160309b header cinema


A survey of American film history with an emphasis on principles of critical viewing. Includes study of important thematic genres, stylistic movements, and technological developments. Two hours of lecture and four hours of lab per week.


Through the work of this course, the student will:

  • become familiar with the major historical, ideological, technological, and aesthetic developments of American and related foreign cinemas.
  • decipher communicative techniques of the moving image.


Unless otherwise indicated, written assignments should be typed in MLA format, then submitted as hard copies. Substantiating paperwork (storyboards, lighting plots, scripts, talent releases) tends to be rewarded with higher grades if presented professionally (i.e., typed in easily-navigable folders or binders). Written work submitted by e-mail should be formatted as .pdf (not MS-Word) files.

Late work can earn no more than a maximum of 64 points. Work is considered late if it is submitted (or, in the case of e-mail, time-stamped) after lecture begins on the due date. If, because of extreme and prolonged sickness, you miss a deadline and are able to substantiate a claim of incapacitation with a note from a reputable doctor or the College Health Center, the grades of your remaining assignments will be given greater weight to compensate. Otherwise, you will receive a zero for the assignment. Examinations must be taken when scheduled.

Syllabus deadlines are the date and time an assignment is due in its final version. The Academy’s time-tested draft-and-revision model suggests that you should plan on soliciting your professor’s feedback on at least two intermediate versions of each project. While this is not a requirement, you ignore this recommendation at significant peril to your grade.

Quizzes may be given without warning to encourage attendance and reading throughout the semester.

Coursework will be weighted as indicated:

Midterm Exam 16.666%
Final Exam16.666%
Take Home Exam16.666%
Research Paper16.666%
Quizzes & Assignments16.666%
Class Participation16.666%

Assignment grades will be based on the following scale:

77-79C+< 60F

Responding to students’ desire for the most immediate feedback on their project work, grades and comments are reported via Moodle. It is therefore the responsibility of students to regularly consult Moodle for the most current report of their grades.


The following class schedule should be interpreted as a general timetable governing the subjects to be covered in this course. Class discussion and pace often dictate additions, deviations, and omissions.


The basic premise of this class is that one best learns film history, technique, and influence through the analytical viewing of films. These facets of film communication can be documented by the viewing of the films that mark milestones in cinematic development. One or more films are scheduled for each class meeting, and students in the class are strongly encouraged to view as many films outside of class as possible.

