An historical survey of film from the advent of commercial motion pictures in the 1890s, the proliferation of national cinema movements throughout the 20th century, and the influence of each in the formation of a global film culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Time and Place
Wednesdays, 1:00 PM – 3:50 PM
Pratt Library, Room MMB
Wednesdays, 4:00 - 5:00 PM
East Building, Room 207
By appointment only
Schedule an appointment
The following textbook is available through online retailers, such as Amazon, and on reserve at the Pratt Brooklyn library.
Required readings not found in the textbooks will be posted on this website. Due to copyright concerns, enter the following credentials:
You must also screen certain films on your own outside of class. Required titles are listed on the course schedule as Required. Other titles are recommended for use in your writing assignments or for your own future reference.
There are two places to screen these films:
- DVD or Blu-ray
- On reserve at the video library at the Visual and Multimedia Resources, on the lower level of the Library on the Brooklyn campus, except as noted.
- Many of these are available to stream online through Kanopy, which Pratt has a license for viewing, as well as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Film Struck, and myriad other sources.
This class consists of five components. You cannot satisfactorily complete this course without all five of these.
At each class, we will discuss material you should know for the exams and writing assignments. We will cover the historical and cultural context relevant to the films presented in class.
Each week, there will be at in-class screening. Some screenings are available to stream online and you may be able to purchase titles online and local video stores. However, the greatest value of this class comes from our watching films together and discussing them as a group, in the context of other films, readings, and spontaneous conversation.
You must also watch the reserve screenings to further stoke your cinephilia.
Please read the assigned course material before each week’s class. Consult the Course Schedule, listed below, for the specific reading assignments.
All written assignments must be completed on time in order to receive full credit. Late assignments will be penalized by a 10% reduction for each 24-hour period it is late. After seven calendar days, the assignment will not be accepted, and you could fail this class.
Late quizzes will not be accepted.
Exams comprise 40% of your course grade and are designed to reward regular attendance and diligent studying. Exams must be completed at the date and time specified below.
Regular attendance is required. Attend twelve or more classes and receive five bonus points added to your final grade. Students missing more than four classes per semester will not be permitted to take the final exam.
Please respect the classroom environment. You should pay attention to the lecture, take notes, and avoid distractions, such as web surfing or using your mobile phone. Studies have consistently shown that students using laptops and mobile phones perform about 11% worse than students who are not distracted by these devices. On a personal note, it’s very difficult to stay motivated as a teacher if I see students seemingly disinterested in their own education.
If I find you engaging in disruptive behavior, such as watching online videos, passing notes, instant messaging, chatting, photographing, or texting, I will remove you from the classroom and have you withdraw from the class.
Students must adhere to all Institute-wide policies listed in the Bulletin under “Community Standards” and which include policies on attendance, academic integrity, plagiarism, computer, and network use.
Late Work and “Incomplete” Grades
Please submit your work on time. Late work will be penalized by a 10% reduction for each 24-hour period it is late. After one calendar week, the assignment will not be accepted and you will likely fail this class.
There will be no incomplete grades for this class except in the case of a documented emergency in the final weeks of the semester. If you experience such an emergency, please contact me immediately, and we will work out a schedule for you to complete the outstanding work before the beginning of the following semester.
But aside from these circumstances, no late work will be accepted and no “incomplete” grades will be granted. If you have difficulty keeping up with coursework, consider giving yourself extra time to complete assignments, reducing your overall course load, and/or taking this class at a later semester.
Absolute integrity is expected of every member of the Pratt Community in all academic matters, particularly with regard to academic honesty.
The latter includes plagiarism and cheating. In addition, the continued registration of any student is contingent upon regular attendance, the quality of work, and proper conduct. Irregular class attendance, neglect of work, failure to comply with Institute rules, and official notices or conduct not consistent with general good order is regarded as sufficient reasons for dismissal.
Please silence or turn off the radio in your mobile phone (power down the phone or set to “Do Not Distrub” mode).
Please check your official email account on a daily basis, if not more often. I will broadcast announcements and send point-to-point communiques using your official email address.
Please note that I am not allowed to discuss your grade from an account that is not your official email account.
