MISCELLANEOUS COURSE SYLLABI, EXERCISES, AND PAPER TOPICS FROM PROF. CARNEY’S CLASSES. THIS MATERIAL REPRESENTS ONLY A TINY SAMPLE OF THE AVAILABLE COURSE HANDOUTS, BUT IS PROVIDED TO GIVE AN IDEA OF HIS INTERESTS AND APPROACHES TO FILM AND THE OTHER ARTS.

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Spring 2007
COM FT 553 E1
Special Topics: The Films of Robert Bresson
Mr. Carney

Tues. 2–4 PM GCB 209 (Guitar Center Building)
Thurs. 2–5 PM Psy B 43 (Psychology Building)

Mr. Carney’s office hours (Room 223C)
Tues. 1:00–2:00 PM
Thurs. 1:00–2:00 PM
Tues. 5:15 – 5:45 PM
Thurs. 5 – 5:30 PM
and by arrangement

Tel: 353–5976

Teaching Assistant: Suzy Quinn

TA Office hours: Wed. 12–1 PM (Room 223C)

===================================

Required reading:

James Quandt, Robert Bresson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). Available in the bookstore

Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematographer (Green Integer). Available in the bookstore

Essays and readings distributed in class

=============================

Course description: A survey of the major work of Robert Bresson, one of the five or six greatest cinematic artists of the twentieth-century. Films to be screened include: Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, Diary of a County Priest, A Man Escaped, Pickpocket, The Trial of Joan of Arc, Au Hazard Balthazar, Mouchette, Femme Douce, Four Nights of a Dreamer, Lancelot of the Lake, The Devil, Probably, and L'Argent.

We will study interviews with Bresson and discuss his seminal and enigmatic Notes on the Cinematographer.

=============================

CLASS SCHEDULE

Tues.

Jan. 16

Introduction

Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne

Thurs.

Jan. 18

Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne

Tues.

Jan. 23

Diary of a County Priest

Exercise due: Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne

Thurs.

Jan. 25

Diary of a County Priest

Tues.

Jan. 30

A Man Escaped

Exercise due: Diary of a County Priest

Thurs.

Feb. 1

A Man Escaped

Tues.

Feb. 6

Pickpocket

Exercise due: A Man Escaped

Thurs.

Feb. 8

Pickpocket

Tues.

Feb. 13

The Trial of Joan of Arc (Location TBA)

Exercise due: A Man Escaped

Thurs.

Feb. 15

The Trial of Joan of Arc (Location TBA)

Tues.

Feb. 20

*** No class – Substitute Monday schedule ***

Thurs.

Feb. 22

Au Hazard Balthazar

Tues.

Feb. 27

Au Hazard Balthazar

Thurs.

Mar. 1

Mouchette

Exercise due: Au Hazard Balthazar

Tues.

Mar. 6

Mouchette

Thurs.

Mar. 8

Overview/summary/conclusions

Paper due.

March

12– 18

*** Spring Break ***

Tues.

Mar. 20

Femme Douce

Thurs.

Mar. 22

Femme Douce

Exercise due.

Tues.

Mar. 27

Femme Douce

Thurs.

Mar. 29

Four Nights of a Dreamer (Location TBA)

Tues.

Apr. 3

Four Nights of a Dreamer (Location TBA)

Thurs.

Apr. 5

Lancelot of the Lake

Tues.

Apr. 10

Lancelot of the Lake

Exercise due

Thurs.

Apr. 12

Lancelot of the Lake

Tues.

Apr. 17

The Devil, Probably

Thurs.

Apr. 19

The Devil, Probably

Exercise due

Tues.

Apr. 24

L'Argent

Thurs.

Apr. 26

L'Argent

Tues.

May 1

L'Argent

Paper due.

Thurs.

May 3

Conclusions and reflections

====================================

The Rules of the Game:

Attendance is required. Attendance will be taken. (If you are unable to make a class for an exceptional reason, you must speak to the T.A. at least one class prior to the absence and receive permission.) Please do not leave messages on my office machine or email me about absences. Each absence that is not officially approved and authorized will result in your final evaluation being lowered.

Promptness at all classes is absolutely mandatory to avoid disrupting screenings and discussions.

