Discussion questions

Book Chapters:

Chapter 1

  1. Does film censorship reflect or impose standards?
  2. Taking the studio era blockbuster Gone with the Wind (1939) as a case study, would you consider the film entirely in keeping with the spirit of the Production Code?
  3. Does the BBFC underestimate the maturity of young audiences in the UK?
  4. Watch the film Mildred Pierce. In what ways can you identify the Warner Brothers authorial style in the film?
  5. Imagine Jurassic Park were made today. How would it be marketed? As it was in 1993?
  6. Is the new generation 3D a passing fad, like it was in 1953? If not, why not?
  7. What distinguishes the release pattern of Gladiator versus Slumdog Millionaire?
  8. Can you build an audience for your own zero-budget production by word of Internet? Create an on-line marketing campaign based on the case studies of Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.
  9. In the modern era, what attracts the frequent film goer to the cinema? Why?

 

Chapter 2

  1. How have computer-generated images shaped our expectations for the blockbuster?
  2. In what ways does District 9 affirm these expectations or challenge them?
  3. What role does computer graphics technology play in this process?
  4. Some historians argue that sound and music are simply married to the image to create a “realistic” effect. How does multichannel technology challenge this assumption?
  5. In what ways does sound design, in conjunction with sound technology, create cinematic spectacle?
  6. In what other ways does sound and sound technology create inner and outer space in Star Trek (2009)?
  7. How does the immersive quality of 3-D in Avatar change storytelling?
  8. Will immersive technologies like 3-D and multichannel sound become the new standard for all science fiction blockbusters? Why or why not?
  9. How does Avatar challenge the idea of technological determinism? What are the contradictions that the film presents in regard to technology?

 

Chapter 3

  1. Consider your own collections of films – or those of someone you know. What kinds of story/history can be constructed from the inter-connections between them?
  2. Take three still images from different films that are important to you. Explore in each case some of the ways in which the image has a resonance for you.
  3. Take all three images and put them side by side. Explore some of the ways they begin to ‘talk’ to each other. In doing each of the above, what do you discover about single film images?
  4. Compare images 3.2 and 3.3 in the fifth edition of Introduction to Film Studies. Account for how similar or different your response is to each. In relation to these responses, what do you understand by ‘poetics of presence’?
  5. Consider a film you know well which plays on a sense of time which escapes that of chronological ‘clock’ time. How does the film communicate this?
  6. Consider a film from the past as you respond to it in the present. How do reflections on time alter the way you respond to the images on the screen?
  7. Is it useful to make a distinction between films that are rooted in the ‘movement image’ and others that are rooted in the ‘time image’?
  8. Consider these statements:
    ‘Film cannot be defined precisely as a ‘told’ medium and neither can it be defined entirely as an ‘enacted’ medium.’
    ‘Film is not past tense, but neither is it present tense.’
    ‘How do we experience film?’
  9. What are some of the differences between watching people in a documentary as opposed to in a fiction film? Are there any similarities?
  10. Think of a film that stimulates the effect of a ‘live’ performance. Do you react in a particular way to this film?
  11. When we watch the moving image work which has no obvious narrative purpose, such as the work of Bill Viola or of Gustav Deutsch, what do we do as spectators?
  12. (a) Select from a collection of old photographs one that catches your interest. Reflect on the different ideas and emotions you experience when you look at the photo.

     (b) Select a contemporary image that has some significance for you. In what ways does this image allow you to see more and think more fully about the ‘real’ person or place represented?

  13. Let us go to the BFI channel on YouTube. A number of short films from the vast Mitchell and Kenyon collection are included. Mitchell and Kenyon travelled around the cities and towns of Northern England in the early 1900s, filming scenes of everyday life. They screened the films that very evening or the next, a cinema of attractions where people could see themselves on screen. The camera, mounted on a tripod, does not move. Like the earliest moving images of the Lumière Brothers in France, movement is within the static frame, usually right and left, but sometimes movement toward the camera and out of the bottom of the frame. This is very simple material, but as well as having proved extraordinarily rich as a resource for social historians, these films have been recognised for other qualities.