Students with Disabilities
Pratt Institute is committed to the full inclusion of all students. If you are a student with a disability and require accommodations, please contact the Learning/Access (L/AC) at email@example.com to schedule an appointment to discuss these accommodations. Students with disabilities who have already registered with L/AC are encouraged to speak to the professor about accommodations they may need to produce an accessible learning environment.
After reading the relevant section from the textbook, you will take a quiz. The link to each quiz is available on this website. Each quiz consists of about ten questions—a mix of true-false and multiple-choice. No late quizzes will be accepted.
- Ten of twelve quizzes are required. Your two lowest scores are dropped.
- Due before class on the relevant day of class
- 20% of final grade.
Survey of National Cinema: USSR, Germany, France
In this first written assignment, compare the distinct style of one film we’ve studied from a specific national cinema to either a film from a different national cinema we’ve studied or a conventional narrative film of the 1910s and 1920s. You should examine the cinematography, the use of mise-en-scène, and/or the editing from specific scenes in the context the greater narrative discourse of the film and the motivations of the filmmaker working in the particular national context.
Survey of New Waves: Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America, United States
In this second written assignment, examine the use of one or two stylistic devices in a new wave or experimental film studied in class.
A take-home exam, consisting of short answer questions and covering early film to World War II.
- Exam Questions assigned February 28
- Due: March 7
- 20% of final grade
An in-class exam, consisting of identification and short answer questions and covering cinema after World War II.
Use the Final Exam Study Guide to prepare for the exam, including surveying the format of the exam.
January 17 • Invention of Cinema
The invention of motion pictures in the late 19th century was a combination of breakthroughs in photography, persistence of vision, industrialization, and a commercial fascination with visual entertainment.
- Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 1, “The Invention and Early Years of the Cinema,” 3–21.
- Tom Gunning, “Cinema of Attractions” (1986)
- Dickson Camera Test (Edison Manufacturing Company, USA, 1891)
- Men Boxing (Edison Manufacturing Company, USA, 1891)
- Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
- Caicdeo King of Slack Wire (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
- Luis Martinetti Contortionist (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
- Annabelle Butterfly Dance (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
- Buffalo Dance (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
- Imperial Japanese Dance (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
- Fire Rescue Scene (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
- Boxing Cats (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1894)
- The Kiss (W. K. L. Dickson, USA, 1896)
- Workers Leaving the Factory (Auguste and Louis Lumiére, France, 1895)
- Feeding the Baby (Auguste and Louis Lumiére, France, 1895)
- Arrival of a Train at Ciotat (Auguste and Louis Lumiére, France, 1895)
- Snowball Fight (Auguste and Louis Lumiére, France, 1895)
- Sprinkling the Sprinkler (Auguste and Louis Lumiére, France, 1895)
- Demolition of a Wall (Auguste and Louis Lumiére, France, 1896)
- Leaving Jerusalem by Railway (Auguste and Louis Lumiére, France, 1896)
- Star Theatre (American Mutoscope and Biograph, USA, 1901)
- A Wringing Good Joke (Edison Manufacturing Company, USA, 1903)
- The Gay Shoe Clerk (Edison Manufacturing Company, USA, 1903)
- Mermaid (George Méliès, France, 1904)
- The Black Imp (George Méliès, France, 1905)
- The Eclipse: The Courtship of the Sun and Moon (George Méliès, France, 1905)
- Long Distance Wireless Photography (George Méliès, France, 1905)
- Red Spectre, by Segundo de Chomon and Ferdinand Zecca (Pathé Freres, France, 1907)
- Troubles of a Grasswidower by Max Linder (Pathé Freres, France, 1908)
January 24 • Editing and Narrative
Composing a motion picture with multiple shots gave filmmakers novel ways to tell stories that would keep audiences interested in the movies.
- Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 2, “The International Expansion of the Cinema, 1905–1912,” 22–42.
- Life of an American Fireman (Edwin S. Porter, USA, 1903, 6 min.)
- The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter, USA, 1903, 11 min.)
- Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest (Edwin S. Porter and J. Searle Dawle, USA, 1908, 6 min.)
- A Trip to the Moon (George Méliès, France, 1902, 12 min.)
- An Unseen Enemy (D.W. Griffith, USA, 1912, 15 min.)
- The Cheat (Cecil B. deMille, USA, 1915, 60 min.)
