Prof: Paul Watkins
Location: 200.203
Class Hours: Wednesday 5:30-8:45 pm
Office Hours: Tuesday 3:00-5:00 pm or by Appointment

 “[T]he camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.”

Susan Sontag

Film is a language of ideas and it is images and ideas that excite us when we watch a film in the dark. ENGL 398 provides an extended look into cinema as a unique medium of art with a particular focus on cinematography and sound. We will, of course, consider other film elements, such as editing. In addition, we will consider concepts such as the cinematic gaze, voyeurism, and “pure cinema” as we watch films from around the world. We will discuss how we derive visual pleasure from looking at films (Laura Mulvey’s influential “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” will guide our early conversations) and we will explore themes such as the gaze and voyeurism (scopophilia), visual representation, and the political dimensions of various films. Finally, this course examines the persistent influence of cinema by placing films into conversation with one another. We will look at classics like Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), as well as modern films such as Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016) and Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019). The course will include screenings of required films (with recommended home viewings), film theory, forum discussions, two film reviews, a film project, and a research essay. The course will mix in-person instruction and viewings with lectures and articles on VIULearn. I look forward to an exciting semester with you!

Free Introductory Film Texts:


  • Participation 10%
  • Two Short Film Reflections (500 words each) 30%
  • Film Project with Proposal 20%
  • Annotated Bibliography with Intro 10%
  • Research Essay (1750-2000 words) 30%

See the full syllabus for a detailed breakdowns of assignments. 

Please note that this schedule is subject to change as the term progresses. 
Aim to complete all recommended viewings before the scheduled class.

Introduction to Film Studies

Week 1: Jan 12
Viewing: Chris Marker, La Jetée (1962 | 28 min) [Kanopy]
Video Lecture: Principles of Film Form

Unit 1: Silent Film: Early Innovators of Film Form

Week 2: Jan 19
Viewing: Dziga Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera (1929 | 68 min) [Kanopy]
Recommended Viewings: Alice Guy-Blaché, The Cabbage Fairy (1896); Georges Méliès, A Trip to the Moon (1902); Lois Weber, “Suspense” (1913)
Reading: Turvey, “Can the Camera See?”; Gunning, “A Trip to the Moon”

Week 3: Jan 26   
Viewing: Carl Theodor Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928 | 81 min) [Kanopy]
Recommended Viewing: Sergei Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin (1925 | Part Four “Odessa Steps”) [Criterion on Demand]
Reading: Nichols, “Film Form and Revolution”; Larson, “Risen from the Ashes”

Unit 2: The Cinematic Gaze, Voyeurism, and Pure Cinema

Week 4: Feb 2
Viewing: Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (1958 | 128 min)
Recommend Viewing:  David Lynch, Mulholland Drive (2001 | 146 min) [rent]
Reading: Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” 

Also see: “Visual ‘Drive’ and Cinematic Narrative: Reading Gaze Theory in Lacan, Hitchcock, and Mulvey” (Manlove) and “In the Gallery of the Gaze” (Jacobs); Vernon Shetley, “The Presence of the Past: Mulholland Drive against Vertigo”; Hitchcock on “Pure cinema”
Film Reflection 1 Due

Video Essay 1: “How Lynch Manipulates You
Video Essay 2: “Mulholland Drive Explained

Week 5: Feb 9
Viewing: Wong Kar-Wai, In the Mood for Love (2000 | 98 min) [Kanopy]
Recommended Viewing: Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) [Kanopy]
Reading: Tony Hughes-d’Aeth, “Psychoanalysis and the Scene of Love: Lars and the Real GirlIn the Mood for Love, and Mulholland Drive” 

Week 6: Feb 16
Viewing: Jane Campion, The Piano (1993 | 117 min) [Criterion on Demand]
Recommended Viewing: Julie Dash, Daughters of the Dust [Criterion Channel or Rent]
Reading: Attwood, “Weird Lullaby”; Pacharee Sudhinaraset, “‘We Are Not an Organically City People”: Black Modernity and the Afterimages of Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust”; Caroline Brown, “The Representation of the Indigenous Other in Daughters of the Dust and The Piano

VIDEO ESSAY: Film Fidelity: Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” from Nelson Carvajal on Vimeo.

(breakdown of visual video essay, here)

Reading Week: No classes (Feb 21-25)

Unit 3: Contemporary Responses (2011-2019)

Week 7: March 2
Viewing: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014 | 100 min) [Criterion on Demand]
Recommended Viewing: Stanley Kubrick, The Shining (1980 | 144 min) [Criterion]
Reading: Lee, “Wes Anderson’s Fabulous Fancy” and Sunderland, “The Autonomous Camera”
Film Reflection 2 Due

Week 8: March 9
Viewing: George Miller, Mad Max, Fury Road (2015 | 120 min) [Criterion on Demand]
Recommended Viewing: Buster Keaton, The General (1927 | 75 min) [Criterion on Demand]
Reading: Pesses, “‘So Shiny, so chrome’” 

Week 9: March 16
Viewing: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (2016 | 111 min) [Criterion on Demand]
Recommended Viewing: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma (2018 | 135 min) [Netflix]
Reading: “One Step Ahead: A Conversation with Barry Jenkins”
Film Script Due

Week 10March 23
Viewing: Céline Sciamma, Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019 | 119 min) [Criterion on Demand]
Recommend Viewing: Chan-wook Park, The Handmaiden (2016 | 144) [Criterion]
Reading: “Deconstructing the Filmmaker’s Gaze” and “Painted Looks of Love”
Annotated Bibliography due

Week 11: March 30
Viewing: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite (2019 | 132 min) [Criterion on Demand]
Recommended Viewing: Kim Ki-young, The Housemaid (1960 | 108 min) [Criterion Channel]
Reading: Interview with Bong Joon-ho and “Parasite: Notes from the Underground
Film Project due

Week 12: April 6
Home Viewing: Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown, SGAAWAAY K’UUNA, Edge of the Knife (2018| 100 min) [VIUTube]
Research Essays Due
Student Film Festival (6-8pm)