    Typical is Preston Egg Rolling from 1901. This is a 2 minute, 42 second film and can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/BFIfilms#p/search/23/n0tOv47IYic . These events filmed on Easter Monday in a public park have an element of orchestration about them, but what strikes us most strongly is the ‘chance’ image, captured by the mechanical apparatus of the camera. The fixed camera records movement but many of the people filmed stand still, pose looking straight at the camera and respond to the new technology as if having their still photographs taken.
    What is your response to these images? You may wish to reflect on the idea of cinematic ‘presence’. You may wish to think about the power old moving images have to communicate with us in the present.
  14. Or let us take a second example, Miners Leaving Pendlebury Colliery from 1901. It can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/BFIfilms#p/c/F3E52E5E9162CCE1/2/FFKyrUXmCMk
    This is a stock subject of very early cinema: workers leaving their place of employment and passing in front of the camera.
    Create a series of still images from the film using the pause facility and reflect on their qualities both as social documents and as images of presence. (Thinking historically, there is a particular and striking face in the crowd – which links this film to Springtime in an English Village.) Contrast the experience of looking at these still images and looking at the film as a whole, as a continuous moving image.

 

Chapter 4

  1. Choose a recent Hollywood film that you have enjoyed.  Explain the cause and effect structure of the film’s narrative.  (It is important that you do not simply retell the story: make sure that you identify how one event is connected to the next, and how each event causes subsequent events to happen.)
  2. Explain how characterization and character goals are utilized in the narrative logic you have identified.
  3. Use your answers to questions 1 and 2 in order to identify some possible meanings, or ‘themes’ of your chosen film.
  4. Choose any still from Introduction to Film Studies (Fifth Edition).  Identify what you think are the key features of the image’s mise-en-scène.
  5. Choose a short scene or sequence from a film you have enjoyed.  Write a shot-by-shot breakdown of your chosen extract, listing the types of shot-scale, camera angles and camera movement of each take.
  6. Play the film extract from question five again, but this time, close your eyes.  List the sounds you hear, identifying their type (speech, music, sound effect), diegetic role (i.e. diegetic or non-diegetic), as well as their relative volume, pitch and timbre.
  7. Choose a scene from the film you analysed in questions 1, 2 and 3.  List the ways in which the scene conforms to the properties of continuity editing.
  8. Again, choose a scene from the film analysed in questions 1, 2 and 3.  Consider what emotions the characters in the scene are feeling, then list the performance signs that the actors use to convey these emotions.
  9. Choose any film which you consider to be ‘self-reflexive’.  Identify the narrative conventions and cinematic codes which you consider to be self-reflexive, and explain how they draw attention to, and explore their own properties and techniques.
  10. There have been many attempts to replicate Lev Kuleshov’s experiment in the effects of montage. Below are four examples:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gGl3LJ7vHc&NR=1   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gLBXikghE0&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wd0kV43Pkus&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tDP49AhRaU&feature=related
    Consider how convincing they are in terms of Kuleshov’s assertion that cinematic juxtaposition alone can radically influence an audience’s reading of a single image. Assess whether some examples are more successful than others, and what qualities influence their effectiveness.

  11. Analyze the use of sound in the opening 12 minutes of Gladiator, in the scene of Rome’s last battle against Germania. How does the layering of diegetic and non-diegetic sound, as well as on and off screen sound (comprising speech, music and sound effects) contribute to the film’s presentation of warfare?
  12. Identify further elements of the cinematography, editing, soundtrack and performances  in A Blonde in Love which resemble the codes and conventions of cinéma-vérité and documentary filmmaking.
  13. Analyse the stories contained in the ‘snapshot’ montages in Run Lola Run. How do these stories-within-the-story achieve cause and effect structures and characterization in their seconds-long running times?

