Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dispatches from Film School: "Film Theories"

To be completely honest, the list of films that I watched for Film Theories is a fairly rudimentary list for such a class. The purpose of this class was to introduce students to major strands of film theory, such as Soviet montage, neorealism, semiotics, Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, and postmodernism. All of which are important theories, certainly, and for an introductory class it certainly makes sense to link psychoanalysis with Hitchcock or genre theory with The Searchers. But with only a handful of exceptions, the screening list left a little to be desired.

Not that there aren't great films on this list; there's a reason why these particular films have stood the test of time. I, personally, just hoped for more curveballs like the final two films on this list.

Links go to corresponding articles that I've previously written on the film.

Battleship Potemkin (dir. Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)

Eisenstein's film remains a landmark of Soviet montage and is a masterclass in how editing creates meaning. But, truth be told, Potemkin works better as an introduction to the ideas of montage and propaganda filmmaking. Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera (1929) is a better example of everything that editing can accomplish.

The Bicycle Thief (dir. Vittorio De Sica, 1947)

Often viewed as the quintessential Italian neorealist film, De Sica's tale of an ordinary man (Lamberto Maggiorani, a first-time actor) desperately trying to recover his stolen bicycle in post-war Rome nevertheless still tugs the heartstrings. It's a sentimental film that is never too saccharine or syrupy.

Imitation of Life (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1959)

Though I will admit that, upon second viewing, my estimation of Sirk's classic melodrama has waned, Imitation of Life is still a fine example of Hollywood's ability to produce cathartic films that are as emotionally manipulative as they are extravagantly constructed. No matter how over-the-top the performances go, Sarah Jane's (Susan Kohner) goodbye to the mother (Juanita Moore) she always denied nevertheless brings on floods of tears.

More after the jump.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

One Year Down, One to Go, and Summer Plans

Long time, no see, everyone! It's been a solid five months since I've posted anything here, but I wanted to give you an update on everything that's going on in my life (and, therefore, the blog).

The Sydney Opera House

I'll give you the big news first: next Monday, May 30, I will be flying off to Sydney, Australia to study abroad as part of Boston University's Sydney Film Festival and Internship program! As the name suggests, I will be attending the Sydney Film Festival this year; in fact, my class revolves around the films shown at the festival. I am required to see at least 20 films over the course of the festival, and I will write as much as I can about my experiences here. I will also, as the name suggests, have an internship with the festival. I am very excited about all of it, and, as I said, I will update as regularly as I can!

The other news, which you may have figured out by the title of this post, is that I am now halfway through my graduate program at Boston University. That means that, in addition to my usual coursework, I'm now thinking about doctoral programs and thesis topics. I'm far from finalizing a list of doctoral programs that I will apply for, but right now Northwestern, Texas-Austin, NYU, UC-Santa Barbara, UC-Berkeley, and UC-Santa Cruz are all top choices. As for thesis topics, I may try to workshop some ideas here on the blog, so please bear with me.

So that's the big stuff. Now that I have something of a break, I will try to update the blog more often. Before I head to Australia, keep an eye out for a series of posts detailing what I've watched this past semester. I will, of course, have the aforementioned posts chronicling my time Down Under. I hope to participate in The Film Experience's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" (now in its final season, sadly) a few more times. And, of course, I'll share reviews, essays, and other great stuff with you.

Thank you for continuing to read despite my sporadic posting, and I hope you enjoy reading my partially coherent thoughts!