Monday, January 13, 2014

History of Film from 1950

Course Description:
This course offers a broad survey of world cinema from 1950 to the present. While we will mostly examine narrative/fiction films, we will occasionally discuss other modes of cinematic expression, from experimental film, to animation, to documentary. This course examines transformations and continuities in cinematic style and structure across multiple cultures, technologies, and distribution platforms, as well as how cinema works can function as a kind of barometer for the social and cultural transformations transpiring during their production and distribution.

Your humble guide: Dr. Jay McRoy
Office: CART 228
Office Hours: Wednesdays from 4:00 - 5:30
Web Site:

Regular Attendance and Active Participation in In-Class Discussions (10%): 
Your participation in discussions is essential if we are to learn from one another. I want to know what you think. Needless to say (but I will anyway), attendance and participation is a significant component (see ‘Rules and Regulations’) of this course.

3 Critical Microthemes/Brief Essays (approx. 500 - 700 words [or about 2-3 pages max] - 30% each). A successful microtheme presents an argument about an assigned topic or question as clearly, precisely, and concisely as possible. Do not worry about elaborate introductions or conclusions. Successful microthemes "get right to the point" and support your claims with evidence drawn from the film under consideration.

Although microthemes are very short, it is difficult to write one effectively in a single draft. Given the rigid word limit, narrowing your microtheme to between 500-700 words may prove challenging.

NB - At the bottom of this page, I will regularly post a list of potential discussion questions/critical writing prompts for each of the films we will explore in class. These prompts may be very useful for generating ideas. 

Lastly, if you are new to writing critically about cinema or simply want to further refine your skills, I can think of few better texts than Timothy Corrigan's A Short Guide to Writing about Film; this work is a fantastic resource and is readily available used on-line. For a nice excerpt, click here.

Grading Scale for Critical Engagement Papers:

Microthemes will be graded according to the following criteria:

A or A- (Excellent): These papers consist of a thoughtful and carefully articulated thesis statement supported by well-organized paragraphs that make use of solid examples or textual citations.  “A” papers demonstrate advanced critical thinking skills, highlighted by the presence of keen, thorough, and informed insights. In addition, ideas must be developed logically. The writing should be crisp, with active sentences, and contain no grammatical errors.

B (Quite Good):  These papers contain a solid thesis statement supported with well-organized paragraphs that elaborate with detail upon your major points.  These papers demonstrate strong critical thinking skills and have only a few grammar and syntax problems.  In other words, these papers are solid works by engaged thinkers and writers.

C (Solid Effort):  These papers meet the requirements for the assignment. They contain a discernable main point and provide supporting paragraphs. Grammar and syntax problems exist to the extent that they risk alienating your readers at times or obscuring what you intend to say.

D (Underwhelming): These papers meet some of the requirements for the assignment, but are disorganized and demonstrate minimal effort regarding their construction (including the presentation of the main ideas).

F (Failing): These papers do not meet the requirements for the assignment or fail to convey ideas in a clear and logical manner.

*N.B.: Plus and Minus Grades may also be given (e.g. B+, B-, etc.)

Rules and Regulations:

  1. Come to class.
  2. Turn your work in on time.
  3. Respect your fellow student.  This class is a space where everyone’s ideas must circulate freely. There will be no censorship of any kind in this class.  If you agree or disagree with something someone says, please wait until the person has finished speaking before voicing your opinion in a respectful manner. Do not hit or bite each other.
  4. Although the films we will view in and for this class vary greatly in aesthetic approach, they each engage with everyday human experiences both hideous and beautiful. In other words, you may want to research individual films beforehand to make an informed decision about whether or not you wish to attend a particular screening (or even take the class). Some content may be disturbing to some viewers.

There is nothing wrong with using the words and thoughts of others as long as you acknowledge your debt.  In fact, you can frequently strengthen your writing by doing so. However, if you represent the words or ideas of others as if they were your own, then you are plagiarizing. Plagiarism includes:     

1) Paraphrasing or copying (without the use of quotation marks) someone else's words without acknowledgment. 