 

Chapter 5

  1. Discuss the ‘film event’ with a group of friends. Consider: what is said about the specific experience of watching a film in a movie auditorium and how much the experience is enhanced by the ways we engage with the film through the media, with friends etc. before and after the screening.
  2. Although ‘home cinema’ is essentially a marketing concept, there is the possibility that the audio/visual quality of the film experience could be replicated in the home. Do you think that this will mean that the film experience – as spectator and audience – will also be replicated in the home?
  3. Do you agree that film studies is better off avoiding large generalisations about ‘spectators’ or ‘audiences’ and is likely to produce more useful kinds of knowledge by focusing on small-scale studies of particular groups of people?
  4. If everyone responds from within their unique ‘formation’, both as a social self and as an interior self, is there any point in trying to generalise about how we respond to a film?

 

Chapter 6

  1. The auteurist method is largely founded on mapping similarities of technique and style across a number of films by the same director. Use a resource such as the Internet Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com) to compile a filmography of a director and then watch a sample of his or her films, noting any consistencies of style and/or theme that occur across more than one film. See if it is possible to detect a ‘personal statement’ or ‘worldview’ in the films.
  2. The method described in question one is not limited to directors. Repeat the exercise using a cinematographer, actor, fight choreographer, or even a studio such as Disney or Pixar to see if other figures/agencies can be usefully analysed ‘as if’ they are an auteur.
  3. There is an increasing trend to market films using the rubric ‘Presented by ’, (for example ‘Presented by Quentin Tarantino’) even if the star director has not directed the film.  How does this notion of ‘badged auteursim’ relate to the idea of film authorship in terms of both art and commerce?
  4. Auteurs now exist as much outside the film text as inside it. Try watching a film on DVD or Blu-ray while listening to the director’s commentary. How does this effect delimit or anchor the possible meanings of the film around the director’s putative intentions? Moreover, in relation to the release of a new film, track the director’s performance of ‘being an auteur’ across the full range of media – chat show appearances, interviews on radio, in newspapers and on the Internet, and public appearances at premieres and other related events.
  5. Explore the notion of ‘corporate authorship’ in relation to Disney or PIXAR. To what extent do their corporate brand names also mark out distinctive stylistic practices? Does the same apply for, say, Universal or Dreamworks?
  6. When released on DVD or Blu-ray, an increasing number of films contain a ‘Director’s Commentary’ as part of their ‘Special Features’. After initially watching the film, watch it again while listening to the Director’s Commentary and explore the extent to which his or her explanation of the film’s thematic and stylistic features:
    • reinforces your own reading of the film
    • alters your opinion about the significance and meaning of the film.

 

Chapter 7

  1. Choose one male and one female contemporary film star and compare:
    1. the frequency with which, and the ways in which, they are represented in celebrity magazines and the press
    2. their status within the marketing of their movies
    3. the ways in which knowledge of their private lives overlaps with or informs their on-screen roles.
  2. To what extent do pop stars, star footballers or stars from other areas of the media fit, or resist the models of film stardom discussed in this chapter?
  3. Which categories of stardom do animated stars such as Woody and Buzz Lightyear fit into, and how might we modify those categories in order to describe this phenomenon?
  4. In what ways is it possible to analyse and understand a special effect such as a twister, an earthquake, an alien or a computer generated toy as a star?
  5. Discuss the idea that film stars are no longer crucial to an industry that relies on franchises and special effects for selling movie tickets.

 

