Film Studies is an interdisciplinary program that draws on a wide variety of approaches. In completing the minor, students will become familiar with the theoretical and cultural contexts from which we approach film and other visual media. The program understands films as points of access to diverse cultural traditions, and visual media as shapers of contemporary political, economic, and social life. One emphasis of the program is aesthetic and formal analysis. The technical and theoretical principles that govern visual media reward careful analysis, especially in exemplary or problematic instances. Another emphasis is the complex relationship between these media and the societies that create them.

In this introductory course, we will explore the three primary areas of film study: film history and its social contexts from earliest beginnings to today; film art and the close analysis of film images; and film theory, the viewing of films as both a cultural product and a received text. This is not a course in film production but in film viewing, in the sense of how we see and interpret what happens on the movie screen. Our study of film history is chronological, ranging from early innovators like Melies and Griffith, through influential European movements like German Expressionism, Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave, to recognized film auteurs like Hitchcock, Welles, Bunuel and Lynch.

In the first half of the course, we explore the central concepts of film form such as editing and montage, sound, lighting, camera movement and narrative structure. This provides a general overview of the devices a filmmaker uses in order to make meaning in this particular art form. As students of film, you are expected to master a basic vocabulary for identifying what happens on a movie screen. The second half of the course continues this analysis but in a more theoretical vein, introducing concepts such as genre, auteur, psychoanalysis and technology. Among the questions we consider: How does a film communicate? What does a filmmaker consider when choosing among the various tools for effective film communication? How are individual shots planned and how are they put together into a completed film? To what extent is film a group effort? How can a film be art and popular entertainment? How does history--either social history or changes in available technology--influence the kinds of films being made?