Film StudiesWestern Arts and Humanities

Undergraduate Courses

First Year

Spring/Summer 2015

Film 21994A - The Zombie Film

Course Description:

The zombie film has been enjoying unprecedented popularity in the past decade or more, but this horror subgenre has a much longer history. Analyzing representative films from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, this course will consider how the subgenre has developed over the past century, how the zombie as symbol has evolved, and why the zombie continues to resonate with filmmakers and filmgoers alike. We’ll examine such influences on the genre as German Expressionism and psychoanalytic theories, and explore the idea that such films reflect the cultural anxieties of their respective times and places in relation to such issues as gender, sexuality, race, youth, the hegemony, capitalism, technology, religion, and the environment.

First Year

1022: Introduction to Film Studies
What is a blockbuster? What is a cult film? What is digital cinema? Discover the answers to these questions and others in a broad introduction to the study of cinema. Students will learn the basic vocabulary of film studies and gain an informed understanding of the different critical approaches to film analysis as these are informed by the historical, the psychosocial and the political. By viewing a wide range of film and video, students will learn to critically engage with these media and their contemporary derivations.

section 001 - Barb Bruce
section 002 - Zoran Maric

2100 Level

2195A: Special Topics: American Television and Culture (Wlodarz)
Despite its pivotal role in postwar America, television has rarely been viewed as a medium worthy of serious critical attention. Long tainted by its commercial ties and mass audience, television has only recently acquired a degree of cultural esteem through its widely acclaimed cable programming (The SopranosMad Men). This course will provide an introduction to the historical development, forms, and reception of television in the U.S., paying particular attention to the social element of the medium. We will thus explore television’s diverse audiences and analyze the various ways in which American culture has both shaped and been shaped by TV. In addition to a focus on key moments in the medium’s history, we will examine the distinctive elements of the televisual form (flow, liveness, seriality, advertising), TV’s key genres (soap, sitcom, drama, news, reality), modes of reception (fandom, distraction, time-shifting), and television’s construction and conception of social difference in America (representation and narrowcasting strategies). Key topics of discussion will include: quality television and cultural hierarchies, HBO and the cable/satellite shift, teen TV, children’s TV, representing “reality,” the gendering of television, televisual immediacy, American television in the global sphere, and the flexibility of “television” in the digital era.

Potential screenings include: Breaking BadGirlsMad MenThe Big Bang Theory
The SopranosThe WireLouie, Arrested DevelopmentRupaul’s Drag Race,
I Love Lucy, The HoneymoonersAll in the FamilyMy So-Called LifeThe Cosby Show,American Horror Story, Buffy the Vampire SlayerHill St. BluesHomicide, and more.

2197B: Special Topics: The Action Film (Gittings)
Combining hero figures in conflict with exotic locations, innovative special effects, and spectacular stunts, Action cinema has proven irresistible to audiences. From its early roots in the 1920s and 1930s, Action cinema focused on performances of muscular, athletic bodies in motion. Films like The Terminator and Aliens in the 1980s, The Matrix in the 1990s, and Crank in the 2000s continue this tradition, developing the spectacle and adrenalin-inducing stunts of early Action cinema to generate huge box office returns. 

The course explores this popular form of filmed entertainment in the contexts of: multiple genres, gender/sexuality, sensation and embodiment, history, ideology, marketing, and popular and critical reception.

Questions addressed include:

Topics include:

The course may include the following films:

2198B: Special Topics: Animation / Anime (Raine)
This course explores the power of animation as a form of audiovisual representation, with a particular emphasis on Japan. We will trace the intertwined history of comic books and of film, television, video, and computer animation from 1930s cinema shorts to the present day media mix. Japanese anime franchises will be examined from the side of production, as industrial products and artistic expressions, and from the side of reception, as semiotic texts and as objects through which consumers construct their social lives. We will also explore the further dissemination of those franchises in various kinds of fan fiction and academic discourse, and as an aspect of Japanese "soft power" in North American popular culture.  
All readings on the course are in English; no Japanese is required.

2200 Level

2200F: Film Theories, Criticisms, Histories (Coates) 
This course will focus on classical film theory up to and including the work of Bazin (the reaction against Bazin, and more recent reactions to that reaction, will be studied in Winter 2015 in Film 3371G Film Theory). The period of classical film theory, the first 60 years of film theorization, broaches issues whose apparent submerging by the more ideologically- oriented criticism of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in particular has been rolled back in recent years amidst renewed attention to such earlier figures as Arnheim, Balázs, Bazin and Kracauer, particularly their work on medium specificity and/or impurity. Theory, criticism and history were never more closely intertwined than in the work of the critic-theoreticians who dominated this period.

