Course Information

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You can find some examples of successful media projects on Russian film here

Goals of this course

  1. I stress film’s artistic and formal nature, but I also emphasize the historical, economic and technological framework that cinema has to work within, a framework that is probably more confining and decisive than it is for any other artistic medium. No one believes the myth of art completely innocent of time and place, and a thorough understanding of “beauty” requires an understanding of how art is shaped by local and historical taste and material factors.
  2. The first weeks of the course are devoted to developing the students’ conceptual base for talking about film as a work of art. We read Film Art: An Introduction, a very well written and approachable discussion of the formal elements like film style, editing, shots and sound in film.
  3. Students are exposed to theoretical art criticism by reading formal theoretical texts by writers like Kuleshov, Vertov, and Eisenstein, all of whom are trying, in the ‘20s and ‘30s, to figure out what makes film materially distinct from other fine arts.
  4. Students learn about the dynamic between technology and art: To understand better how film creates the illusion of continuous motion, they build zoetropes (this is quite a lot of fun, too). Often students believe that photographic images are perfectly mimetic. To show them how a lenses and film work, we have a pin-hole camera workshop in which students build their own cameras and take pictures. We discuss how lenses and film distort images, which helps them to appreciate how much control a cameraman and director have over the final image.

Rules of the game

  1. Attendance is mandatory for all classes and viewings. More than two absences will be penalized.
  2. Papers and projects must be turned in on time. They will not be accepted late. Ever.

Required texts:
For both the required texts, I chose to order "old" editions of very good textbooks. This choice means that you, the student, get to save a lot of money. You must, absolutely must, buy each of these books, and have them by 18 January.

  • The EIGHTH edition of Film Art, available very inexpensively on Amazon, from the Russian Studies Center, and in the bookstore. Publication Date: November 27, 2006 | ISBN-10: 0073310271 | ISBN-13: 978-0073310275 | Edition: 8
  • The SIXTH edition of A Short Guide to Writing about Film, available very inexpensively on Amazon, from the Russian Studies Center, and in the bookstore. Publication Date: January 8, 2006 | ISBN-10: 0321412281 | ISBN-13: 978-0321412287 | Edition: 6th
  • The free Kindle sample of Zona by Geoff Dyer. (You don't need a Kindle to read it!)

A draft of the syllabus (through February 14) is available here.

Screening schedule. All THURSDAY screenings are in L25 (library media room)

Thursday, Jan. 24
SCREENING: Father Sergius (Ia. Protozanov, 1918; 80 minutes.)

THURSDAY, JAN. 17
SCREENING: Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979; 163 minutes).

Thursday, Feb. 14
SCREENING: Land (Dovzhenko, 1930; 76 minutes).

Thursday, Jan. 31
SCREENING: Salt for Svanetia (Kalatozov, 1930; 54 minutes)

Thursday, March 14
SCREENING: I Am Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov 1964; 141 minutes)

Thursday, March 21
Screening: Start Andrei Rublyov (Tarkovsky, 1966; 205 minutes(!))

Thursday, April 4
Screening: Brother (Balabanov, 1997; 99 minutes)

Thursday, April 11
Screening: Russian Ark (Sokurov, 2002; 96 minutes)

Thursday, April 25
Screening: TBA

Broad Themes, Directors, and Historical Periods

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