R Aug 29Beginnings of Film Communication
T Sep 30Lumière, Méliès, and Edison
Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography (AFI/NHK, 92, 1:32).
Lumière Premiere Program (Lumière, 1895)
Le Voyage Dans La Lune (Méliès, 02,:14)
The Great Train Robbery (Porter, 03, :12).
R Sep 05D.W. Griffith
Birth of a Nation (Griffith, 15, 2:59).
T Sep 10The Silent Comics
Rob Roy (Caton-Jones, 95, 2:19)
Good Morning, Babylon (Taviani, 87, 1:55)
Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow (Brownlow & Gill, 87, 2:40)
R Sep 12The Silent Comics II
The Bangville Police (Lehrman, 13)
The Rink (Chaplin, 16, :25)
The Immigrant (Chaplin, 17, :30)
The Gold Rush (Chaplin, 25, 1:12)
City Lights (Chaplin, 31, 1:27)
The General (Keaton, 27, 1:14)
T Sep 17German Expressionism
Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari (Weine, 19, 1:09)
Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Murnau, 22, 1:36)
Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (Boese, 20, 1:25)
Metropolis (Lang, 26, 2:00)
Beetlejuice (Burton, 88, 1:32)
Recommended Viewing: Shadow of the Vampire (Merhige, 00, 1:32)
R Sep 19Soviet Montage
Bronenosets Potemkin (Eisenstein, 25, 1:05)
The Music Man (DaCosta, 62, 2:31)
Jaws (Spielberg, 75, 2:04)
The Untouchables (DePalma, 87, 1:59)
T Sep 24Documentary
Nanook of the North (Flaherty, 22, 1:05)
Berlin, Synfonie einer Großstadt (Ruttman, 27, 1:19).
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Vertov, 29, 1:08)
R Sep 26Documentary II
Triumph des Willens (Riefenstahl, 34, 1:19)
The Lion King (Allers & Minkoff, 94, 1:29)
Gladiator (Scott, 00, 2:35)
The March of Time (de Rochemont, various)
Olympia 2. Teil - Fest der Schönheit (Riefenstahl, 38, 1:30)
Drifters (Grierson, 29, :49)
The River (Lorentz, 37, 30)
Nuit et brouillard (Resnais, 55, :30)
Buena Vista Social Club (Wenders, 98, 1:45)
T Oct 01Sound and Animation
Little Nemo (McCay, 11)
Gertie the Dinosaur (McCay, 14)
The Sinking of the Lusitania (McCay, 18)
Koko's Earth Control (Fleischer, 28)
Steamboat Willie (Disney, 28, :07)
The Band Concert (Disney, 35)
Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (Fleischer, 36, :16)
The Rabbit of Seville (Warner Bros, 50, :07).
R Oct 03Sound and Animation II
Fiddle De Dee (McLaren, 47, :03)
Gerald McBoing Boing (Cannon/Hubley, 51, :08)
Munro (Deitch, 60)
Moonbird (Hubley, 59)
The Hole (Hubley, 62)
Yellow Submarine (Dunning, 68, :90)
Ersatz (Vukotic, 61)
Ruka/The Hand (Trnka, 65, :18)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (Selick, 93, 1:16)
The Wrong Trousers (Park, 93, :30)
Toy Story (Lasseter, 95, 1:21)
T Oct 08The Golden Age & Screwball Comedy
Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, 38, 1:42)
The Philadelphia Story (Cukor, 40, 1:52)
R Oct 10John Ford & The Western
Stagecoach (Ford, 39, 1:39)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford, 62, 1:59)
Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo (Leone, 67, 2:41)
The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 69, 2:14)
The Cowboys (Rydell, 72, 2:08)
T Oct 22Italian Neo-Realism
Ladri di biciclette (DeSica, 48, 1:30)
R Oct 24Orson Welles
Citizen Kane (Welles, 41, 1:59)
T Oct 29Film Noir
The Maltese Falcon (Huston, 41, 1:40)
Double Indemnity (Wilder, 44, 1:46)
R Oct 31Post War Japan
Rashomon (Kurosawa, 50, 1:28)
T Nov 05The American Musical
Top Hat (Sandrich, 35, 1:39)
The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 39, 1:41)
Singin' in the Rain (Kelly & Donen, 52, 1:42)
The Sound of Music (Wise, 65, 2:54)
R Nov 07Fear & Gimmicks of the 1950s
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel, 56, 1:20)
T Nov 12The French New Wave
À bout de souffle (Godard, 59, 1:29)
Les Quatre Cents Coups (Truffaut, 59, 1:39)
R Nov 14European Art-Cinema
Det Sjunde inseglet (Bergman, 57, 1:36)
T Nov 19Alfred Hitchcock
Rear Window (Hitchcock, 54, 1:52)
North by Northwest (Hitchcock, 59, 2:16)
R Nov 21The British Emigrés
Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 62, 3:42)
Goldfinger (Hamilton, 64, 1:51)
Henry V (Branagh, 89, 2:17)
T Nov 26Independent & Non-Theatrical Cinema
Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren, 43, :18)
Easy Rider (Hopper, 69, 1:34)
Festival Shorts
R Dec 05"Chop Socky" and Beyond
Meng long guojiang (Lee, 72, 1:31)
Salaam Bombay! (Nair, 88, 1:53)
T Dec 10Film School Brats & Blockbusters
2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 69, 2:19)
The Godfather (Coppola, 72, 2:15)
Jaws (Spielberg, 75, 2:04)
Star Wars (Lucas, 77, 2:01)
R Dec 12Cinema Diversity
Working Girls (Borden, 86, 1:30)
Do The Right Thing (Lee, 89, 2:00)
Desperado (Rodruiguez, 95, 1:43)


In addition to lectures, screenings and discussions during class, assigned readings will aid you in learning the material covered in this course. Assignments will be made from the following required texts:

Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film. 3rd ed.
Ebert, Roger, ed. Roger Ebert’s Book of Film. New York: Norton, 1997.
Gianetti, Louis. Understanding Movies. 7th ed. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1995.
Kolker, Rober.  Film, Form, and Culture: The Cinema Studies CD-ROM. Version 1.0.2  CD-ROM.  McGraw Hill, 2001.