2) Using someone else's facts or ideas without acknowledgment. 

3) Handing in work for one course that you handed in for credit in another course without the permission of both instructors.

When you use published words, data, or thoughts, you should note their use. We will use MLA Guidelines throughout this course. When you use the ideas of friends or classmates, you should thank them in an endnote (e.g. "I am grateful to my friend so and so for the argument in the third paragraph").  If friends give you reactions but not suggestions, you need not acknowledge that help in print (though it is gracious to do so). Collaboration and using the work of others is the backbone of academia. Plagiarism and academic dishonesty destroys the possibility of working together as colleagues. Therefore, all instances of plagiarism in this class will be addressed with the utmost severity.  If you have any questions as to whether something you have written for this class constitutes plagiarism, please see me before handing it in for credit.

Week by Week Breakdown:

2/5: Introduction & Overview - Umberto D (De Sica, 1952)

2/12:  The French New Wave - Breathless (Godard, 1959)

("Breaking the Rules: The French New Wave," Channel Chriswell)

("Breathless: How World War II Changed Cinema," Nerdwriter)

Oh, and check this one out when you have a chance (this person's stuff is interesting):

("What I Learned from Watching Breathless [1960]," CinemaTyler)

2/19: Ingmar Bergman - Persona (Bergman, 1966)

(Ingmar Bergman on Persona, 1966)

2/26: The New German Cinema - Ali, Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, 1974)

("The New German Cinema: Herzog, Fassbinder, Schlondorff, Wenders, Slyberberg")

3/4: Indian Cinema - Charulata (Ray, 1964)
 Microtheme #1 DUE

(A nice, short BBC round table on Satyajit Ray)

3/11: Postwar Japanese Cinema -  Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi, 1953)
Read: "Sansho the Bailiff: The Lessons of Sansho"by Mark Le Fanu & "Sansho the Bailiff" by Michael Sragow

3/18: African Cinema: Black Girl (Sembene, 1966)
Read: "Black Girl: Self, Possessed" by Ashley Clark

(Sembene: The Making of African Cinema)


4/1: New American Cinema - Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1978)

(Charles Burnett Receives Honorary Award 
at the 2017 Governors Awards)

4/8: Chinese Cinema - Ju Dou (Yimou, 2000)

("Director Zhang Yimou - Visionary of China's Past")

 Microtheme #2 Due

4/15: Danish Cinema: Dogville (Von Trier, 2003)

(Criswell: "Lars von Trier: Deconstructing Cinema")

("Lars von Trier: Making You Uncomfortable")

4/22: Iranian Cinema - The House is Black [see link below] (Farrokhzad, 1963) & Close Up (Kiarostami, 1990)
Watch: "Inside Iranian Cinema" (Watch all 3 Parts)
Also Watch:
(The House is Black, Farrokhzad, 1963)

4/29: Contemporary Korean Cinema - Parasite (Bong, 2019)

("Parasite: Perfecting Class Critique")

("Parasite's Perfect Montage" - Nerdwriter)

(Parasite's Ending Explained: Stairway to Nowhere")

5/6: Contemporary British Cinema - American Honey (Arnold, 2016)
Read: "American Honey's Silent Youth" by Richard Brody

("American Honey: Race on the Road")

("Andrea Arnold's Women in Landscapes")

Microtheme #3 DUE in my office (CART 228) by 5:00 pm on Thursday, May 14th

Microtheme Prompts:

Umberto D (Vittorio De Sica, 1952)

Explain how Umberto D (De Sica, 1952) conforms to the stylistic conventions of Italian Neo-Realism. As you respond, focus on one or two brief sequences that best illustrate this particular aesthetic.

Upon its release, Umberto D (De Sica, 1952) was criticized in Italy by the film critic Giulio Andreotti and other members of the Christian Democratic Party, who found the film to be "slandering Italy abroad" by "washing dirty linen in public." Of what social classes, institutions, or ideologies is Umberto D critical? Be very detailed in your response, focusing on specific scenes or sequences to illustrate your point.

