisite for all 300-level courses: FS 100 or permission of the instructor.
FS 309 Quebec Film
Did you know that Quebec filmmakers are excelling on the world stage? Three years in a row (2011-2013) a film from Quebec has been nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar—an award that Denys Arcand won in 2004 for The Barbarian Invasions. Other filmmakers such as Xavier Dolan and Denis Coté are picking up top prizes at film festivals in Cannes and Berlin. So what led up to this watershed moment? This course provides an overview of the achievements in Quebec cinema placing the major developments in Quebec filmmaking in their social, political and historical contexts.
FS 310 English Canadian Film
What is Canadian cinema? How do we as Canadians represent ourselves on screen to each other and the world? Can we talk about a Canadian national cinema in the singular? Or, does the ethnic and racial diversity of Canada mean we will always have a plurality of different cinemas? Some of the topics covered in this course include: Canadian auteurism and the art film; popular cinema and the cult film; feminism, gender and sexuality; multiculturalism; aboriginal filmmaking, and the Canadian star system.
FS 313 Transnational Crime Cinema
Crime and criminality have been represented differently in narrative cinema across cultures and nationalities. This course looks at how “crime” and “the law” have been construed, how violence is depicted, how criminals and the police are portrayed, and how “justice” is imagined in different national cinemas. We also look at films that deal with specifically “transnational crimes” including drug trafficking, human trafficking, and illegal immigration. The goal is to gain insight into what constitutes a “crime” and a “criminal” and, therefore, “justice” and “injustice” in our contemporary globalized society.
FS 315 The Western Film
Survey of the cinematic Western from the silent period to the present, with emphasis on the decades between 1930 and 1970.
FS 318 Science Fiction Film
This course studies the Science Fiction film as an imaginative displacement of present social and cultural conflicts and concerns. Our survey is divided into four main sections—Time Machines, Impossible Voyages, Spatial Dystopias, and Virtual Realities. In different ways, all four sections address the human desire to construct alternative realities through technological intervention. The genre’s construction of an elsewhere may be pursued through manipulations of time, transformations of space, adventures of movement/travel, or virtual extensions of reality.
FS 319 Film Noir
“Film Noir” is the name given to the aesthetically and psychologically dark films that flourished on the fringe of Hollywood cinema in the aftermath of World War II. In this course we will identify the major narrative and cinematographic conventions of the noir genre by examining the influences that brought about its emergence, its thematic and stylistic evolution, and its re-emergence in the recent postmodern films labeled as neo-noir.
FS 320 The French New Wave
This course examines the French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) movement of the 1950s and 1960s as one among a number of national European cinemas that attempted to counteract the aesthetic, cultural, and economic supremacy of Hollywood cinema. The French New Wave subscribed to a progressive practice of formal experimentation and political relevance. Using the camera as a writing tool, the directors of the French New Wave revolutionized the cinema by freeing it from the constraints of plot and character of classical narrative cinema.
FS 321 Animation
This course will introduce students to global developments in film animation exploring animation both as popular entertainment and as an art form. Various forms of animated film will be explored such as cartoons, narrative films, abstract and experimental animation, Japanese anime, as well as documentary animation. You will be introduced to different animation production techniques such as pin screen, cell, clay, collage, puppet, rotoscoping, scratch and computer animation.
FS 322 Gender and Sexuality in Film
In this course we focus on films that make very explicit statements about the social, cultural, and psychological conditions that shape our understanding of sexuality and gender. We start by looking at some classical themes of patriarchal ideology, including woman as spectacle, the incompatibility of motherhood and sexuality, the impact of racial and class difference on female subjectivity, paranoid patterns in the gothic film, woman as commodity of exchange. Next we consider some films that represent femininity as a cultural performance or construction. The last 5 weeks, we examine the radical changes representations of women have undergone in more contemporary films made by women.
FS 323 Screening Comedy
Drawing on theories of humor and laughter, this course traces the history of comedy across cinema, television, and digital platforms . Some topics that will be covered include: the silent cinema works of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, the Hollywood screwball comedies era of the 1930s, television and the rise of the sitcom, the rom-com and bromance, contemporary late-night comedians, and Internet stars who deal in comedy – intentionally or not.