Chapter 8

  1. Categorising films into discrete genres is always a purposeful act. One avenue into genre studies is to try to understand the nature and function of that act. As such, compare the way that genres are defined in different ways in different contexts. Some contexts you might consider looking at are: rental outlets (both physical and online); different kinds of shops where you buy DVDs or Blu-rays (supermarkets, record shops, iTunes and other online stores such as Amazon or Play.com); film guides, reference works, or compendia (e.g. Halliwell’s, Variety, Time Out, IMDB, etc.); film reviews (compare the reviews of the same film by different critics); and TV listing magazines and niche television channels (e.g. Radio Times, Sky Indie, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Movies4Men). Where are the moments of overlap, and when do categorical discrepancies occur? Can you explain these?
  2. In writing about The Matrix trilogy of films, David Bordwell has suggested that, in order to ‘track the films fully, one would have to enter the Matrix through many media portals’ (2006: 59). As such, try engaging in this tracking activity by exploring the film’s generic relationship with Japanese manga and anime, Hong Kong action cinema, cyberpunk novels, music videos, and computer games.
  3. Try analysing how a computer game such as Red Dead Redemption reactivates many of the generic markers and metaphors that circulate western films in the attempt to offer gamers both an ‘authentic’ generic narrative experience and a sense of ‘realistic’ gameplay.
  4. Read the section on ‘Genre as taxonomy’ and chapter 10 on animation. In what ways does a consideration of animation problematise the notion of film genre? Is animation a genre in itself, or is it possible to draw generic distinctions between different animated films?
  5. Likewise, try and list some of the difficulties and problems associated with grouping all non-fiction films together under the singular generic label, ‘documentary’.
  6. Read the section on ‘Genre as economic strategy’. If you were to invest in a movie, which genre of filmmaking would you choose in order to offset the financial risk and hopefully make a profit? Who would you want to star in it? List five things that would have to occur in the movie in order for you to sign the cheque. Also, what other merchandising products or tie-ins would you sanction in order to promote your film?

 

Chapter 9

  1. How does the documentary filmmaker use mise-en-scène, editing, sound, cinematography, and narrative devices to create a point of view/argument? Consider who says what to whom, when, how, and why, and with what effect.
  2. The documentary filmmaker, in dealing with ‘actuality’ and real social issues may encounter certain problems in the making of the text. What might these problems be and how can the documentarist resolve them?
  3. In a number of the case studies in this chapter, the political and ethical stance of the filmmaker is crucial to the way we understand and perhaps support or oppose the implied or explicit argument of the documentary. When watching future documentaries consider and evaluate the behaviour, attitude or position of the filmmakers. Do you believe that they are correct in the ways that they pursue ‘documentary truth’?
  4. For further study, consider the implications of ‘hybridisation’ in documentary. For example, what aspects of ‘soap opera’ and ‘documentary’ combine in a ‘docu-soap’ and to what effect?
  5. In what ways do early cinema actualities behave as documentaries?
  6. How does Grizzly Man mobilise ideas of construction and authorship? Does this make it problematic as a ‘documentary’?
  7. How do dramatised documentaries such as Twockers raise ethical and moral dilemmas? For whom?

 

Chapter 10

  1. In what ways and to what advantage does animation have a greater potential for expression than live-action filmmaking?
  2. In what ways does animation offer different perspectives on issues of representation, i.e. How does animation address gender, race, ethnicity, age, ‘the body’, etc.?
  3. How might traditional notions of ‘narrative’, ‘genre’, ‘authorship’ etc. in live-action film-making be revised when defined in relation to animation?

 

Chapter 11

  1. Do mainstream films still represent women in a narrow range of predictable and stereotyped ways?
  2. How useful a contribution has feminist film theory made to the study of film?
  3. Compare and contrast the star images and their representation on film of either Bruce Willis or Russell Crowe with Hugh Grant or Kevin Spacey.

Sally Potter, Filmmaker

  1. To what extent can Orlando be considered a feminist film?
  2. Is Sally Potter an autuer filmmaker?

Nicole Holofcener, Writer/Director

  1. Choose one of Nicole Holofcener’s films and compare the style and narrative content with Sex and the City 1 or 2.
  2. Discuss the representation of the female in either Lovely and Amazing or Friends with Money.

Fight Club

  1. Compare the depiction of masculinity in Fight Club with The Hurt Locker.
  2. Choose an action film released in the last five years and discuss its representation of masculinity.

 

Chapter 12

Sexual Ideology

  1. Watch Gods and Monsters and read chapters 10-13 of Whale’s biography by Mark Gatiss (listed in the Bibliography), then consider how the factual and narrative variations relate to Richard Dyer’s ideas about heterosexual ideology.
  2. A similar analytical comparison of the novel and film versions of the following should produce some worthwhile work:
  3. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple  (Steven Spielberg, 1985).
  4. Michael Cunningham’s The Hours  (Stephen Daldry, 2003).

