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Visual Storytelling: Cinema According to Hollywood's Masters
FILM 324
Summer 2013
Section: 01  

During Hollywood's studio era, popular cinema became a classical art defined by standards of unity, efficiency, and elegant coherence. Classical norms created a stable framework within which filmmakers could innovate; convention enabled creativity. This class explores the productive interplay of convention and creativity in classical cinema by taking up the work of four distinctive auteurs: Frank Borzage, John Ford, Vincente Minnelli, and Howard Hawks. Each director labored within popular genres designed for mass entertainment, but they built unique cinematic worlds. We will trace the specific strategies of film style and narration that defined each filmmaker's approach to cinema.
This is a class in historically informed formal analysis: the study of how and why films have been crafted and how and why they work on viewers. We will follow Wesleyan's Film as Art model that prioritizes images, sounds, and the choices available to filmmakers and stresses continuity between studies and production. The syllabus features essential viewing for any prospective filmmaker. Together, these films form the bedrock of a visual language for telling stories, shaping perception, and engaging viewers. Students will hone their visual sensitivity and develop their understanding of cinema as an audience-centered artistic practice. By adopting the perspective of filmmakers, we can understand the art.

The directors are selected for their aesthetic diversity and canonical pedigree. They demonstrate the breadth and variety of the Hollywood tradition. Borzage is celebrated for creating sumptuous, romantically charged worlds. Ford is best known for chiseling masculine stories out of the American West. Yet both spent formative years at Fox studios in the late 1920s, where they learned to distill dramatic situations into an intensely expressive visual style. Minnelli is best known for his artfully artificial musicals, but he also brought that formal beauty to drama, period film, and film noir. Hawks has been called the "most classical" of directors for his understated style, focused on sharp rhythms of dialogue and action in a cynical, hard-bitten world. We will seek each filmmaker's defining qualities while also placing them within the continuities of the studio era.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA FILM
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ENGL)(FILM)
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on APR-19-2014
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