Readings should be completed prior to the class date for which they are assigned.

R Aug 29Beginnings of Film Communication
T Sep 30Lumière, Méliès, and Edison
PhotographyGianetti, 1-40
Edison's Vitascope CheeredThe New York Times in Ebert, 339-340
The Great Train RobberyThe Philadelphia Inquirer in Ebert, 340-341
LumièreMaxim Gorky in Ebert, 342-344
The NickelodeonsJoseph Medill Patterson in Ebert, 347-355
Writing About the MoviesCorrigan, 1-15
Preparing to Watch & Preparing to WriteCorrigan, 16-33
R Sep 05D.W. Griffith
I'm Sorry I Made Me CryS.J. Perelman in Ebert, 388-393
The Edited ImageCorrigan, 62-69
Six Approaches: Film HistoryCorrigan, 78-81
Six Approaches: Kinds of FormalismCorrigan, 86-87
Point of View: Play of Glances in Broken BlossomsKolker, Ch. 4
CameraKolker, Ch. 7
T Sep 10The Silent Comics
ActingGianetti, 237-284
From My AutobiographyCharlie Chaplin in Ebert, 359-362
Keaton at VeniceJohn Gillett & James Blue in Ebert, 379-388
Elements of Mise-en-Scène: Acting StyleCorrigan, 49-51
Cinematic Representation in Steamboat BillKolker, Ch. 1
R Sep 12The Silent Comics II
Story: The Classical ParadigmGianetti, 332-337
Film Terms and TopicsCorrigan, 34-45
T Sep 17German Expressionism
DramaGianetti, 323-360
Six Approaches: National CinemasCorrigan, 81-82
R Sep 19Soviet Montage
Editing: Soviet Montage...Gianetti, 150-162
Continuity EditingKolker, Ch. 2
MontageKolker, Ch. 4
T Sep 24Story: Nonfictional NarrativesGianetti, 344-350
R Sep 26Montage in The Plow That Broke the PlainsKolker, Ch. 4
T Oct 01Sound and Animation
SoundGianetti, 199-236
Movement: Mechanical DistortionsGianetti, 120-129
Minnie and MickeyE.M. Forster in Ebert, 397-399
The Laws of Cartoon MotionMark O'Donnel in Ebert, 660-661
SoundCorrigan, 69-73
R Oct 10John Ford & The Western
StoryGianetti, 323-360
The Western: or the American Film...André Bazin in Ebert, 400-407
John Wayne: A Love SongJoan Didion in Ebert, 137-143
Six Approaches: GenresCorrigan, 82-84
T Oct 22Italian Neo-Realism
Theory: Theories of RealismGianetti, 439-449
R Oct 24Orson Welles
Mise en ScèneGianetti, 41-90
Synthesis: Citizen KaneGianetti, 471-507
From The Films of My LifeFrançois Truffaut in Ebert, 116-122
Film Terms and TopicsCorrigan, 45-61
Mise en ScèneKolker, Ch. 6
The Long TakeKolker, Ch. 3
T Oct 29Film Noir
Libby NoirLibby Gelman-Waxner in Ebert, 435-438
R Oct 31Post War Japan
From Something Like an AutobiographyAkira Kurosawa in Ebert, 481-488
From Something Like an AutobiographyAkira Kurosawa in Ebert, 661-668
T Nov 05The American Musical
Sound: Musicals and OperaGianetti, 218-222
Photography: ColorGianetti, 21-27
MusicKolker, Ch. 8
R Nov 07Fear & Gimmicks of the 1950s
The Imagination of DisasterSusan Sontag in Ebert, 422-435
T Nov 12The French New Wave
Editing: André Bazin and... RealismGianetti, 162-172
Six Approaches: AuteursCorrigan, 84-86
R Nov 14European Art-Cinema
From The Magic LanternIngmar Bergman in Ebert, 444-446
T Nov 19Alfred Hitchcock
Editing: Hitchcock's North by NorthwestGianetti, 172-198
My Own MethodsAlfred Hitchcock in Ebert, 446-452
From Behind the Scenes of 'Psycho'Janet Leigh in Ebert, 654-659
Point of ViewKolker, Ch. 5
R Nov 21The British Emigrés
WritingGianetti, 361-394
T Dec 10Film School Brats & Blockbusters
From The GodfatherMario Puzo in Ebert, 323-336
R Dec 12Cinema Diversity
From Do The Right ThingSpike Lee in Ebert, 536-547
IdeologyGianetti, 395-436
Six Approaches: IdeologyCorrigan, 87-90