Many critics of Umberto D (De Sica, 1952) have focused on how De Sica engages cinematically with time and shot duration as a means of revealing something "honest" and "truthful" about the way people experience their daily lives. Select one or two sequences that stand out to you as remarkable in their representation of time/duration and explain why De Sica may have found including such sequences as crucial for the particular narrative he is telling.

Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959)

Consider the many ways that Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959) plays with, comments upon, and violates Hollywood conventions in terms of genre, mise-en-scene, and editing (jump cuts). What does Godard accomplish through these references and deviations?

Discuss the significance of the narrative digressions in Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959) - e.g. the news conference at Orly, etc. Explain how these digressions may function in relation to some of the central narrative's major themes?

Where do our sympathies and points of identification lie in Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959)? With Michel or Patricia? With both? With neither? How might the film's cinematography and editing inform our identification with characters?

Many film critics argue that the history of film can be divided into two periods: Before Breathless and after Breathless. What might such a statement mean? How does Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959) reflect the time and place in which it was made? What aspects resonate as especially innovative or modern?

Jean-Luc Godard once remarked about Breathless (1959): "Although I felt ashamed of it at one time, I do like Breathless very much, but now I see where it belongs - alongside Alice in Wonderland. I thought it was Scarface." With which of the texts Godard mentions do you see Breathless as most resembling and why?

Discuss the ending of Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959). How do the film's final moments function in relation to recurring motifs and/or major themes explored throughout the work's entire running time? Cite specific examples.

Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)

Discuss Ingmar Bergman's cinematic style in Persona (1966). How does he make this largely two-person drama compelling? In the process, consider is alternation of long shots and close ups, his exploration of tonalities of black and white, his sparse use of non-diegetic music, his revisitation of crucial motifs, etc.

Discuss the motif of "masks" and/or the theme of "masking" in Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966).

What do you make of Persona's (Ingmar Bergman, 1966) opening sequence, with its images of a film projector, silent film footage, Christ's passion, the young boy and the morphing faces, etc.? Why do references the film's materiality play such an important role in the film, returning at several key moments?

Explore the relationship between Elisabet and Alma in Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966). How does this relationship change over the course of the film? Who exploits whom? Who "becomes" whom? Why are their faces juxtaposed at one point near the end of the film?

Explain how Gothic motifs inform Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966)? Why might Bergman have elected to include such conceits in the film? With what larger theme (or themes) or idea might these images intersect.

Discuss the motif of hands in Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966). How does this motif function in relation to the film's larger themes or ideas? 

Discuss Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966) as a meta-cinematic work that aims to deconstruct the art of narrative. 

Why might Ingmar Bergman have elected to title this film Persona? How does it relate to the film's narrative and thematic content? What does this film suggest about identity, the roles we play, and self we imagine ourselves to be? What does the film suggest about the function of art?

Ali, Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974) 

Ali, Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974) examines oppression and emotional violence. From what social and cultural spaces does this oppression towards Ali and Emmi originate? Are all of the oppressions external to the film's central couple? How might we understand Ali and Emmi as inflicting their own internal oppression and emotional violence upon one another?

Discuss Fassbinder's strategic use of mise-en-scene/cinematic staging in Ali, Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974). How, and to what ultimate purpose, does Fassbinder frame the action through the use vertical and horizontal forms (like columns, pipes, windows, door frames, etc.) to divide the characters and visually establish power relations? Select a specific scene (or two) that stand out in this regard and discuss how the shots are intended to impact the audience.

Discuss Fassbinder's strategic use of wide shots to amplify the central couple's isolation from their immediate society in Ali, Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974). Select a specific scene (or two) that stand out in this regard and discuss how the shots are intended to impact the audience.

In Ali, Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974), Fassbinder's consideration of racism is, like racism itself, far more complicated than it initially appears. Does Fassbinder's film offer any avenues for hope? What social or cultural dynamics allow for/facilitate the emergence or perpetuation of racist attitudes?