Film 2220G: Cinema as Spectacle (Falkowksa)
This course will look at American and European films in  the context of  the theoretical notion of “spectacle.” Students will be introduced to a range of theoretical issues and discussions about the spectacle as presented by Laura Mulvey, Raymond Bellour,   Judith Mayne, Patricia Mellencamp, Lea Jacobs, Richard deCordova, Guy Debord, Carl Plantinga and others. We shall study ideological, political, social and economic principles which lie at the basis of cinema articulated as spectacle. We shall also discuss the determination of the formal system that has been conventionalized within dominant filmmaking practice. All these aspects of spectacle will be presented against the context of the following study areas: Body as spectacle, Emotion as spectacle, History as spectacle, Religion as spectacle, Revolt as spectacle, Science Fiction as spectacle, The exotic “other” as spectacle. Myth as spectacle and Ritual as spectacle.

In-class presentations and debates led by students and monitored by the instructor will create a collaborative space for the analysis of these thought-provoking areas in the study of cinema as spectacle.

Film 2242F: National Cinemas: Themes in Polish National Cinema (Coates)
As North American cities are being toured by Martin Scorsese’s road show of 21 of his favourite Polish films, there may be no better time to reassess the period of Polish cinema’s strongest flourishing, when it was one of the world’s most important, from the mid-1950s to the late 1980s. The course structure will combine the thematic and the historical, tracking key moments in the development across the decades of such themes as communion with the dead, the memory of war, and social corruption in particular. It will also look beyond the ideological and temporal horizon of People’s Poland, which ended in 1989, to consider the options available to directors who emigrated from it or survived its demise. Films featured will include ones by Wajda, Zanussi, Has, Kieślowski, Polański, and Smarzowski.

Film 2243G: National Cinemas: Latin American Cinema (Burucua)
The course will concentrate on Latin American cinema, referring to a body of films made in different countries since the advent of sound and the rise of the first studios in the region until today, with a strong emphasis on the most recent productions which have been re-defining the landscape of these varied and rich national film industries and film cultures. Always approaching the texts as social and aesthetic practices, attention will be paid to questions of (national and cultural) identity, film history and historiography, realism and ideology, and issues of race and gender.

Film 2250G: European Movements (Falkowska)
The course “Movements in European Film” will provide a historical background, an ideological foundation and an in-depth analysis of crucial European film movements and “waves” such as Free British Cinema, French New Wave, New German Cinema, Czech New Wave, Polish School, Spanish Surrealism, Berlin School and Dogma Movement. One or two representative films for each movement will be studied for their aesthetics, narratives and ideology. Additionally, we will study the impact of these movements on world cinemas.

2251E: World Cinema (Raine) 
This course will encompass films made outside of Europe and North America in order to reflect upon the issues and concepts that inform the category of World Cinema. The first half of the course is organized around films that are part of, or that draw on, the popular cinemas of Asia. The films will lead us to consider the role of genre (musicals, melodramas, and gangster films) in world cinema, the importance of film festivals, and the representation of "action" to a transnational and polyglot medium. The second half of the course focuses on case studies from Africa, South America, the Middle East, and the Anglophone margins of the British Empire. We will trace the search for alternatives to the First Cinema of (usually Hollywood) blockbusters, and the Second Cinema of (usually European) art films in the anti-colonial nationalism of African and Latin American Third Cinema, in Iranian films informed by both art cinema and local poetics, and in a Fourth Cinema of films from Australia and New Zealand that articulate an indigenous critique of national as well as international film culture.

2253E: American Cinema (Wlodarz) 
This yearlong course surveys the central industrial, technological, aesthetic, and ideological developments in the history of American cinema. Given the global prominence and influence of Hollywood cinema, much of the course will be focused on the establishment of the Hollywood studio system and its many transformations over the course of the 20th century. We will begin with an analysis of the origins of the medium and its place in American culture at the turn-of-the-century. We will then examine the development of narrative cinematic standards and the rise and consolidation of the Hollywood studio system, paying close attention to genre, stardom, marketing, and popular reception from the 1920s to the 1960s. In addition to key technological developments such as the coming of sound and the emergence of widescreen cinema, we will also explore social anxieties about cinema's effects, the institution of the Production Code, and the complex relationship of Hollywood film to key social crises (The Depression, WWII, McCarthyism, Civil Rights) of the period. 

The second term of the course will focus on the emergence of “post-classical” Hollywood and the parallel growth of American independent cinema. Here we will explore the economic, aesthetic, and ideological transformations in American film from the social upheavals of the '60s and '70s to the contemporary era of conglomeration, globalization, and digital media. Key topics will include: the politics of genre revision; the shifting parameters of the “New Hollywood”; the fall of the Production Code and the representation of sex and violence; independent cinemas and social identity; the emergence of the international blockbuster; and crises of security in post-9/11 cinema.