When you enter the classroom, please have already attended to personal needs (medications, rest room visits, drinks of water, eating, needs to smoke, use of your cell phone or PDA, etc.) to avoid disrupting the class. Note also that your presence is just as important when a film is being screened as it is during a discussion or lecture. You should not “step out” to make a call or do something else during a screening. Whenever possible, I will schedule a 5–minute break at the halfway point in the class.

You will have two major outside–of–class duties/responsibilities:

1) You are responsible for writing several formal papers. Topics will be discussed and distributed during the course of the semester, based on subjects that come up in class discussions (or subjects that we do not have time to deal with adequately in class). No extensions may be given.

2) You are responsible for a number of outside reading and viewing assignments and writing exercises which will be assigned during class, usually for completion by the next class. Many of these assignments will involve quick turn–arounds of material handed out in the previous class. Many will require viewing tapes in the viewing area of Mugar Library. Some of these exercises will be collected on the day they are due, others will not. However, all exercises should be retained in a folder throughout the semester and turned in at the end of the semester.

With regard to the preceding duties: Note that the screening schedule and exercise due dates on the syllabus are subject to change without notice. If you miss a class, come in late, or leave early, be certain you have contacted the teaching assistant or another student to familiarize yourself with what has been handed out or assigned for the following class. These daily and weekly assignments will be an important component of your final grade and must be done in time for the appropriate class since they will often be the basis for class discussion. There will be no opportunity to make up this work if it is not done when it is assigned. No extensions may be given.

Any wit, wisdom, and passion you bring to class discussion will count as “extra credit” to raise your grade. The reverse is also true: Missed classes, tardiness, inattentiveness during screenings, and lackluster class participation will lower your grade.

A general point: Be expressively brave. Use your exercises, papers, and class comments to formulate and test new ideas. Consciousness does not precede expression.

There will be no mid–term or final exam. Your final evaluation will be based on your class participation and attentiveness, your exercises, and your papers.

==================================

FT554E1
Films of Robert Bresson
Mr. Carney

Paper # 1

Describe four stylistics strangenesses in Au Hasard Balthazar. Devote at least a paragraph to each of them, and if possible a second paragraph to their effect.

There are three copies of the film on reserve at Mugar.

Due Date: February 22 in class.

No extensions will be granted.

Paper length: 3-5 pages (double-spaced)

==================================

FT554E1
Films of Robert Bresson
Mr. Carney

Paper # 2

Read through Robert Bresson’s Notes on Cinematography and pick fifteen (or more) aphorisms that you believe throw light on one or more of the films we have discussed in class or are connected with one or more of these films in some way. To the extent possible, arrange the aphorisms into a smaller number of related conceptual “groups” or “categories.” Once you have done this, write a well–organized paper in which you type out the text of each of the aphorisms or groups of aphorisms you have chosen, followed by your presentation of an argument about how and why a specific event, scene, or aspect of the one or more of the films we have viewed is related to that aphorism or group of aphorisms or illustrates it.

Extra credit will be given for going beyond the obvious, beyond the tried and true, beyond the points, the scenes, and the characteristics of Bresson’s work we have already discussed in class.

Due Date: March 20 at the start of class

No extensions will be granted.

Paper length: 3-5 pages (double-spaced)


Spring 2007
COM FT 533 A1 (undergraduates)
COM FT FT723A1 (grad. students)
American Independent Film
Mr. Carney

Room B5

9:00–11:30 AM Tues. and Thurs.

Mr. Carney’s office hours (Room 223C)
Tues. 1:00–2:00 PM
Thurs. 1:00–2:00 PM
Tues. 5:15 – 5:45 PM
Thurs. 5 – 5:30 PM
and by arrangement

Tel: 353–5976

Teaching Assistant: Robert Ribera

TA Office hours: TBA

==================================

Required reading:

Edward Jay Epstein, The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood (New York: Random House, 2005). Available in the bookstore

Essays and readings handed out in class

=============================

In the past five decades, American feature filmmaking has seen the birth and flowering of one of the greatest movements in the history of film: the off-Hollywood filmmaking movement.

This course will consider a small number of alternatives to commercial Hollywood “entertainment” moviemaking. The concept of “art film” and the difference between art and entertainment will be explored.