Censorship

  1. Watch and assess the famous “oysters and snails” scene from Spartacus (US, Stanley Kubrick, 1960), and read the notes accompanying the special edition DVD, for a concrete example of Hollywood’s gay censorship as outlined by Vito Russo.

The Viewer's Gaze

  1. Watch a so-called ‘Pepla’ muscle epic of the 1950’s and an action film from the 1990s starring Jean-Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren.  To what extent do you think these films make the male body into the focus of a homoerotic gaze?  Read Richard Dyer’s essay on muscle epics in The Matter of Images (1993).

Lesbian Looking

  1. In the light of Weiss's comments on viewing strategies, analyse the love-making scenes from Desert Hearts, Go Fish and any other film of your choice.
  2. Compare and contrast the lesbian worlds portrayed in some of the following films in terms of audience positioning:
    1. Go Fish
    2. She Must Be Seeing Things
    3. Desert Hearts
    4. The Virgin Machine
    5. When Night Is Falling
  3. Desert Hearts is a romance; Bound is a film noir and Better Than Chocolate is a comedy. Compare and contrast the lesbian lovers in each of these films in terms of genre.

Playing with Genre: John Greyson

  1. Critically analyse the following films by John Greyson in terms of the formal qualities that they have in common.  Can these films by classified according to traditional genres?

The Making of Monsters
Urinal
Zero Patience
Lilies

Gender, Race and Queer Cinema

  1. Critically analyse Monica Treut's The Virgin Machine to address the portrayal of the changing character of Dorothee as she explores the San Francisco lesbian scene. Read The Queer Nationhood of Monica Treut et al (Kuzniar: 157)
  2. Watch Gohatto and East Palace, West Palace and consider their significance as examples of recent queer cinema from Japan and China.

Queer Spectatorship

  1. Consider ways in which either the genre or the star systems may mediate the reception of one or more of the following films for queer audiences:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy
I Married a Monster from Outer Space
Pirates of the Caribbean
Queen Christina
The 'Alien' Films
The Wizard of Oz

Chapter 13

Choose any film mentioned in this chapter:

  1. Are there any African American characters in this film? What seems to be their role relative to the other characters? If it is a majority black cast film, are there any other figures of different races? How is difference handled?
  2. How is race/ethnicity marked? How important is it to the story or particular plot points?
  3. Does the black character seem to be an essential character? How so? Or why not?
  4. To what extent does the black character seem to adhere to or depart from stereotypes about a particular racial or ethnic group?
  5. Does the black character seem to have a private, interior self? Does he or she have a network of family or friends, apart from the white character to whom he or she is attached?
  6. Who has the camera’s point of view?
  7. What is your definition of black film? Is “Black Film” akin to a national cinema? Is it a genre relative to comedy, romance, or thriller films? Do films by directors of African descent have enough in common to be considered as a coherent group?
  8. To what degree do you think authenticity is a meaningful goal in the current media environment? How do you define authenticity in Afro-Diaspora performance?
  9. Can you identify racist iconography in the current media environment? What are its historical precedents?

Chapter 14

  1. What differences of interest can be identified between producers, distributors and exhibitors, and how does government intervention address these?
  2. Consider a variety of strategies employed in the production of British films which seek to attract American investment and American audiences – for instance, personnel, subject matter, locations.

 

Chapter 15

  1. Check your local papers for theatres showing Indian films in your town or city and invite a friend to go with you on an opening night. Describe in detail the entire visit including standing in the queue for a ticket, the trailers, audience reaction to stars and songs, the conversation during the interval and so on. As a comparative project, visit your local theatre for a showing of a popular British or American film.
  2. Most DVD versions of Indian films are notorious for expunging the frame of the interval, thus making it impossible to tell where the filmmaker stopped the film, well almost. To understand the full import of the interval, it’s worth seeing a film in a theatrical context.  Plan such an excursion!

