Please choose ONE of the following prompts and indicate which prompt you have chosen in the header of your paper along with your name and the section of the course for which you are registered.
Prompt #1: Mulvey’s Three Looks in Rear Window or Kiss Me Deadly
Using the articles by Mulvey and Cowie as a guide, analyze the organization of looks in a single scene from either Rear Window or Kiss Me Deadly. You should pick a scene that we have not discussed in class. First, explain each of the three looks and Mulvey’s primary thesis about how they are typically organized in classical Hollywood cinema. Then analyze at how these looks do or do not align in the scene. Are the looks organized in the way that Mulvey would have us expect from a classical Hollywood film? Your analysis should include use of the vocabulary from the first half of the course. In analyzing the system of looks, you will need to describe the editing patterns, the use of point-of-view, sound perspective, lighting, etc. Where is the camera positioned? Whose point of view are we seeing? Does the scene give us the optical point view of any character (be as clear as you can about the difference between a point of view shot and an optical point of view shot)? Remember that sound is also an important tool for implying point of view.
Prompt #2: Realism in Bicycle Thieves
André Bazin claims that the kind of long take, deep focus style that became prominent in post-war cinema was a “dialectical step forward” in the history of film form. As briefly and clearly as you can, explain what he means by this (you should spend no more than one paragraph on this). Then take a close look at a single scene (one that we did not discuss in class) from Bicycle Thieves and discuss how this realist style works. Does the scene employ long takes? Deep focus and deep staging? How does this affect our experience of the scene? What expressive power does the filmmaker gain by shooting the scene in this way? Is Bazin right to claim that this style gives the spectator more freedom? Or does this neorealist film rely on continuity techniques more than Bazin is willing to admit?
Prompt #3: Art Cinema and Third World Cinema in To Sleep With Anger
Both Bordwell and Gabriel describe modes of narration that differ in significant ways from classical Hollywood. Take a look at a single scene from To Sleep With Anger and discuss one or two ways that the scene demonstrates the norms of either “”art cinema”” as Bordwell describes it, or “”third world cinema”” as Gabriel describes it. Be as specific as possible, and make sure that you discuss the film’s style in addition to its narrative form. If you are focusing on narrative form, make sure you mention how specific stylistic devices are involved in telling the story. Does the film use continuity editing or longer, slower takes? Is the lighting highly stylized or natural? How is the sound motivated? Some of you wrote very detailed responses to the last quiz, and you are encouraged to expand on your ideas from that assignment if you wish. If you do go this route and want to discuss your quiz with me, please send me an email.
Prompt #4: Modes of Documentary in Grizzly Man
Pick a scene from Grizzly Man that was not discussed in class and analyze the ways that it uses the conventions of the different documentary modes that we discussed. Of all of the modes of documentary listed by Saunders, which do you believe most accurately fits the scene in question? Consider the following elements: How is the camera placed within the scene? Does the scene play out in a single take? Does the scene utilize continuity editing? Is it shot mostly in long shots, medium shots, or close-ups? What kinds of sound does the film use (onscreen, offscreen, diegetic, non-diegetic, etc.)? How does the film position (1) the audience in relation to the subjects of the scene; (2) the filmmaker in relation to the subjects in the scene; (3) the filmmaker in relation to the audience? Does the filmmaker intervene in the scene? If so, how? Be as specific as you can and avoid giving overviews of the entire film.
Prompt #5: Parody of Documentary in The Office
In class I mentioned that The Office parodies conventions of the observational mode of documentary. For this prompt, first briefly describe what is meant by the “observational mode” of documentary according Saunders (you can also refer to the lecture and lecture slides on this point). Then pick a single, short scene from an episode of The Office and show how it utilizes these conventions. You should pay close attention to the following features of the scene: (1) Editing techniques; (2) Camera placement and movement (Does it use handheld camera movements? Camera placement within the scene?); (3) The “filmmakers’” position within the scene (4) Sound (diegetic, non-diegetic, onscreen, offscreen, etc.). In the header of your paper, please be sure to include the season and the episode number (e.g., “season 4, episode 12”) so that I can find the scene you are discussing.
Prompt #6: Genre Conventions in A Star is Born
Compare the endings of the two versions of A Star is Born and discuss the ways in which the most recent version adds elements of the musical to the melodrama conventions of the 1937 film. What elements do both endings share? What elements does the most recent version leave out? How does the most recent version use these genre conventions to arouse emotional responses? To answer these questions, you should refer to the discussion of the musical genre in the textbook and to the elements of the melodrama that were discussed in the lecture. Because this prompt is more broad than the others, you will need to narrow your focus to just a few elements. Although you will have to say something about how the scenes fit in with overall structure of each film, you should refrain from giving plot summaries and focus only on those aspects of the film’s narrative that most important for your analysis.
Prompt #7: Sound in Rear Window
Pick a single scene from Rear Window that we did not discuss in class and analyze its use of sound. First describe the sources of each sound in the scene (diegetic, non-diegetic, onscreen, offscreen). Then describe how these sounds operate in the scene. Does the scene begin with a sound bridge? Does it use overlapping dialogue? Are most of the sounds compositionally motived? What kinds of narrative information do they supply? Or are some of them realistically motivated to provide us a better sense of the space in which the scene takes place? Are there sounds that are motivated in other ways? How does the scene use sound perspective? Is the sound used to convey a character’s point of view? How is sound used to produce an emotional response in the audience? Are there any offscreen sounds whose source we never see (“acousmatic” sounds)? If so, what effect does this have on our understanding of the scene? You do not have to answer all of these questions, but you should use them as a guide as you make your argument about how you think sound functions in the scene you have chosen.”