2258F: Canadian Cinema: Documents, Storytelling, Experiments (Gittings) 
Beginning in the silent period and extending into the twenty-first century, this course seeks to answer historical, cultural, ideological and aesthetic questions about Canadian cinema. We will explore how cinema has reflected the complex and unstable notion of Canada as a nation, focusing upon issues of representation as well as problems of distribution and exhibition. Additionally, we will consider the transnational flows between the Canadian film industry, Hollywood, and other global film industries through co-production. Questions addressed include: What is the influence of the documentary tradition on Canadian cinema as a whole? Is there an innate division between Canadian “art” cinema and popular cinema? What are the relationships of First Nations, diasporic and queer cinemas to a Canadian national cinema? Does Canadian cinema embody two linguistic, cultural and industrial “solitudes” or are there in fact a variety of Canadian cinemas? What role does genre play in Canadian cinema?  

2260G: Film Genre: Noir and noirishness (Coates)
Often deemed not a genre at all but more plausibly a cycle, style, period, or even ‘phenomenon’, film noir offers a unique test-case of the uses and limits of the notion of genre. Are a rain-coated detective on a wet street and a provocatively powerful femme fatale a sine qua non of film noir, or are these two archetypal protagonists and embodiments of gender stereotypes only part of a wider, more complex story including reformed criminals, crooked cops, psoriatic writers, art-lovers, singers, female taxi-drivers, Pennsylvania drifters, former philosophy-students, tycoons and even toons? Under what conditions does noir dissolve into, or crystallize out of, noirishness? Is noirishness the after-life of a strictly-defined noir? These, and related issues, will be sampled in a wide range of films including The Big SleepGildaChinatownNight Moves, Dennis Potter’s The SingingDetectiveThe Conformist and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? .

2270F: Film Aesthetics 
This course will explore the narrative and artistic functions of basic film elements, e.g., composition, script, lightning, sound, music and editing. The main concepts will be illustrated with a wide range of audiovisual material: feature and short films, documentaries, TV series, Internet clips and developing new media. The course will also offer an introduction to the audiovisual production process.

2275F: Documentary (Burucua)
This course will examine the historical and theoretical development of documentary filmmaking as a non–fictional mode of representation. From the first actualités shot by the pioneers in the late 19th Century to the more contemporary expressions, documentary films question notions of objectivity, reality and verisimilitude, all of which will be under scrutiny throughout the course. Consequently, the selected audiovisual texts comprised in the corpus will be analyzed both as conscious aesthetic practices and as historical and cultural discourses eith

2295F: Film Directors/Auteurs: Ozu Yasujiro and Film Studies (Raine)
In 2012 the Sight and Sound directors' poll ranked Ozu Yasujiro's Tokyo Story as the best film in the history of the medium. Why have Ozu's films been so highly regarded by so many filmmakers? To answer that question, this course traces the evolution of Ozu's reputation and links it to the development of film studies. Strikingly, Ozu is a touchstone in the development of the discipline, from auteur theory and realism through genre theory and mise-en-scene analysis to political modernist critiques of narration and the philosophy of film phenomenology. Considering Ozu as a humanist, a modernist, a cultural critic, and a philosopher, we will examine his representation of the family, of student life, of growing old, and of cinema itself. Ozu was one of the most cine-literate filmmakers in the history of the medium: his films are full of citations of and reflections on world cinema. His "less is more" aesthetic tells moving stories at the same time that it explores just what cinema is. Rounding out our appreciation, we will ask how a filmmaker who counted Ernst Lubitsch and King Vidor among his mentors could become an inspiration for filmmakers such as Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch.
All readings on the course are in English; no Japanese is required.

3300 Level

3370G: Advanced Film Aesthetics 
This course will be focused on the understanding of the process of making a film and the underlying aesthetic/ethic decisions involved in it, through the study of a selection of contemporary documentaries and short films. The students will be also provided with notions concerning the different stages of audiovisual production and basic production skills.

3371G: Film Theory (Coates) 
This course will examine Film Theory from the 1960s to the present: in the first instance, that amalgam of structuralism, Marxism, feminism and post-structuralism forged so tumultuously in the aftermath of the contestation of 1968, usually known in colloquial shorthand as ‘Theory’, and oriented primarily towards ideological critique; and then some of the more recent alternatives to it, including the would-be ‘Post-Theoretical’. Some of this later work is virulently hostile to ‘Theory’, while some is sympathetically critical. The course will take a (hopefully representative) sample of both approaches and the different ways in which they frame what is most important about what Lenin termed ‘the most important art’.

3373G: Theories of National Cinemas (Burucua) 
The course will provide students with a critical interrogation of the concept of ²national cinema². Informed by theories of nation developed within the social sciences by scholars such as Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm, among others, the course troubles notions of nation as an organic, homogeneous, unitary entity before shifting into a study of different case studies in terms of their cinematic representations of nation, and the political economies that facilitate the production of national cinemas. Readings of the ‘national’ will be underpinned by understandings of class, gender, race and sexuality. Films from different historical and geographical contexts will be examined in relation to debates about what constitutes a national cinema.