Charulata (Ray, 1964)

Discuss how Charulata (Ray, 1954) explores the role of women in modern society. To what extent is Charulata, as an educated Indian woman, expected to conform to a restricted domestic role? How are her intellectual and creative independence variably encouraged or discouraged throughout the course of the narrative?

Discuss how Charulata (Ray, 1954) investigates the limits of language as a mode of discourse/communication between humans. How might Ray's film suggest that language betrays us, ultimately limiting the potential of interpersonal communication? What ideas and/or emotions get expressed or fail to be conveyed, and why?

Select one of Charulata's (Ray, 1954) central characters and explain how Ray's cinematic style impacts what we learn about them. In the process, consider Ray's strategic use of mise-en-scene, including how and when he moves his camera, how he aligns the spectator's perspective with that of the characters', and how his editing impacts the action's flow and rhythm.

Select one brief sequence from Charulata (Ray, 1954) and analyze how shot composition, camera movement, and editing come together to create a particularly cinematic moment.

Discuss the Charulata's (Ray, 1954) closing scene, explaining in detail how Ray's directorial choices inform your understanding of the film's culminating action/encounter.

Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi, 1954)

Kenji Mizoguchi is often described as a filmmaker with a profound empathy for his victimized female characters. Discuss the depiction of Zushio's mother and of Anju, Zushio's sister. in Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi, 1954). How does Mizoguchi's filmmaking style guide us as we respond to the dimensions of their plight? In other words, how do we come to identify with them (or not)?

Explain how Mizoguchi uses sound in the form of either the soundtrack, or in the form of score music and/or specific musical cues in Sansho the Bailiff (1954). Carefully and critically dissect particular scene or sequences in detail as you illustrate your point.

Discuss how Kenji Mizoguchi lenses natural landscapes in Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi, 1954). How does he position his characters (figures) in relation to these landscapes to create moments of emotional expression? Explain the significance of the film's mise-en-scene in these moments, using a close reading of a specific scene or sequence to illustrate your point(s).

Discuss how Kenji Mizoguchi's long take aesthetic, coupled with a very mobile camera, functions as both a dominant formal strategy, as well as a means of engaging thematic or emotional depths, in Sansho the Bailiff (1954).

Black Girl (Sembene, 1966)

Compare Diouana's life before and after she moves to France. What is she like at the beginning of the film? What does she hope for? What is her life like in Dakar and how does it change when she moves to France? How, and why, does Diouana's personality change during her time in France?

Describe the French family who employ Diouana. Are they a happy family? Why or why not? How do the parents treat one another? How do they treat Diouana? What is the family's relationship to Senegal and Senegalese culture? How does their connection to Senegal inform their relationship with Diouana?

Where do you see children in this film? What kind of children do you see? What lessons do you think these children are learning from the adults around them?

Describe the professional and personal relationships between Diouana and her employers. What does the family expect from Diouana? What does Diouana expect from the family? Is this a fair relationship? What role do race, class, and nationality play in enforcing the power dynamics between Diouana and her employers?

Ousmane Sembene's Black Girl was made in 1966, but in many ways it remains relevant today. What do you think has changed since the 1960s in the experience of African immigrants to France? What has remained the same?Are there parallels with the experience of immigrants to the United States? 

Describe the sound in the film. What kind of dialogue do you hear? What is the effect of hearing Diouana’s thoughts? What does her voice sound like, compared with the other voices in the film? When do you hear music and what does it sound like? What role do you think music plays in telling this story? 

What is the symbolism of the mask that Diouana gives to her employers and that the boy wears in the final scene? What symbols and images of African culture appear in the film? What role do you think these symbols play in telling the film’s story? In what sense might one go so far as to argue that the mask is the central character in Black Girl?

What do you think are fillmmaker Ousmane Sembène’s views on postcolonial Senegalese politics? How does he express his views in the film? Do you think this lm has an underlying message, or is it simply telling a story? 

Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1978)

Discuss Killer of Sheep's (Burnett, 1977) visual and narrative style. In the process, you may want to consider questions like: How does the cinematography and the plot inform one another? Around what major events does Burnett's film develop, and in what way does this approach adhere to or violate the dominant paradigm of Hollywood-Style filmmaking? Of what films or cinematic traditions does Burnett's film most remind you and why? Cite specific scenes or sequences as you write.

Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1977) is frequently described as having a "Blue aesthetic." What do you make of this description? How does music function in this film? Cite specific scenes or sequences as you respond.

In his review of Killer of Sheep's (Burnett, 1977) long-anticipated re-release, the critic Dave Kehr describes Stan as both an "executioner" and a "victim." Having now watched the film, what do you make of this characterization? How do the scenes in the slaughterhouse relate to the rest of the film? Cite specific scenes or sequences to illustrate your points.

What role do children play in Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1977)? How does their world compare to that of the parents'? Cite specific scenes or sequences to support your argument.

Burnett saw Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1977) as a corrective of sorts to the way African Americans were depicted in US cinema, especially Hollywood and Blaxploitation films. How does Burnett depict his characters' daily lives? To what extent do they forge (or fail to maintain) meaningful connections with one another? Cite specific scenes or sequences in detail as you respond.

Ju Dou (Zhang Yimou, 1990)

Ju Dou is perhaps one of the most remarkable characters in film history; in fact, part of the controversy surrounding the release of this film arises from the ways she positions herself in relation to a very traditional and patriarchal culture.  Indeed, to label her role in this film as “complex” is somewhat of an understatement.   Why might her character have been so compelling (and, at times, scandalous) to global audiences?  How does Ju Dou mock, confound, resist or conform to traditional notions of patriarchal authority?   Given that this film was released in 1990, what might this film’s central gender conflicts suggest about modern values and cultural norms? 

Originally, the action in this film was to take place during the 1940s, but its setting was switched to the 1920s.  As such, its plot depicts attitudes that transcend its setting, speaking volumes to even the most contemporary of audiences.   How might the film’s characters and events function allegorically?  What might the impotent Old Man (Yang Jin-Shan) and his actions represent?  How do you understand both Ju Dou’s young lover/Jin-shan’s nephew (Tian-qing) and their son (Tian-bai) in relation to the old man? 

Many critics divide this film into three main “parts” – (1) the events that lead up to the Old Man’s injuries, (2) the portion of the film that chronicles the birth of Ju Dou’s son and the death of one of the lead characters, and (3) the final portions of the film that center upon the child and his development.  How appropriate is this division and why?  Are there any other ways we could understand or divide the film’s action or dramatic thrusts?  In what ways might this film remind you of texts from the Western literary, dramatic, or film tradition?  In what ways does this film differ from these same texts or traditions? 

Several film critics have described Ju Dou as a text in which politics and art intersect.  Rita Kemply of the Washington Post even went so far as to state that “[d]irected by…a maverick of China’s ‘new wave,’ this disturbing tragedy is as unexpectedly lurid in its way as [David Lynch’s] Blue Velvet.”  How does Zang Yimou’s direction - coupled with the film’s cinematography – elaborate upon, or contrast with, the film’s action and tone?  In the process, locate one or two strikingly visual scenes (moments in the film that had an emotional impact upon you) and explain why you felt that they were so effective. 

In the Mood for Love (Wong, 2000)

Discuss Wong Kar-Wai's visual style in In the Mood for Love (2000). In the process, explain the relationship between his visual approach and the film's narrative form and content.

How does Won Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (2000) depict time and its passage, both perceived and actual. Why does he employ the particular strategies (e.g. cinematic staging, wardrobe, the manipulation of film speed) when he does? In what sense do the characters occupy a "timeless" realm, and in what sense are they part of a specific historical moment?

Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (2000) is as much about what we don't see (or barely see) as it is about what we are overtly shown. Indeed, as Ms. Su states: "You cane see a lot if you pay attention." What elements does Wong Kar-Wai purposefully elide, and why might he have chosen to present his narrative in this fashion.