Monsoon Wedding

  1. Describe the different signs of globalisation in Monsoon Wedding . As you proceed to identify the various objects in the mise-en-scène, describe how the film’s narrative advances differences between globalization and modernization.
  2. In a similar vein, note the different ways in which India and Indianness are signalled in this film. For instance, how does the film present and resolve Aditi’s choice in the film?
  3. Viewing the different intercutting sequences describe the differences between the two couples: Aditi and Hemant, and Dube and Alice. Why does the film feel the need to elaborate the romance between Dube and Alice? Pay close attention to Alice’s identity. Where would you place Dube’s class identity?
  4. How does the film employ the song and dance sequences and to what end?
  5. The official web site for the film points out that besides the various matchmaking attempts in the narrative, the film is an adoring tribute to Delhi. How does the film achieve this?
  6. As in Festen (1998), here too the narration of sexual abuse of children breaks the familial revelry. How does the film choose to resolve the question of incest? In other words, describe the film’s ideology in terms of maintaining familial relationship.

Sholay

  1. Describe and analyse the function of the various interruptions in Sholay, paying close attention to the comedy tracks and their relationship to masculine friendship.

Bombay

  1. How does the interval structure the narrative? Attend closely to the shift in formal strategies.
  2. Describe and analyse the relationship between the song and dance sequences and narrative time while paying close attention to the mise-en-scène.
  3. Compare Bombay and Gadar (2001) by choosing a couple of cinematic elements – for example, the song and dance sequences or the interval.

 

Dil Chata Hai

  1. Describe and analyse the relationship between the song and dance sequences and the narrative in the film. Do they serve as distractions, delaying devices, or are they totally dispensable?
  2. Choose at least two song and dance sequences – ‘Woh ladki hai kahan?’ and ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ for instance – to discuss the meaning of the mise-en­scène and editing. Do supplement your readings with interviews culled from the official DVD with the music directors and choreographers, as ways of understanding the discourse of production.
  3. How does the film describe Siddharth’s relationship with Tara? Why do you think she is cast as an alcoholic and finally killed?
  4. Re-watch the closing sequence of the film and frame your analysis in terms of Sedgwick’s formulation of compulsory heterosexuality.

Mr. and Mrs. 55

  1. Describe the spaces of the first song between Pritam and Johnny. By attending to the lyrics explore how the film juggles homosocial bonds and heterosexual romance.
  2. The song set at the pool re-emerges in Kabir’s documentary. Describe the rhythm and speculate on Dutt’s use of the pool as a setting in a film, which seems enamored with sports. Anita is introduced as a tennis player’s fan, for instance.
  3. The film reserves the first duet between Pritam’s friend Johnny and his girlfriend by setting it among the tables and chairs of an office space. Analyse the film’s investment in doubling couples and the relationship between the two love stories.
  4. Johnny’s presence in the film is clearly marked as a comedy track and he serves as Pritam’s doppelganger, but how do we read his early success in love?
  5. A gypsy in a park sings song five, and six is sung by a nightclub singer. They seem to be worlds apart in terms of their spaces yet, their narrative function seems very similar with the warring couple in shouting distance. Describe the relationship between the progression of narrative and the songs.
  6. Song number eight evokes the convention of using Qawali singers in Hindi cinema in a clearly marked space that resembles a backstage musical. Yet here we view street musicians performing at night. What is the narrative purpose of this song?
  7. Describe in detail the various aspects of the mise-en-scène and soundtrack in songs seven and nine. Note that seven is a duet set in the countryside and nine is at the airport. Why do you think that the film chooses a single woman’s voice as its final number?
  8. Choose three song and dance sequences and describe the camera movement and mise-en-scène details.  Analyze how the film deploys these sequences to advance, protract, or divert the love story.
  9. Choose another film by Guru Dutt, Kagaz ke phool (Paper Flowers) as an exercise in comparison.  After identifying the different genre strands in the film, focus on how song and dance sequences pace the narrative.
  10. Using Dutt’s two films as a template compare his films with the work of a contemporary director, Mani Ratnam or Vishal Bhardwaj, to draw out the differences in the use of this device.  Such an exploration will cull out the differences in style.

