1. 1 Film Language: Introduction through Practical Criticism

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Department of Film Studies

MA Syllabus

with Reading List

(Introduced in July 2013)


Film Language: Introduction through Practical Criticism

Film texts will be selected from major authors, conventions and traditions across the world. Basic concepts in film aesthetics will be introduced through textual analysis and supplementary screenings. Sessions will include a workshop involving hands-on video and stills photography.

Concepts around which the sessions will be organized are

  1. Narrative

  2. Time

  3. Space

  4. Sound

  5. Colour

  6. Image and Technology

Suggested Readings


Raymond Bellour, ‘System of a Fragment (on The Birds)’[1969], in The Analysis of Film,

Constance Penley (ed), 2000.
Colin MacCabe, ‘Realism and the Cinema: Notes on Some Brechtian Theses’, Screen 15(2), 1974.

Maya Deren, ‘The Instrument of Discovery and the Instrument of Invention/The Art of Film [1946]’, in Philip Simpson, Andrew Utterson and Karen J. Shepherdson (eds), Film Theory: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, Volume 1, 2004.

Sergei Eisenstein, ‘Dickens, Griffith, and the Film Today’, in Film Form: Essays in Film Theory, 1949.

Seymour Chatman, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film, 1980.

Elizabeth Cowie, ‘Storytelling: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Classical Narrative’, in Steve

Neale and Murray Smith (eds), Contemporary Hollywood Cinema, 1998.

Edward Branigan, ‘The Point-of-View Shot’, in Bill Nichols (ed), Movies and Methods vol. 1,


Mani Kaul, ‘Beneath the Surface, Cinematography and Time’, Indian Horizons, 2008.

Andrei Tarkovsky, ‘Time, Rhythm & Editing’ in Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema, 1987.

---Tarkovsky, Time Within Time, 1991.

Paul Coates, ‘Chris Marker and the Cinema as Time Machine’, Science Fiction Studies 14, 1987.

Selections from Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time Image, 1989.


Andre Bazin, ‘Painting and Cinema’, in What is Cinema? vol. 1, 2005.

Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, ‘Mobile Vision: Some Synoptic Comments’, Journal of Arts and Ideas, no. 5, 1983.

David Bordwell, ‘Widescreen Aesthetics and Mise-en-Scene Criticism’, Velvet Light Trap no. 21, 1985.

Martin Lefebvre, ‘Between Setting and Landscape in the Cinema’, in Lefebvre (ed), Landscape and Film, 2006.


Ritwik Kumar Ghatak, ‘Sound in Film’, in Rows and Rows of Fences, 2000.

Elizabeth Weis, ‘The Evolution of Hitchcock’s Aural Style and Sound in The Birds’, in Elisabeth

Weis and John Belton (eds), Film Sound: Theory and Practice, 1985.

Walter Murch, ‘Introduction’ to Michel Chion, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, 1994.

Michel Chion, ‘The Acousmetre’, in The Voice in Cinema,1999.

Rick Altman, Sound Theory, Sound Practice, 1992.

Philip Brophy (ed), Cinesonic3: Experiencing the Soundtrack, 2001.


From Angela Dalle Vacche and Brian Price (eds), Color: The Film Reader, 2006

Sergei Eisenstein, ‘On Colour’

Nagisa Oshima, ‘Banishing Green’

Eric Rohmer , ‘Reflections on Colour’

Stan Brakhage, ‘Painting Film’

Angela Dalle Vacche, ‘Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert: Painting as Ventriloquism and Color as Movement’ and ‘Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le Fou: Cinema as Collage against Painting’, in Cinema And Painting: How Art Is Used In Film, 1996.

Paul Coates, Cinema and Colour: The Saturated Image, 2010.

Image and Technology
Miriam Hansen, ‘Benjamin, Cinema and Experience: The Blue Flower in the Land of Technology’,

New German Critique, no. 40, 1987.
Rosalind Krauss, ‘Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism’, October 1, 1976.
Lev Manovich, ‘What is Digital Cinema?’, in The Digital Dialectic: New Essays On New Media 1999.

Steve Neale, Cinema and Technology: Image, Sound, Colour, 1985.

Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 1970.
Sean Cubitt, Timeshift: On Video Culture, 1991.
Rieser Martin and Andrea Zapp (eds), New Screen Media: Cinema/Art/Narrative, vol.1, 2nd edn, 2008.


Early Film Forms

1. The Early Cinema Paradigm (1895-1908)

2. Transitional Forms (‘serial films’ and the cinema of Griffith, Tourneur, Bauer, et al) or

American Silent Comedy

3. Silent Avant-Garde and Modernism (Constructivism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Impressionist Film)

4. Indian Silent Forms (from D G Phalke to the major trends in the 1920s)

Suggested Readings

The Early Cinema Paradigm
Selected chapters from Noel Burch, Life to Those Shadows, 1990.
Tom Gunning, ‘The Cinema of Attractions: Early Cinema, Its Spectator and the Avant-garde’, in Thomas Elsaesser and Adam Barker (eds), Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, 1994.

Charles Musser, ‘The Nickelodeon Era Begins’, in Thomas Elsaesser and Adam Barker (eds), Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, 1994.

Charles Musser, ‘Historiographic Method and the Study of Early Cinema’, in Cinema Journal 44(1), Fall 2004.

Leo Charney and Vanessa R. Schwartz (eds), Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life, 1995.

Lee Grieveson, Policing Cinema: Movies and Censorship in Early-Twentieth-Century America, 2004.
Wanda Stauven (ed), The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, 2007.

Andre Gaudreault, Film and Attraction, 2011.

Andre Gaudreault, Nicolas Dulac and Santiago Hidalgo (eds), A Companion to Early Cinema, 2012.
Transitional Forms/ American Silent Comedy

Charles Keil and Shelley Stamp (eds), American Cinema’s Transitional Era: Audiences, Institutions, Practices, 2004.

Ben Singer, Melodrama and Modernity: Early Sensational Cinema and its Contexts, 2001.
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