In classical Hollywood cinema, editing is largely valued if it remains "invisible." How does Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (2000) relate to this practice? Select one or two key moments from the film during which you became particularly aware of the film's editing style and explain how it/they impact the film's overall meaning(s).

Explain how Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (2000) integrates sound and image. Choose one or two key scenes/sequences and demonstrate how these two tracks work together to convey meaning or emotion.

Discuss the relationship between physical spaces (the film's representation of 1960s Hong Kong) and the characters' psychic and inter-personal spaces in Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (2000)? In other words, how does geography impact behavior? How might this tension inform the film's theme of intimacy and alienation? How does the film's visual and aural tapestry assist in this theme's development?

Discuss the motifs of repetition and rehearsal in Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (2000). How do these pre-occupations contribute to the film on a thematic level? 

Dogville (von Trier, 2003)

Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003) - the first film in his yet-to-be-completed USA trilogy, has been described by some critics as a scourging, though by no means undeserved, allegorical critique of the United States, while other film analysts (echoing Lars von Trier) argue that the film could have taken place anywhere. What do you think? What moments point out specific flaws in American ideology? What cultural or political critique(s), in other words, do you see this film advancing? What behaviors does the film condemn?

What leads the township of Dogville to act so unjustly towards Grace in Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003)? Is it simply fear, or is it fear combined with something else? What might this film suggest about the way that certain cultures treat "outsiders" and other "vulnerable" people seeking refuge?

Explain how Dogville's (von Trier) closing credit sequence and the song that accompanies is (David Bowie's "Young Americans") impact your understanding of some of the film's predominant themes?

Consider Grace's actions at the end of Dogville (von Trier, 2003). Explain what larger points or ideas Lars von Trier might be endeavoring to make? Do our sympathies shift - if only momentarily - during this moment...and if so, why? Cite specific details as you make your argument.

Discuss the film's look and tone, explaining the significance of the film's unusual staging, its hand-held cinematography, and its jump cut editing style. Why might Lars von Trier have elected to shoot his film in this fashion? Explain how these decisions impact our experience of the film and its message(s).

Explain the significance of the ceramic figurines in Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003). Why are they so important to Grace? What do they represent? What do they suggest about how we ascribe value, both inherent and symbolic, to things in late capitalist culture?

Explore Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003) as an allegory for integration in the United States, a nation of immigrants whose foreign and domestic policies are often, paradoxically, grounded in xenophobic, and racist preconceptions?

Discuss the title of Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003). What is Dogville? How do dogs function as a crucial motif on von Trier's film? Who are the dogs? Who are the masters? Why is Moses spared?

Several times in Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003), we see the community join together to practice democratic ideals in, of all places, a church. What really happens in these meetings? What do these moments suggest about the political process in the US? What motives inform the community's desire to either help or dehumanize a vulnerable outsider?

Close Up (Kiarostami, 1990)

What does abbas Kiarostami's Close Up (1990) suggest about the power of motion pictures? What does it suggest about celebrity (directors, actors) and the way we often treat them as heroes?

Abbas Kiarostami's Close Up (1990) confounds the boundaries between fiction and documentary filmmaking. How is this accomplished? What might this film suggest about the distinctions we draw between fiction films and documentaries? Explain.

What might Abbas Kiarostami's Close Up (1990) suggest about the roles we play in our daily lives to accomplish psychological ends? Do human beings "hide their true selves"? Explore how Close Up engages with this idea.

What scenes, even while replaying the past, also seem to comment on what happened, as if in retrospect? Why might Kiarostami has included these scenes?

This is Not a Film (Panahi, 2012)

Explain how Jafar Panahi's This is Not a Film (2011) engages the intersection between fiction and non-fiction/documentary filmmaking. How does Panahi's particular representation of reality explore themes like isolation, community, perseverance, and "place"?

The title of Jafar Panahi's This is Not a Film (2011) establishes an important question: what constitutes a "film," a "filmmaker," an "author," and a "director"? How does Jafar Panahi's This is Not a Film (2011) address these ideas? What does this work suggest about the relationship between an artist and her art? How does Jafar Panahi's This is Not a Film (2011) operate as a mode of aesthetic and social resistance?