FS 324 Monsters, Slashers and Ghosts
What scares you? Is it a chainsaw wielding crazed killer, a vampire attack, or a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies? In this course we will study the horror film as a means to interrogate our collective fears and anxieties. We take a chronological look at the horror genre over the course of film history from early silent masterpieces (Nosferatu, Vampyr) through to Universal Studios horror monster classics (such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy) and Hammer Horror B-movies before turning to our current fascination with zombies, the paranormal, and the supernatural.
FS 333 Experimental Film
An examination of non-narrative ﬁlm experimentation from the 1920s to the present in both Europe and North America. Films will be positioned within the context of art movements and developments in poetry. Art movements such as Dadaism, Cubism, Surrealism, Impressionism, Minimalism, Pop, and Structural filmmaking will be explored. Filmmakers examined include, among others, Germaine Dulac, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Hollis Frampton, Joyce Wieland and Michael Snow.
FS 340 Making Television: Production Cultures
A complex series of negotiations and struggles among competing interests lies behind the half-hour comedies and one-hour dramas that continue to dominate the television landscape. This course explores the cultural and industrial dimensions of the “conventional wisdoms” that television professionals rely on in an increasingly competitive industry. Topics include: casting decisions, studio expectations, formulas/genres, target audiences, channel branding, marketing and promotion, the rise of the show-runner, and the culture of the writers’ room.
FS 341 Television Genres
Genres are categories that structure the narrative dimensions and audience expectations of any television series. These categories provide both constraints and opportunities for TV showrunners. This course analyzes the aesthetic and socio-cultural implications of various TV genres. Three to four of the following genres will be covered in alternating semesters: comedy (both multi-camera and single-camera), crime procedurals, sci-fi/fantasy, dramas, anthology series, soap operas, “dramedy,” historical fiction, action-adventure, thriller/mystery, animation, “art television,” and reality TV.
FS 365 French Film
This course focuses on the major trends and movements in the history of French cinema from a formal, ideological/cultural and philosophical perspectives. Beginning with the Impressionist movement of the silent period (1920s, Gance, Dulac), our survey takes us through the early classic era of Poetic Realism (1930s, Vigo and Carné) and the Golden Age of French Cinema represented by Renoir. We continue with the reinvention of cinema championed by the New Wave of the 1960s, the New Wave legacies for the cinemas of the 1970s and 1980s, the cinemas of the “look,” the cinematic engagement with social and racial urban conflicts, and the new preoccupation with the body in more recent decades.
FS 368 Central and Eastern European Film
The course will offer students an overview of the history of Central European cinema since World War II. The underlying assumption is that shared histories and contexts—WWII, the establishment of Communist regimes and their almost simultaneous dissolution at the end of the 1980s—allow us to see Poland, Hungary, and former Czechoslovakia as forming a distinct cultural-historical enclave in the region. However, there are also significant differences between these national cultures and cinemas that need to be considered.
FS 369 East Asian Cinema
This course covers Korean, Japanese, and Chinese cinema, focusing on films of the past two decades. We examine these national cinemas in terms of their historical, cultural, and economic contexts, their aesthetic strategies, and their most prominent directors while raising questions about their representations of history, national identity, globalization, race, gender, and sexuality.
FS 371 Contemporary Hollywood
In this course, we look at the recent history of Hollywood in terms of its industrial structure, its aesthetics, its representations, and its politics. We study the Hollywood Renaissance of the 1970s, the rise of the blockbuster in the 1980s, indie filmmaking in the 1990s, and the move to digital cinema, as well as other aspects of Hollywood film production, distribution, exhibition, and reception.
FS 386 Screening Race
This course examines both the ways in which minority communities have been represented by the dominant culture and the ways in which minority filmmakers have represented the experiences of their own communities. Drawing on critical race theories, we look at how cinema and other media have served as complex forces shaping our understanding of racial, ethnic, and cultural difference.
FS 387 Film and Technology
Over the last two centuries, audiovisual technologies have fundamentally transformed human experience – of time, space, our bodies, and other key aspects of existence. In this course, we look at how photography, phonography, cinema, synchronized film sound, color film stock, widescreen, 3D, digital effects, the Internet, videogames, and mobile devices – have changed and continue to change the way we experience the world through its representation.