4400 Level

4409E: Undergraduate ThesisI

Individual instruction in the selection of a topic, the preparation of materials, and the writing of a thesis. Students who wish to take this course must apply to the Chair of the Department. The course is restricted to students in fourth year of an Honors Specialization in Film Studies with a high "B" average.
Note: You cannot register for the course online. You will be registered in Film 4409E by the Department once your application form has been accepted.
Application form
Evaluation form

4474F: Seminar: Latin America in the Film Festivals' Circuit (Burucua) 
The course will look at contemporary Latin American cinema (late 1990s to the present), and the associated ideas about the region, that circulate in the film festival circuit. Understanding the latter as a complex and dynamic phenomenon, the study of which has been tackled from a wide range of multidisciplinary approaches (from socio economics to film studies, from anthropology to global studies), special attention will be paid to the political economies at stake in these transnational networks and their impact in terms of film distribution, exhibition and, perhaps more importantly, film production. By focusing on scholarship on film festivals, an expanding field of research since the mid 1990s, ideas will be discussed in the light of specific case studies, with the aim of reflecting on the current state of Latin American film industries, cultures and images.

4490F: Seminar: Heteroglossia in European and American Cinemas (Falkowska)
This seminar provides a detailed introduction to Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of heteroglossia and uses this theoretical framework to examine contemporary trends in European and American cinema. According to Robert Stam, a prominent representative of Bakhtinian thought for film analysis, “Bakhtin’s view of all language, including artistic language, as exhibiting conflicting utterances and as inflected both by other similar ‘utterances’ and  by social context suggests valuable reading strategies that are as valid for film and media texts as they are for the novel” (Stam, Subversive Pleasures 18). Later in the course we will examine how polyphony and Julia Kristeva's theory of intertextuality will complement (and perhaps complicate) the discussion of heteroglossia.  

We will engage these reading strategies and employ literary, philosophical, musical and linguistic concepts in the analysis of film understood as a polyphonic and structurally complex art specimen in an attempt to produce an informed and intellectually intricate interpretation of a film grounded in culture, history and politics of the time in which a film has been made. A careful examination of theoretical concepts used in the course will take place during   lectures introducing each discussion session. Then we will concentrate on the films made by Peter Greenaway (UK), Federico Fellini (Italy), Andriej Zvyagintsev (Russia), Roman Polanski (Poland), Coen Brothers (USA) and Wes Anderson (USA), and, we will apply theory in the discussion of their films.  There will be six thematic sections for the discussion of the films made by each filmmaker during which we will show and analyze two fiction films in each section. We will not only present detailed analyses of the films during seminar presentations based on the concepts offered at the beginning of each unit but we will also address them critically in view of the critiques of Bakhtin enclosed in the Package of Readings.

  1. Peter Greenaway – The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982); The Pillow Book (1996)

We will debate the discourses of painting, drawing and art of calligraphy and decide on how they complicate the process of reading Peter Greenaway’s films.

  1. Federico Fellini – 8 ½ (1963); Roma (1972)

We will discuss the concept of a film essay in Fellini’s subjective monologues about time, art and history. Can a film essay be polyphonic?

  1. Andriej Zvyagintsev – The Return (2003); Elena (2011)

We will  debate Fyodor Dostoevski’s soul monologues against a broader canvass of  Russian society and explore moral choices, silence and indifference in view of death and murder.

  1. Roman Polanski – The Tennant (1976); Carnage (2011)

Short films: Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958)We will explore the areas of interiority and madness in Polanski’s films and see how surrealist and grotesque elements complicate the political interpretations of his films.

  1. Coen Brothers – Fargo (1996); True Grit (2010)

During this session we will concentrate on irony, black comedy and genre conventions in Coen Brothers’ films in view of Julia Kristeva’s theory of intertextuality.

  1. Wes Anderson – The Royal Tennenbaums (2001); The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) or Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This session will focus on pastiche, parody and understatement as contesting discourses in Wes Anderson’s films. We will employ both Bakhtin’s concept of heteroglossia and the theory of intertextuality in an attempt to unravel the bewildering charm of his films.

The Dialogic ImaginationFour Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. 1981.Ed. Michael Holquist. Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press.
“Discourse in the Novel” 259-422.
Julia Kristeva. 1980. “Word, Dialogue and Novel,” in Desire in language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. New York: Columbia University Press.
Robert Stam. 1989. Subversive Pleasures. Bakhtin, Cultural Criticism and Film. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press.
The Package of Readings with discussions of Bakhtin’s thought taking place in 1990s and 2000s and with readings related to the films studied during the course will be available at the UWO bookstore in the beginning of September 2014.