The title of Jafar Panahi's This is Not a Film (2011) is inspired by the Rene Magritte's painting, "The Treachery of Images." What are the possible thematic (or maybe even meta-cinematic) implications of this connection? For those unfamiliar with the Magritte painting, here it is:

("The Treachery of Images," 1928-9) 

Parasite (Bong, 2019)

Compare and contrast the Park and Kim families. With what larger theme or themes might Bong be trying to engage through the juxtaposition of these two families? Does either family emerge in a favorable light?

Discuss Bong Joon Ho's Parasite (2019) as a film comprised of shifting/mutating tones or genres.

Explore the motif of doubles or doubling in Bong Joon Ho's Parasite (2019).

Why is the film titled Parasite? Who is/are the Parasite(s)? Who drains who? Who exploits who? Who survives by metaphorically feeding off of another person or persons?

American Honey (Arnold, 2016)

How does Andrea Arnold use music in American Honey (2016)? Which scenes with music, either diegetic or nondiegetic, are most impactful and why? How do the songs function symbolically or allegorically?

Animals are central to Andrea Arnold's cinema. Explain how Andrea Arnold deploys animal imagery metaphorically throughout American Honey (2016)? In a micro theme, discuss either:
     1) How, and for what ultimate purpose, does Andrea Arnold uses shots of animals either living freely or trapped/encaged; or,
      2) How. and for what ultimate purpose, does Andrea Arnold link particular characters with either specific animals or animalistic features/behaviors.

Explain how American Honey (Arnold, 2016) works as a coming-of-age narrative. How does Star develop or transform over the course of the film. What does she learn from her journey? How do we come to infer this change in her character?

Discuss American Honey (Arnold, 2016) as a critique of economic disparity in the contemporary United States.s How does the structure of the mag crew mirror this inequity? What behaviors or ideologies, if any, seem to travel across these social divides. Cite specific scenes or sequences to illustrate your claim(s).

Explain how Andrea Arnold uses landscapes (urban, suburban, natural) in American Honey (2016). As you write, discuss the impact/importance of such shots.

Analyze American Honey's (Arnold, 2016) closing scene. How does it work to bring the narrative to a close? What - if anything - resists closure?

Examine the theme of "dreams" in Andrea Arnold's social realist portrait of America, American Honey's (2016). What do the character's professed dreams and aspirations reveal about them and their  socio-economic position? What does this reveal about American dreams? Or even THE "American Dream."

Post Tenebras Lux (Reygadas, 2013)

Discuss the possible meaning(s) of the title, Post Tenebras Lux (Reygadas, 2012). As you do, explain how specific scenes (or series of scenes) contribute to, or perhaps illustrate, this/these meaning(s).

Discuss Post Tenebras Lux's unconventional narrative structure. Why might Reygadas have elected to tell this story in such a fashion? Of what other kinds of "storytelling" (think of "storytelling" in its most expansive sense) does this narrative remind you?

Explore the family at the center of Carlos Reygadas' Post Tenebras Lux (2012). What do you make of the complex dynamics between members of similar, and different, generations. What tensions or conflicts are present? What continuities do you notice?

What motifs and themes emerge throughout the course of this strange, lyrical narrative? How might we understand Reygadas' film as a work concerned with sensation, memory, dreams, vision, imagination?

Select and analyze a single scene or sequence that stands out to you as especially striking, unusual, troubling, or memorable. How does the scene relate to the central family's story? How does the scene work thematically?

Despite Post Tenebras Lux (2012) being booed at the Cannes Film Festival (a fate that has strangely befallen many works now considered masterpieces), Carlos Reygadas walked away with the award for best director. How does Reygadas direct his audience to view specific scenes or sequences from a very deliberate/particular perspective?

Discuss Post Tenebras Lux's (Reygadas, 2012) visual style. How do the film's optical effects impact our understanding (emotional or otherwise) of the film's action?