FS 399 Special Topics in Film Studies
FS 410 Yakuza Extreme: Takeshi Kitano, Seijun Suzuki, Takashi Miike
This course explores the aesthetic, philosophical, and cultural dimensions in the films of contemporary Japanese filmmakers Takeshi Kitano, Seijun Suzuki and Takashi Miike in the context of Japanese film tradition and culture. We will focus on recurrent themes and situations in their films that recreate clichés of sex and violence while pushing these clichés in unsuspected directions. One of the signature qualities of these filmmakers is their creative exploitation of paradox and contradiction, which may be seen in the coexistence of violence and zen philosophy, death and playfulness, comedy and tragedy, nihilism and vitalism.
FS 410 Cinemas of Apocalypse: Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier
The films of contemporary directors Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier share a tendency to expose the current crises of the human condition in a raw, uncompromising way. This course examines their cinemas as symptomatic of a posthuman world, in the sense of a generalized decadence of humanist values that are no longer adequate to sustain the present realities of disaffection and destruction. Their films uniquely illuminate a state of global crisis as well as the potential for creating openings onto a different understanding of human events.
FS 410 Surreal Landscapes of Desire: Luis Buñuel, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch
All three of these directors delve into the creative potential of the unconscious mind. Their films show reality as non-linear in time and non-identical in space. This course looks at some of the most exemplary films by Buñuel, Hitchcock and Lynch in order to destabilize the idea of reality as something separate from
dream and fantasy. We will examine the connection between cinematic reality and sexual desire and we will ask how the dismantling of reality in these films results in a bold critique of ideological beliefs with regard to sexuality, cultural values, and social and political structures.
FS 410 Women Filmmakers and the Body: Agnes Varda, Sally Potter, Claire Denis
What is unique or different about films made by women? Agnes Varda, Sally Potter and Claire Denis are three of the most prolific, influential and creative women filmmakers of all time. Their films emphasize sensuality over rationality, gesture over dialogue, rhythm and color over identity, associative editing over continuity editing, and they affirm the importance of the body as a multiplicity of sensory channels. Our study of their films will pay special attention to their formal creativity as a reflection of the tensions and conflicts in the cultural and sociopolitical realities of their time.
FS 410 Politics of the Emotions: Jean-Luc Godard, Rainer W. Fassbinder
We tend to think of emotion as a private matter and politics as belonging to the public sphere. Through the provocative films of Godard and Fassbinder, this course challenges the split between politics and emotions. Looking at the intersections of emotion with social systems of gender, sexuality and capitalism, our survey will position these films as symptoms of Europe’s emotional life at a time of historical and cultural crisis in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
FS 410 The Cinema of Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski’s persona is as contradictory as his films. In his work he uses but also transgresses the formulas of both popular and art cinema. Working in Europe as well as in Hollywood, he does not conform to any given geopolitical cultural order. The course will offer an examination of all of these contradictory features of Polanski’s work leading to a broader discussion of film authorship.
FS 412 Cinema Violence
When do we label an image “violent”? Is violence a stable concept or one that changes over time and across cultures? In this course, we survey the aesthetic, cultural and ethical dimensions of images of violence by looking at a variety of representations of aggression or brutality that bear the marks of their historical contexts: from Sam Peckinpah to Quentin Tarantino to the contemporary extreme cinemas of the body in France and Asia and the exploitation genres of Asia and Latin America, to the more subtle psychological and sociopolitical violence of directors such as Carlos Reygadas, Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier.
FS 412 Cinema and the Body
This course explores the important role the body plays in the medium of film. Our survey will focus on five major issues: the concept of cinema as a body of technological apparatuses and processes, the film’s sensual and corporeal means of communication, the viewer’s embodied experience of the film, the links between specific film genres and bodies and the actor’s body as a site of meaning independently of dialogue, narrative or character psychology. We will explore these ideas through a series of fascinating films by David Cronenberg, Jane Campion, Claire Denis, Michael Powell, and others.