T Sep 03American Cinematographer Abstract
Find an American Cinematographer article that discusses a recent film you've watched and enjoyed. Summarize the article in a paragraph or two, paying particular attention to film stock, lighting, and camera choices of the cinematographer.
T Sep 05Choosing Film Stock
Use Kodak's Professional Motion Imaging site to research and account for the film stock choice(s) in your American Cinematographer abstract (above). Browse the film catalog and the site's "Chronology of Motion Picture Films" page. Be ready to discuss your findings during class.
R Oct 10Research Paper
Author a researched essay which responds to a topic assigned by your professor. Submit the final draft as a .pdf via e-mail to your professor. Be certain the words "research essay" appear in the subject field of your message. In all respects of format, your work should be presented in the MLA style. If you are uncertain about the particulars of the MLA format, I suggest you consult the most recent edition of The Little, Brown Handbook or the staff of the Writing Center.

Frequent and authoritative citation of primary sources represents the most reliable brand of scholarship. Therefore, in a paper about movies, I will expect bibliographic mention of actual films to far outnumber other sorts of references. By extension, this paper requires that you spend more time watching videos than prowling libraries.

Any more than a combined total of seven format, typographical or spelling errors will result in an automatic "F" for the assignment.
R Nov 14Group Project
As a team, create a five-minute film sequence out of the following basic situation: An older man and a younger woman are having a conversation in which the woman become increasingly angry; at the end of the sequence, her anger become explosive. In matters of content and form, the sequence should demonstrate the conventions of genre and style assigned you by the professor.
1. Decide who these characters are. What is their relationship to each other? Father and daughter? Uncle and niece? Businessman and prostitute? Teacher and student? Give them any identities you wish.
2. What are they arguing about? first decide on a general subject -- money, love, sex, crime, a child, a grade -- and then, once you have narrowed it down, begin to write some lines of dialogue about this topic.
3. How does the scene end? What does the woman finally do to express her anger?
Production Designer
1. Create a setting for these characters. Where are they? What is the mis-en-scene? Does the scene occur inside or outside? Is it a public place, like a restaurant or bar? If so, is it crowded or empty? Clean or dirty? Attractive or ugly? Or is it a living room or bedroom? If so, whose living room or bedroom? How is it decorated? (Since you do not have to worry about the budget of this film, be as creative a set decorator as you wish.)
2. What are they wearing? Include make-up and hairstyles.
1. How is the room lit?
2. Storyboard a simple sequence of shots for this bit of narrative. Place the camera anywhere you'd like, move it whenever you want, and cut to another shot whenever you think it's appropriate. Or, if you decide to film the whole bit in a single take, note where the camera is placed at all times.
In a presentation not to exceed 10 minutes, your group will "pitch" the sequence to the class. At that time, you will submit to the instructor a script (with dialogue, detailed descriptions of set and characters, and thorough camera placement notes), a storyboard, and any other relevant materials. The script will conform to the Screenplay Format of the Writers Guild of America.
R Dec 12Film Review
Using chapter 12 of your text as a guide, review a film assigned by your professor. Please write as if you are reviewing the film for a magazine with national circulation. As a member of the press, you have attended an advance screening of the film. Few people who read your review have yet seen the film. They will likely decide to attend or avoid the movie on your recommendation.
Be sure to deal with the following elements...

Mise en scène
Movement: primary and secondary
Sound: music, dialogue, and effects
Drama: production design
Literature: themes, characters, narratology
Theory: place on the formalist/realist spectrum and defend
...and, to a lesser degree, acting, story, and plot

As a .pdf attachment to an e-mail message, submit your work to your professor by 12:00 noon. Be certain the word "review" appears in the subject field of your message.