January 31 • Soviet Montage
Editing allowed filmmakers in the Soviet Union to combine shots not only for the purpose of storytelling but for communicating complex themes and concepts relevant to the October Revolution.
- The Man with the Movie Camera [Chelovek s kino-apparatom] (Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1929, 68 min.)
- Battleship Potemkin [Bronenosets Potyomkin] (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1925, 69 min.) Required
- Mother [Mat] (Vsevolod Pudovkin, USSR, 1926, 90 min.)
February 7 • French Film and the Avant-Garde
French filmmakers in the 1920s fostered a film culture that treated film in the tradition of fine arts, not commercial entertainment as was common in the previous decade.
- Anemic Cinema (Marcel Duchamp, France, 1926, 7 min.)
- Entr’acte (René Clair, France, 1924, 22 min.)
- Ballet Mechanique (Ferdinand Leger and Dudley Murphy, France, 1923, 19 min.)
- Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, France, 1929, 16 min.)
- The Passion of Joan of Arc [La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc] (Carl Theodor Dreyer, France, 1928, 81 min.)
- La Roue, Essay by Kristin Thompson (Abel Gance, France, 1922) Required
- The Seashell and the Clergyman [La Coquille et le clergyman] (Germaine Dulac, France, 1928, 41 min.) Required
- A Propos de Nice (Jean Vigo, France, 1930, 22 min.) Required
- The Little Match Girl [La petite marchande d’allumettes] (Jean Renoir, France, 1928, 33 min.)
- Retour a la Raison (Man Ray, France 1923, 3 min.)
- Paris Qui Dort [The Crazy Ray] (René Clair, France, 1925, 35 min.)
February 14 • German Expressionism
In the years following its defeat in World War I, German filmmakers borrowed from painting and theater to craft a distinct style that would influence filmmakers throughout the world for many decades.
- Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 5, “Germany in the 1920s,” 87–104.
- Siegfried Kracauer, “The Mass Ornament” (1927)
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari [Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari] (Robert Weine, Germany, 1920, 78 min.)
February 21 • Classical Hollywood Cinema
American filmmaking was dominated by a streamlined, assembly-line production system that would largely prioritize storytelling ahead of exploiting the visual possibilities of filmmaking.
- Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 10, “The Hollywood Studio System, 1930–1945,” 195–218.
- It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, USA, 1934, 105 min.)
- Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, USA, 1941, 119 min.) Required
- Double Indemnity (Howard Hawks, USA, 1944, 107 min.)
- Little Caesar (Mervyn LeRoy, USA, 1931, 79 min.)
February 28 • Documentary Filmmaking
Between the two world wars, film offered politically committed individuals and organizations a medium with which to document the world and compel audiences to take action.
- Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 14, “Leftist, Documentary, and Experimental Cinemas, 1930–1945,” 277–295.
- The Spanish Earth (Joris Ivens, USA, 1937, 52 min.)
- The Plow that Broke the Plains (Pare Lorentz, USA, 1936, 25 min.)
- Housing Problems (Edgar Anstey and Arthur Elton, UK, 1935, 15 min.)
- Listen to Britain (Humphrey Jennings, UK, 1942, 19 min.)
- Nanook of the North: A Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic (Robert Flaherty, USA, 1922, 79 min.) Required
- Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (Luis Buñuel, Spain, 1933, 27 min.)
- “Prelude to War,” Part 1 of Why We Fight (Frank Capra, USA, 1942, 52 min.)
- Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, Germany, 1935, 114 min.)
March 7 • Italian Neorealism
Following the aftermath of World War II, Italian filmmakers disavowed the polished look of their predecessors in favor exploring the struggle and anguish of everyday postwar life.
- Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 16, “Postwar European Cinema: Neorealism and its Context,” 324–341.
- Rome, Open City [Roma, città aperta] (Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1945, 103 min.)
March 21 • French New Wave
At the end of the 1950s, a new wave of mostly young, first-time filmmakers excited international audiences with films that simultaneously borrowed from Hollywood films of the war years with their own distinct personal styles.
- La Jetée (Chris Marker, France, 1964, 28 min.)
- Cleo from 5 to 7 [Cléo de 5 à 7] (Agnès Varda, France, 1962, 90 min.)