FS 412 Cinema and Performance
To perform is not only to play a fictional role, but also to become that which we perform. This course explores the concept of performance and its relevance to the study of the cinema both in its classical sense of “acting” and in its postmodern sense as “speech act” or “event.” We will consider the actor’s and character’s movements and gestures as autonomous forms of signification linked to unconscious desires, we will study particular acting styles in realistic as well as stylized cinemas, and the difference between a traditional concept of the actor and the postmodern concept of the performer. Through a variety of classical and non-classical films, we will emphasize the importance of the actor’s bodily style in constructing a particular performance.
FS 412 Feminist Avant-Garde Cinema
Feminist filmmakers sometimes use avant-garde techniques to contest patriarchal forms of knowledge, language and visual representation. This course explores a variety of aesthetic and political issues raised by the feminist use of avant-garde techniques in cinema. We pay particular attention to these films’ unique representation of the female body, their displacement of vision by a multiplicity of sensory surfaces, their reinvention of storytelling, and their intertwining of political discourses on gender with issues of race, ethnicity and colonialism.
FS 412 Remix Culture
Beginning with visual collage artists in the early 20th century and continuing through the rise of DJ and hip-hop culture, experiments with found footage in films, and the digital era of remix, mash-up, machinima, and other video appropriations, this course traces the ways in which audiovisual appropriation has come to have cultural significance at particular historical moments. We will also look at how intellectual property laws have developed and how they have influenced appropriation art. In addition to writing, you will make visual, musical, and/or video artworks that reflect on the concepts we will study.
FS 412 British Cinema
The course will offer a historical survey of British cinema in its political, social, and cultural contexts, focusing on its engagement with problems of national identity, class, gender, and race. In surveying its historical development, the most important cinematic movements and trends will be examined, e.g British Documentary Movement, the British New Wave and Heritage cinema. Included in the program will be a study of a range of film genres, e.g. crime dramas, comedies and costume dramas.
FS 412 Film Criticism
“Everyone’s a critic,” or so the saying goes, and in the age of the internet with its innumerable movie review sites and blogs this seems to be more true than ever. This course aims to take a closer look at film criticism and the role of film critics. You will read different forms of film criticism including journalistic, humanist, auteurist and ideological/political approaches, but the emphasis will be on writing film criticism and developing a personal voice and style of your own.
FS 412 Stars
We live in a star obsessed culture. This course will explore what defines and makes a star. We will examine the historical and social context of the star’s ideological meanings. Stars are marketed to a range of audiences and studying the star system offers a unique way to understand the film industry and film genres. A comparison of the construction and appeal of stars in Hollywood, France, Britain and India will be addressed as well as the apparent lack of a star system in Canada.
FS 412 Film Festivals
Every day somewhere in the world a film festival is taking place. Film festivals now number in the thousands. So what accounts for this explosion in festivals? In this course we will examine the film festival phenomenon in a global context. From the red carpet of A-list festivals such as Cannes, Berlin and Toronto to smaller local festivals we will compare festival mandates and themes, programming strategies, and issues of film exhibition and distribution.
FS 415 Global Television and Screen Cultures
Classical theories of international television and movie distribution tended to focus on assumptions of Hollywood’s dominance over global audience markets. However, our contemporary media environment is marked by multi-directional flows of popular entertainment that contradict “cultural imperialism” arguments. This course focuses on theories of cultural globalization as they apply to television and new screen cultures. Topics include global TV formats, domestic adaptations, transnational co-productions, and the increasing importance of diasporic audiences.
FS 416 Analyzing Television
Television was once referred to as a “cultural forum” in which producers would develop stories that incorporated aspects of the prevailing, and competing, social ideologies of the times based on expectations of audiences tuning into the same two or three networks daily. Today’s audiences are increasingly fragmented across an exponentially growing number of channels and streaming platforms that seem to cater to niche interests. Yet TV, wherever we may find it, is still seen to have an “ideological” function in how it selectively represents our cultural worlds. This course focuses on the central theories of television criticism through applied analysis of formalism, spectatorship, aesthetics, and narrative frameworks in TV storytelling. Specific attention is given to the ways that the art-commerce divide in the creative process frames particular discourses of gender, ethnicity, class and sexuality.