HISTORY & CRITICISM
American Avant-Garde Film
A lecture, survey course devoted to one of the most significant artistic movements in film following World War II, a movement closely tied to art forms like poetry and painting, which thus calls into critical question the medium’s normal association with narrative fiction. The course will focus on a relatively small number of major filmmakers: the early pioneers of the 1940’s (Deren, Peterson, Menken, and Broughton); the mythopoeic artificers of the 1950’s and early 1960’s (Anger, Brakhage, and Baillie); and the formalists of the late 1960’s, (Frampton, Snow and Gehr). We will also pay attention to the strong graphic/collage cinema of artists like Cornell, Conner, Smith, and Breer as well as to the anarchic, comic improvisations of figures like Jacobs, Kuchar, and MacLaine. We will end in the mid 1970’s by touching on the movement’s then future prospects, e.g. the revitalisation of storytelling through autobiography (Mekas) and feminist/critical narrative (Rainer). Supplementary readings, including many theoretical works by the filmmakers themselves as well as material touching on parallel avant-garde movements in painting, photography, poetry, and music from the same era, works by highly influential artists like Charles Olson, John Cage, et al. Three essays.
American Graphic Film
This course explores the materials and processes available for the production of graphic film or graphic film sequences. It consists of instruction in animation, rephotography, rotoscoping, and drawing on film and of viewing and discussing a number of films that are primarily concerned with the visual. This production class fulfills a moderation requirement.
American Innovative Narrative
The course is an exploration of unconventional, usually low-budget, narrative cinema that is trying to find radical, innovative form that moves against the grain of standard populist work. The filmmakers are most often (but not always) highly independent figures working away from the Hollywood system. The range moves from bold realism to a search for a continuity that mirrors the movement of interior consciousness. Largely the time period covered will be from the late fifties to the early seventies when there were a number of dynamic experiments in narrative, but we will also look at relatively contemporary work as well, including films by Bard faculty members. Films to be studied include those by Shirley Clarke, Michael Roemer, Adolfas Mekas, Curtis Harrington, Monte Hellman, Robert Frank, Yvonne Rainer, Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Susan Seidelman, Jim Jarmusch and others. Three essays will be due throughout the semester.
Asian Cinematic Modernisms
Cross-listed: Art History, Asian Studies. This seminar will explore the various permutations of modernism in and between the cinemas of East, Central, South, and Southeast Asia by looking closely at major films and the cultural configurations from which they emerged. Special attention will be paid to the way in which strong directors from different traditions use formal innovations to mediate on the dramatic changes taking place in their societies as well as on the way in which the meaning of these strategies shift over time. We will consider the ways in which the different modernisms being discussed differ both from Western paradigms and from each other. The course is structured around special 35mm retrospectives of two figures who will serve as exemplary case studies: Indian filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak and Japanese filmmaker Kenji Mizoguchi.
Cinema under Communism
Cross-listed: Human Rights This course will showcase feature films made in countries under communist regimes, roughly from the end of World War Two until the late 1980s. Some will be overtly propagandistic (Sergei Eisenstein’s films, for example), others will be subversive in the sense of taking a critical stance: the satirical films made by Milos Forman or Jiri Menzel during the Prague Spring; the sexual explorations by Dusan Makavejev in the former Yugoslavia, or Andrzej Wajda’s films. And there will be some – again Wajda, or Elem Klimov – that are not so much political as humanistic. Films made in China, during the Maoist period and after, will also be selected. Familiarity with these works, selected on the grounds of artistic quality as well as social or political interest, will enable the class to delve into such issues as censorship, propaganda, and dissidence. We will see how artists cope with the restrictions of authoritarian rule. Because the movies will come from many different countries and periods, we will discuss cultural and social differences inside the communist world as well. By way of contrast, we will consider some aspects of cinema under fascism, so that we can draw out differences as well as similarities between totalitarian systems.
Experimental Cinema since 1975
This course presents a historic survey of major artists and prominent trends in experimental cinema since the mid-70s. Topics will include: the influence and legacy of the 60s avant-garde; late Structuralism and materialist film; the role of feminism and identity politics; the rethinking of avant-garde film’s relationship to narrative; punk, No Wave and the Cinema of Transgression; film, video, new media and the convergence of technologies; live cinema and performance; appropriation and the remake; experimental forms of documentary; the mode of cinematic exhibition and its relationship to the gallery world and the internet; and possible futures for the experimental cinema. Artists include, but are not limited to, Peggy Ahwesh, Martin Arnold, Robert Beavers, James Benning, Sadie Benning, Abigail Child, Martha Colburn, Vivienne Dick, Kevin Jerome Everson, Valie Export, Su Friedrich, Peter Hutton, William E. Jones, Kurt Kren, Bruce McClure, Luther Price, Yvonne Rainer, Jennifer Reeves, Ben Rivers, Michael Robinson, Phil Solomon, Deborah Stratman, and Leslie Thornton. Readings by Paul Arthur, P. Adams Sitney, Amy Taubin, J. Hoberman, Patricia Mellencamp, B. Ruby Rich, David James and Jonathan Rosenbaum, as well as related theoretical works by Peter Gidal, Malcolm LeGrice, Frederic Jameson, Hito Steyerl, Laura Mulvey and others. Grades will be based on an in-class midterm and final exam. At the permission of the instructor, the final exam may replaced by a research paper.