- 400 Blows [Les quatre cents coups] (François Truffaut, France, 1959, 99 min.) Required
- Breathless [À bout de souffle] (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1960, 90 min.)
March 28 • American Avant-Garde
Influenced by European artists and filmmakers, the American avant-garde movement eschewed the conventions of narrative and psychologically driven characters of the commercial cinema, which a group of avant-garde American filmmakers called “out of breath.”
- Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 21, “Experimental and Avant-Garde Cinema,” 451–469.
- Manhatta (Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand, USA,1921, 12 min.)
- Rose Hobart (Joseph Cornell, USA, 1936, 19 min.)
- Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren, USA, 1943, 14 min.)
- A Movie (Bruce Conner, USA, 1959, 12 min.)
- Wonder Ring (Stan Brakhage and Joseph Cornell, USA, 1959, 6 min.)
- Bridges Go Round (Shirley Clarke, USA, 1958, 5 min.)
- Mothlight (Stan Brakhage, USA, 1963, 4 min)
- Scorpio Rising (Kenneth Anger, USA, 1964, 28 min.)
- Castro Street (Bruce Baillie, USA, 1966, 9 min.)
- T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G (Paul Sharits, USA, 1968, 14 min.)
Note: These titles include explicit depictions of the human body in the act of childbirth (Window Baby Water Moving) and engaged in sexual intercourse (Fuses).
April 4 • Latin America and Third Cinema
Latin American nations, particularly Cuba, rejected the cinemas of the First and Second Worlds in favor of unique, experimental style that would be used for engaging the public with revolutionary ideas.
- Tire Dié (Fernando Birri, Argentina, 1958, 33 min.)
- The Hour of the Furnaces [Las Horas de los Hornos], “Part 1, Neocolonialism and Violence,” (Octavio Gettino and Fernando Solanas, Argentina, 1968, 94 mins.)
- Memories of Underdevelopment [Memorias del subdesarrollo] (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Cuba, 1968, 97 min.) Required
- Now! (Santiago Alvarez, Cuba, 1965, 5 mins). Also watch Alex Johnson’s Now! Again!, a remake of Now! that invokes the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
- Watch Cuban filmmaker Julio Garcia Espinosa recall the influences of European and documentary film on Cuban filmmaking after the revolution and their attempt to create their own filmmaking practices.
April 11 • Eastern European New Waves
While most filmmaking behind the “iron curtain” was state-controlled, some intrepid filmmakers in Eastern European nations developed experimental techniques to craft a political cinema that could skirt the scrutiny of state censors.
- Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 23, “Political Filmmaking in the First and Second Worlds,” 511–534.
- Daisies [Sedmikársky] (Vera Chytilová, Czechoslovakia, 1966, 74 min.)
April 18 • New Hollywood
The fall of studio system in the late 1960s allowed filmmakers, inspired by the work of the European New Waves, to challenge the established practices and style of Hollywood in favor of an artistically minded cinema.
- Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 22, “Hollywood’s Rise and Fall, 1960–1980,” 472–493.
- Andrew Sarris, “Notes on Auteur Theory in 1962” (1962–63)
- Pauline Kael, “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967)
- The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967, 106 min.)
- The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpaw, USA, 1969, 145 min.) Required
- Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, USA, 1967, 111 min.)
- The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, USA, 1974, 113 min.)
- Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Martin Scorsese, USA, 1974, 112 min.)
April 25 • East-Asian Cinema
Following the Chinese Revolution of 1949, cinema would evolve as an isolated, state-sponsored propaganda model on the Mainland and as a commercial, narrative system critical of the Revolution in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
- Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 27, “Cinema Rising: Pacific Asia and Oceania Since 1970,” 627–658.
- Chungking Express [Chung Hing sam lam] (Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 1994, 102 min.)
- Raise the Red Lantern [Da hong deng long gao gao gua] (Yimou Zhang, PRC, 1991, 125 min.) Required
- In Our Time [Guangyin De Gushi] (Edward Yang, Te-Chen Tao, I-Chen Ko, and Yi Chang, Taiwan, 1982, 109 min.)
- The Killer [Diéxuè shuāngxióng] (John Woo, Hong Kong, 1989, 110 min.)
May 2 • Final Exam
We will take the final exam today in class.
Use the review questions to prepare for the exam, including surveying the format of the exam.