A number of lesser known works will be screened, all made more or less outside “the system.” We will consider the work of the following filmmakers: Morris Engel, Lionel Rogosin, John Cassavetes, Milton Moses Ginsberg, Shirley Clarke, John Korty, James Ivory, Robert Kramer, Barbara Loden, Mark Rappaport, Bruce Conner, Su Friedrich, Todd Haynes, Jay Rosenblatt, and one or more contemporary figures.

==================================

CLASS SCHEDULE

Tues.

Jan. 16

Introduction

Morris Engel, The Little Fugitive, Lovers and Lollipops, Weddings and Babies

Thurs.

Jan. 18

Morris Engel, Lovers and Lollipops

Reading: Denby

Tues.

Jan. 23

Rogosin, On the Bowery

Reading: Roundtable discussion

Thurs.

Jan. 25

Have viewed in Mugar: John Cassavetes, Shadows

Reading: Epstein, chapters 6 – 9

Tues.

Jan. 30

Cassavetes, Faces

Reading: Epstein, 10–11

Have viewed in Mugar: John Cassavetes, Husbands

Thurs.

Feb. 1

Cassavetes, Faces

Reading: Epstein, 12–14

Tues.

Feb. 6

Milton Moses Ginsberg, Coming Apart

Reading: Epstein, 1–3

Thurs.

Feb. 8

Shirley Clarke, Portrait of Jason

Reading: Epstein, 4–5

Tues.

Feb. 13

James Ivory, Shakespeare Wallah

Reading: Epstein, pp. 15–18

Thurs.

Feb. 15

James Ivory, Bombay Talkie

Reading: Epstein, 19–21

Tues.

Feb. 20

*** No class – Substitute Monday schedule ***

Thurs.

Feb. 22

Barbara Loden, Wanda

Reading: Epstein, 22–26

Have viewed on your own: Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde

Tues.

Feb. 27

Robert Kramer, Ice

Reading: Epstein, 27

Have viewed in Mugar: Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool

Thurs.

Mar. 1

Robert Kramer, Ice

Have viewed in Mugar: Paul Morrissey’s Flesh

Tues.

Mar. 6

Robert Kramer, Milestones

Reading: Epstein, 28–29

Have viewed in Mugar: Midnight Cowboy

Thurs.

Mar. 8

Robert Kramer, Milestones

Reading: Epstein, Epilogue and Afterword

March

12– 18

*** Spring Break ***

Tues.

Mar. 20

Mark Rappaport, Local Color

Have viewed in Mugar: Mark Rappaport’s Casual Relations

Thurs.

Mar. 22

Mark Rappaport, Local Color

Tues.

Mar. 27

Mark Rappaport, Scenic Route

Have viewed in Mugar: Mark Rappaport’s Chain Letters

Thurs.

Mar. 29

Mark Rappaport, Scenic Route

Tues.

Apr. 3

Mark Rappaport, Rock Hudson’s Home Movies

Have viewed in Mugar: Mark Rappaport’s Imposters

Thurs.

Apr. 5

Bruce Conner, Ten Second Film, Vivian, White Rose, Looking for Mushrooms, Cosmic Ray, Permian Strata, Mongoloid, A Movie, Take the 5:10 to Dreamland, Valse Triste, Marilyn X5, Report, Breakaway

Tues.

Apr. 10

Su Friedrich, Sink or Swim

Thurs.

Apr. 12

Su Friedrich, The Rules of the Road

Have viewed Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends

Tues.

Apr. 17

Todd Haynes, Safe

Thurs.

Apr. 19

Todd Haynes, Safe

Tues.

Apr. 24

Rodrigo Garcia, Nine Lives

Thurs.

Apr. 26

Rodrigo Garcia, Nine Lives

Tues.

May 1

Tom Noonan, What Happened Was

Thurs.

May 3

Tom Noonan, What Happened Was

Conclusions and reflections

===================================

The Rules of the Game:

Attendance is required. Attendance will be taken. (If you are unable to make a class for an exceptional reason, you must speak to the T.A. at least one class prior to the absence and receive permission.) Please do not leave messages on my office machine or email me about absences. Each absence that is not officially approved and authorized will result in your final evaluation being lowered.

Promptness at all classes is absolutely mandatory to avoid disrupting screenings and discussions.