Film Among the Arts
Cross-listed: Art History. This course will be an intensive exploration of the ways in which cinema has been informed and enriched by developments in the other arts. Each week we will look at a particular media or theme and consider the ways in which it has been used as a catalyst for distinctly cinematic creativity in various periods. Attention will be paid not only to the presence of other arts within the films but also to the ways in which consideration of relationships between different media provide new ways of looking at and thinking about cinema. Directors studied include Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Marguerite Duras, Sergei Eisenstein, Jean Epstein, Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Stanley Kubrick, Chris Marker, Michael Powell, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Alain Resnais, Hans-Jurgen Syberberg, Teshigahara Hiroshi, and Peter Watkins. Three short papers and a final research essay. Prior coursework in Film and or Art History preferred.
Film and Modernism
Operating on the assumption that the study of film, a syncretic art par excellence, offers a particularly advantageous perspective on understanding the aesthetic underpinnings of 20th Century art, the course explores the relationship between a certain mode of cinematic achievement, for the most part labeled avant-garde, and the major tenets of modernist art, both visual and literary. Many of the films studied are by artists who worked in other media (such as Léger, Strand, Cornell, and Duchamp) or whose work manifests a direct relationship to various artistic movements such as surrealism, futurism, and constructivism. An attempt is made to relate certain films to parallel achievements in photography, poetry, and music, with some attention paid to relatively little-seen filmmakers such as Lye, Kinugasa, and Jennings. Much of the assigned reading is not film criticism as such, but crucial critical works that help to define modernism in general, including those by Baudelaire, Pound, Ortega y Gasset, Moholy-Nagy, and Brecht. Other films studied are by (Europeans) Vertov, Eisenstein, Buñuel, Dulac, Ruttmann, Man Ray; and (American) Deren, Brakhage, Anger, Snow, Gehr, Conner, Rainer, Frampton, et al. Three take-home essay exams.
International Film Noir
Cross-listed: Art History This course provides an exploration of film noir as a genuinely international form. We will look intensively at a number of key noir films made in America, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan during World War II and the postwar era, with a focus on visual style and the way in which these atmospheric, morally ambiguous crime dramas are related to, and comment upon, developments in the larger culture. Attention will be paid to the roots of film noir in the visual arts (especially photography) and hard-boiled fiction, its changes over the course of the 1940s and 1950s, and its influence on subsequent filmmaking. Readings include novels and short stories as well as a range of essays about film noir and postwar culture. Directors studied include Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Nicholas Ray, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, and Henri-Georges Clouzot. We will also examine contemporary art movements such as Abstract Expressionism and the work of photographers such as Brassai and Weegee. Three short papers and a final research essay. Film and Art History majors will have priority.
The New Romanian Cinema
An introductory survey to the New Wave in the contemporary Romanian cinema, as linked to the European cinema. This course focuses both on narrative structure and on cinematic language and is designed to introduce the students to concepts such as minimalism and realism in the cinema. Some of the films to be discussed are 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2008), The Way I Spent the End of the World (2007), Aurora (2012), Tuesday, After Christmas (2011) and California Dreamin’ (2010) among others.
Post-War Italian and French Narrative
A lecture survey of two major cinematic schools in post-war Western Europe, both of which had enormous international influence at the time, an influence which arguably can still be felt in contemporary film. We will study four concentrated historical moments of remarkably intense, creative activity: (1) the immediate post-war years in Italy of Neo-realism, dominated by Rossellini, Visconti and De Sica (2) the mid-fifties in France when Tati and Bresson are most impressive as “classicists”;(3) the late fifties and early sixties of The French New Wave with the dawn of the directorial careers of Godard, Truffaut, Rivette, Varda, Rohmer, Chabrol et al., and the miraculous maturation of a number of key directors in Italy at roughly the same time, best represented by Fellini, Antonioni, Olmi and Pasolini. Required supplementary readings. Two essay exams and a term paper.
Spanish Auteurs: Buñuel, Saura, Almodovar
War in Film
This class is about the representation of war in world cinema. War propaganda, as well as anti-war films, will be shown to reveal not only different political perspectives, but also different national perspectives, as well as the effects of the historical circumstances under which the films were made. We will look three major categories: patriotic films, including propaganda, protest films and film realism. Some of the greatest war films are neither satirical, nor propagandistic, but attempt to show the horror of war, without overt political messages. Films from all continents will be selected. The class will be a mixture of movie aesthetics, politics, and history.
Women’s Experimental Cinema
Cross-listed: Gender & Sexuality Studies. A critical analysis of experimental film and video produced by women, from the 1920s to today. Artists studied will include Akerman, Cha, Rainer, Menken, Friedrich, Wieland, Rosler, Thornton, Subrin, Colburn and Benning, among others. The course will investigate the question of female consciousness and feminine aesthetics, the role of the woman artist, the impact of feminism on filmmaking and the arts, female representation and the gaze, women and technology, queer and postcolonial identity, and gender performance. Grades will be based on participation in discussion as well as a series of short writing assignments.