Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Writing exercises and analyses using Film Art: An Introduction

When we first conceived the idea of a film music and sound textbook nine years ago, we modeled the work on David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson's Film Art: An Introduction, not only for its rare combination of high standards and clear presentation but also for its focus on film analysis. As Bordwell puts it,

[The book is] aimed at undergraduate students and general readers who want a comprehensive and systematic introduction to film aesthetics. It considers common types of films, principles of narrative and non-narrative form, basic film techniques, and strategies of writing about films. It also puts film art in the context of changes across history.  (description on website: link)
 Film Art is now in its 11th edition. With the various content transformations along the way, several short analyses were deleted, but David has generously posted them to his website (at the same link as the quote above). Here is the list of film titles, in reverse chronological order:
The Prestige. dir. Christopher Nolan, 2006.
Hannah and Her Sisters. dir. Woody Allen, 1985.
Desperately Seeking Susan. dir. Susan Seidelman, 1985.
Fuji. dir. Robert Breer, 1974.
Tout va bien. dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 1972.
High School. dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1968.
Innocence Unprotected. dir. Dušan Makavejev, 1968.
Last Year at Marienbad. dir. Alain Resnais, 1961.
A Movie. dir. Bruce Conner, 1958.
A Man Escaped. dir. Robert Bresson, 1956.
Day of Wrath. dir. Carl Dreyer, 1943.
Stagecoach. dir. John Ford, 1939.
Clock Cleaners. dir. Walt Disney, 1937.
The Man Who Knew Too Much. dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1934.
 Since each of these analyses was intended as a self-contained section within a chapter, we can look at them as models for student analysis and writing exercises, even if only one of them focuses on sound (and none on music). These essays will be immediately relevant to chapters 8 and 15 in Hearing the Movies, and the compare-contrast writing exercises in Chapters 8 and 10, of course, but may be useful elsewhere for readings, assignments, or background reading for student projects. Of course, many similar analyses in the current edition of Film Art can be used for the same purpose!