When you enter the classroom, please have already attended to personal needs (medications, rest room visits, drinks of water, eating, needs to smoke, use of your cell phone or PDA, etc.) to avoid disrupting the class. Note also that your presence is just as important when a film is being screened as it is during a discussion or lecture. You should not “step out” to make a call or do something else during a screening. Whenever possible, I will schedule a 5–minute break at the halfway point in the class.

You will have two major outside–of–class duties/responsibilities:

1) You are responsible for writing a number of formal papers. Topics will be discussed and distributed during the course of the semester, based on subjects that come up in class discussions (or subjects that we do not have time to deal with adequately in class). No extensions may be given.

2) You are responsible for a number of outside reading, writing, and viewing assignments which will be promulgated during class, usually for completion by the next class. Many of these assignments will involve quick turn–arounds of material handed out in the previous class. Many will require viewing tapes of independent films in the viewing area of Mugar Library. Some of these exercises will be collected on the day they are due, others will not. However, all exercises should be retained in a folder throughout the semester and turned in at the end of the semester.

With regard to the preceding duties: Note that the screening schedule and exercise due dates on the syllabus are subject to change without notice. If you miss a class, come in late, or leave early, be certain you have contacted the teaching assistant or another student to familiarize yourself with what has been handed out or assigned for the following class. These daily and weekly assignments will be an important component of your final grade and must be done in time for the appropriate class since they will often be the basis for class discussion. There will be no opportunity to make up this work if it is not done when it is assigned. No extensions may be given.

Any wit, wisdom, and passion you bring to class discussion will count as “extra credit” to raise your grade. The reverse is also true: Missed classes, tardiness, inattentiveness during screenings, and lackluster class participation will lower your grade.

A general point: Be expressively brave. Use your exercises, papers, and class comments to formulate and test new ideas. Consciousness does not precede expression.

There will be no mid–term or final exam. Your final evaluation will be based on your class participation and attentiveness, your exercises, and your papers.

============================

Spring 2007
American Independent Film
Mr. Carney

Tracking the popularity and commercial success of an independent film.

Pick one of the titles on our screening list and work up a single page “report” on its commercial success and popular reception. The following seven categories and sets of items must be researched and covered in your report, even if all you do is say that there is no information available on a given item. (But don’t limit yourself to these items if you find out other things.)

1. Track the pre–release history: How hard was it to get the film financed? How big was its budget? Did it encounter any problems or delays being produced? Did the filmmaker attempt to get distribution? Did he or she receive it? What did the distributor contribute? When the film was completed, did it play at major festivals? Minor festivals? Was it well–received? Did it win awards and generate “buzz”? How much press coverage was generated at each of these stages?

2. Track the release history: What theaters did the film play at? How many, how big, and where? How long did it run? (Variety sometimes has release information. Ads in the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and other major newspapers can tell you more.) Does the film “grow” or “die” in popularity? Interviews with the filmmaker sometimes discuss this. How much was written about it?

3. Track the box office receipts. Variety sometimes has the numbers. Filmmakers sometimes talk about this in interviews (though they tend to “accentuate the positive”). Even without either of the preceding bits of information, doing the math based on the length and breadth of the run can allow you to make an intelligent “guess–timate” on its revenues.

4. Track the review history. How widely was the film reviewed? Where was it reviewed? Were the reviews positive, negative, or mixed? What, in the view of reviewers, are the filmmaker’s strengths or weaknesses?

5. Track the award history. Did the film win any awards – festival, professional, national, international?

6. Track the ‘influence” of the film? Was (is) it cited on “ten best” lists, “best of the year” lists, etc.? Is it mentioned by other filmmakers as an influence on their work? Is it mentioned frequently in recent film reviews, articles, essays?

7. Track the film’s post–release history: Does the film currently play on cable or network television? Often? Ever? What times and frequency? What is its video history?

============================

Spring 2007
American Independent Film
Mr. Carney

Paper #1: Loden’s Wanda and Kitsch/Enbourgeoisement/ /Safe Danger

It’s in the nature of capitalism that it finds ways to market even the most dangerous or subversive cultural observations and impulses. Many of the works that we are considering this semester have ghostly doubles with the so-called “New Hollywood” movement of the 1960s and 1970s. But while true independent works (the films we are focusing on) might be said to be devoted to excavating dangerous or subversive energies and forms of experience, the studio-funded and studio-released products of the “New Hollywood” movement involved making these energies and forms palatable – and profitable -- by taming, softening, or controlling them in various ways.

