Possible themes you could write about:
- the counter-culture (sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll)
- non-violence vs. violent militancy
- politics/activism as “theater and magic” (as spectacle)
- realism vs. fiction in documentaries
- anti-capitalism/anti-white supremacy/anti-war
- role of media (TV) in protest
For our in-class writing tonight, on the three avant-garde films we saw this week, write about one or more of the important themes in one or more of the films. Below are some suggestions, in terms of themes.
An Andalusian Dog: Sexual development, the role society plays in repressing healthy sexual development, the aftermath of World War I, the corrupting influence of popular culture, particularly in films.
Meshes of the Afternoon: Dreams states and the unconscious, the unstable border between dream and reality, feminine empowerment (and/or repression), suicide.
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story: The corrupting power of celebrity, the counter-counterculture of the 1970s, (particularly in music), impossible feminine physical ideals (feminism), evils of consumerism.
Here are some of the compelling themes you can write about in your in-class writing exercise.
1. Torture. Zero Dark Thirty was controversial when it first came out because many viewers and reviewers thought that it showed that torture “worked.” Without making an argument, describe how you think torture was represented in the film.
2. 9/11 and the War on Terror. The film shows that the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 was an important motivator for those seeking to capture Osama Bin Laden. It was also what turned this search into a mission of vengeance, at any cost.
3. Feminism. Zero Dark Thirty is a film directed by a woman, with a woman as the central character. Yet it is an action film, not a genre known for its feminism.
4. Journalism. Many have touted the film for its journalistic realism and objectivity. But are there cracks in this veneer of realism (that is, is it just a veneer)?
5. Genre-mash up. Your textbook authors discussed Kathryn Bigelow as someone who drew upon multiple genre traditions when she directed The Hurt Locker (primarily the melodrama and action genres). Is this true of Zero Dark Thirty?
6. Artistic use of form. Like most auteurs, Bigelow makes brilliant use of the formal elements of film: acting, mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, and sound. Write about the element that you thought was especially significant in Zero Dark Thirty.
The themes of Weekend deal a lot with the social context of the film. Feel free to write about the themes that you noted while watching the film. Here are some things to think about for your writing this week.
Violence. We see a lot of fake violence in the film (done to people), but some real violence too (animals). Describe the different kinds of violence in the film (and why they are different).
Class conflict. Working class vs. bourgeoisie; class war and ideology. But it’s not necessarily clear what side (if any) in the conflict the film takes.
Anti-imperial struggle. This is mostly in the form of speeches recited in the film in support of the independence struggles in Algeria and Congo. Again, it could be argued that the extreme didacticism of this material is meant to alienate the audience (making them critical of the pro-Algerian and pro-Congolese struggles).
High art vs. low art. The film mostly speaks for “low” art (for mass audiences), over high art (classical painting, music, film-making). But this is not so clear-cut either.
Or you could focus on how the film shows one of the three main qualities of the French New Wave:
As usual, you’ll want to write about one or more of the themes from the film. In general, the themes of Far From Heaven constellate around three major ideologies:
1. Bourgeois supremacy (capitalism, class conflict)
2. Male supremacy
3. White supremacy
4. Heterosexism (heterosexual supremacy)
You can take it from there.
Possible themes you could examine in your in-class writing:
1. independence vs. involvement (Rick)
2. isolationism vs. intervention (WWII)
3. American tolerance vs. European intolerance (Strasser and Ferrari)
4. Democracy vs. fascism
5. Gender roles: masculine and feminine conventions in genre film
For your first paper, you will examine how a single formal film element works in a particular scene in one of the films we’ve seen in the first half of the course.
That is, you will discuss how Acting, Mise-en-scène, Cinematography, Editing OR Sound Design works in ONE scene from The Great Train Robbery, The Pale Face, Go West, Adaptation, Giant, The Shining, Citizen Kane, Psycho, OR Apocalypse Now.
For this writing exercise, I would like for you to write me a paragraph with your preliminary thoughts about the film AND the formal film element you plan on writing about.