Where’s Brian when we need him? Is it really okay to call him at home in the middle of the night?

The classroom setting is such that not all needs can be met within it. I encourage you, therefore, to visit my office often. It is my pleasure to discuss grades, attendance, notes, lectures, or anything else which will make you a better student. Your grades can only benefit from regular communication with your professors. I will gladly work with you to arrange meeting times convenient to us both. Feel free to contact me:

  • by e-mail at mail@brianfuller.org [good].
  • by phone or voicemail at 616.498.4336 (49.VIDEO) [better].
  • in person [best].


Can I leave early to get to my next class across campus? What happens when I miss a class?

If you write a good essay or fail a math exam, you do so as an individual. But the success of a video production is often a collaborative endeavor that begins with attendance. You jeopardize any group project for which you show up late (or not at all). Reflecting the emphasis Media Production professors place on collaboration, strict attendance is required. Students will be penalized for late arrivals and early departures.

I’ve got tickets to leave early for spring break. Can I reschedule work to accommodate my travel plans?

Classes will not be held on holidays officially recognized by the college. All other days of the term are fair game for lectures, quizzes and assignments. Those students who plan to leave early for or return late from holiday breaks may not reschedule exams or other work.

Can I take class notes on my iPad? What are the professor’s expectations for electronic etiquette?

You’re encouraged to use smart phones, tablets, and laptops in disciplined ways which accomplish the work of the course. It’s considered rude, however, to engage in private communiqués (facebook, twitter, IMs, texts) during class.

Oops. My phone started ringing in class. Probably Mom calling…

The professor reserves the right to answer any cell phone call received by a student during class time. From a practical standpoint, you’d hate to ruin an otherwise fabulous take on location with a Justin Bieber ringtone.

I’ve seen this movie so many times, I can recite this scene by heart…

Common courtesy is expected of class members during class meetings. Specifically, students should not carry on conversations or make disturbing noises during lectures or screenings.

Since films are the primary texts of this course, the viewing experience should be respected by all. If you must get up during a film, please do so quietly and unobtrusively. Never walk in front of a television or in the throw of a movie projector during a screening.


I’m dissatisfied with an assignment grade. Any chance I can have it changed?

Because there are no “right” and “wrong” answers in this field of study, I am open to a certain amount of discussion with regard to the grade awarded any given assignment. Appeals should be made in a timely fashion, within two class periods of grade notification/posting. You may be notified of a grade by the return of paperwork or, more usually, in the posting of grades and comments to Moodle. Appeals should be made face to face (not by phone, in writing or by e-mail) and offered with rhetorical and presentational clarity (After all, this is a communication class).


I downloaded a great new song on iTunes. Can I use it in the soundtrack of my class film project?

The current edition of our college Code of Student Conduct notes that “the student-faculty relationship is based on trust and mutual respect which can be seriously undermined by the suspicion or reality of academic dishonesty.” It elsewhere defines plagiarism as “the use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment.”

Though expected to abide by the document as a whole, Media Production students may benefit from specific awareness of conduct proscribed by Article IV of the Code:

  • Cheating, plagiarism, or other forms of academic dishonesty.
  • Unauthorized possession, duplication or use of keys or other access devices to any College premises or unauthorized entry to or use of College premises.
  • Use of computing facilities and resources in violation of copyright laws.

The standards of honesty and the penalties of dishonesty apply equally to words, ideas, visual images, auditory images, and all electrochemical means of storage and communication.

I will vigorously pursue prosecution of academic dishonesty to the very limit of sanctions allowed by the college (Article V, Sections D and E), up to and including failure of the course and expulsion from the college. I will just as vigorously work with student to prevent even unintended lapses of integrity. If you are uncertain about how to avoid plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty, please consult a member of the English faculty, the most recent edition of The Little, Brown Handbook,or (preferably) ask me.

While student media producers retain copyright ownership of their respective work, enrollment in this course constitutes your permission to let the college, the department, the professor, their representatives, and successors, exhibit and distribute for promotional purposes those media projects submitted in fulfillment of course assignments. Without any effect on your grade you may withhold or limit such permission by indicating your wish to do so in a note to your professor signed, witnessed, and dated, before the course’s drop date.