From this perspective, compare and contrast Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde with Barbara Loden’s Wanda. No direct connection (e.g. of “influence” or “indebtedness”) should be assumed. Base your argument exclusively on your own personal observations and critical insights.

Length: 3 pages (double-spaced)

Due: Tuesday Feb. 27 at the start of class. No extensions may be granted.

============================

Spring 2007
American Independent Film
Mr. Carney

Paper #3: The work of understanding: Robert Kramer’s Milestones

Making your way through a long film like Kramer’s Milestones is a little like driving across a continent, or through a strange city, without a map. You not only have to figure out where you are at any one moment, but, even more importantly, have to understand how it fits “into the big picture.” One of the reasons Hollywood movies are organized around small groups of main characters and have such simple, achievement–oriented plots (do this to get that, answer this question to solve that problem, etc.), is that this method of organization radically simplifies experience, and simplifies the viewing process. A viewer can almost always tell where he or she is in the film (in the beginning, middle, or near the end), what problems still need to be solved, what remains to be done by the characters, and where the whole thing is headed. Kramer presents a slightly more challenging viewing experience.

Your task in this paper is to describe how he organizes his film. Milestones is not merely a random or haphazard series of conversations and interactions among people who know each other. It has a structure. It has a shape. How is the work organized? How are things presented? What connections or disconnections link, compare, or contrast various scenes? Do these linkages “add up” or “cumulate” or “comment on” each other in any way? How? When? Where? Why? To what purpose? With what vision of life?

Talk generally but be sure to cite specific examples to illustrate your argument.

Length: 3 pages (double-spaced)

Due: Tuesday, March 20, at the start of class. No extensions may be granted.

============================

Spring 2007
American Independent Film
Mr. Carney

“Quickie Paper” Topic

Narrative film is really only a tiny rivulet
in the vast stream of artistic expression.”

Su Friedrich’s Sink or Swim consists of a series of apparently disjointed episodes and images. They do not tell a seamless story like a Hollywood feature. Yet they are not randomly chosen or casually assembled. Each of the sections relates to, connects with, or comments on another section or sections. They progress with a very definite structure. This is what is called the “formal organization” of the film.

Your task is to describe how Sink or Swim is “formally organized.” Without merely repeating the “plot” (skip it), talk about how Su Friedrich controls what we know, when we know it, how we know it, and what it means in the course of the film.

Some issues to consider (but do not limit yourself to these questions):

  • How do the film’s three components (the images, the voice–over narrations, and the alphabetic headings) comment on and relate to each other?

  • What episode follows what other episode? What precedes what? Are individual sections compared, contrasted, or juxtaposed with the sections that precede or follow them?

  • Is there a progression of meaning, tone, or attitude? I.e. Do earlier episodes have a different feel from ones in the middle or near the end of the film?

  • Do certain references (in the sound or images) repeat in the course of the film? What is the effect of the repetitions? Is there a progression?

Due at the start of class: Thursday, April12

Length: two or thee pages double–spaced and typed

============================

Spring 2007
American Independent Film
Mr. Carney

“The mystery of life is not the invisible but the visible.”

Paper topic: The sounds beneath the sense

View Tom Noonan’s What Happened Was. Pick a five– to eight–minute scene from anywhere in the film after the two characters are present together and discuss how the relationship of the characters is dramatized through tones of voice, facial expressions, pauses, gestures, movements, etc.. Be detailed and specific in your observations.

A piece of advice: Please try to avoid “reading minds” (“doing psychology”) as much as possible. Describe and comment on specific visible and audible events as they are played out in the actors’ body language and gestures, voice–tones, silences or pauses, and facial or other expressions. Analyze them. Interpret them. Generalize about their effect on our understanding of the characters and the meaning of the film.

Multiple copies of the film are available in Mugar Library.

Length: 3 double–spaced, typed pages (for undergraduates and graduate production students). For film studies grad students: Write an extra page (viz. write not a 3– but a 4–page paper) in which you discuss the difference between “an actor’s cinema” and “a director’s cinema.” This may be done as a separate page at the end of your paper, or may be integrated into the rest of your argument, adding an extra page to its length. (Others may do this for extra credit.)

Due at the beginning of class, Tuesday, May 1. No extensions may be granted.


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© Text Copyright 2007 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.