Satya

  1. Analyse how the interval punctuates the film, inflecting its formal properties as well its narrative preoccupations.
  2. Ram Gopal Varma did not wish to use song and dance sequences in this film but his producer Bharat Shah insisted on their marketability. Defend the use of these attractions. What kind of a film would we have seen without these sequences?
  3. After seeing films such as Dil Par mat le yaar / Don’t Take it to Heart (Hansal Mehta, 2000) and Vastaav (1999), attempt to sketch out the ideological underpinnings of the urban iconography in these films.

Bandit Queen

  1. How does the film privilege a referential reading of its narrative?
  2. Bandit Queen is sometimes taught in a course on Westerns because of the film’s iconography and its narrative preoccupation with outlaws. Ghosh suggests that the film partakes of certain conventions from popular cinema. Attempt to describe and analyse the film’s proximity and distance from popular cinema.
  3. How does the film juggle inter-caste antagonisms and the rape–revenge narrative?
  4. Read Mala Sen’s (1991) India’s Bandit Queen: The True Story of Phoolan Devi as a way of understanding the public response to the film. Imagine a different visual construction to the biography.

Fire

  1. Describe and analyse how the film links the friendship between Radha and Sita to Mundu’s desire.
  2. Using Chris Straayer’s (1995) essay Hypothetical Lesbian Heroine in Narrative Feature Film, evaluate to what extent Fire is beholden to patriarchal representations of women and to what degree it recasts the debates on identity. Does the film prepare us for the closing moments of the film or does it place them outside the representational circuits we have been privy to?

Lagaan

  1. In his review of the film, David Chute (2002) quotes cultural critic Ashish Nandy’s pithy comment that cricket is ‘an Indian game that happens to have been invented by the British’. If familiar with cricket, point out the various extra-textual references to games and players in the film.
  2. If read allegorically, the construction of the village team recalls the utopian visions of a secular India, a vision that seems more fragile these days with the rise of Hindu nationalism and sectarian violence. Elaborate the film’s investment in a secular vision, however rife with contradictions this may be.
  3. The love triangle is the other driving force in the narrative. Describe how the film uses the song and dance sequences to exacerbate the tensions of this erotic triangle and explain its desire to form an Indian couple.
  4. Critics have noted that the star Aamir Khan is a crucial ingredient in the film’s success. Construct an archive of fandom using internet sites, star magazines and visits to Aamir Khan fan clubs, both virtual and real, so as to plot the ways in which his star presence marks the narrative – the opening sequence would be a good place to begin – and then proceed to the song and dance sequences.

Hey! Ram

  1. A number of recent films dwell extensively on the male revolutionary leaders from the colonial period, Mangal Pandey and Bhagat Singh, which offer an interesting counterpoint to Hey! Ram.  In this context, watch Ketan Mehta’s The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey (2005) to explore how these films deal with the idea of the past.
  2. Choose a segment from the two films—opening, song and dance, to compare the filmmaking styles of the two directors.

 

Chapter 16

  1. In what ways are the effects of neo-colonialism reflected in early Latin American cinema?
  2. What changes were heralded by the coming of sound?
  3. How important was melodrama to Latin American cinema, particularly prior to the 1950s?
  4. What are the salient characteristics of the New Latin American Cinema and Third Cinema?
  5. In what ways was Italian neo-realism influential during the 1950s and 60s?
  6. What was the impact of the Cuban Revolution on film in Cuba and beyond?
  7. Does more recent cinematic output from Latin America continue to reflect the ideas of Third Cinema? In what ways? If not, what is different?
  8. How does the interplay between fiction and documentary manifest itself in more recent Latin America films?

Lucía

  1. How does the use of different film genres add to Lucía?
  2. Lucía was made shortly after the Cuban Revolution. How is this reflected in the film?

Madame Satã

  1. How is the story of Madame Satã reflected in the mise-en-scène?
  2. What does Madame Satã tell us about Brazilian society at the time in which it is based?

Amores perros

  1. In what ways does the cinematography in Amores perros serve to enhance the narrative?
  2. To what extent might the film be seen to be distinctively Mexican, and to what extent can it be read as a reflection of global modernity?

 

Chapter 17

  1. Examine the relationship between Soviet cinema, theatre and the visual arts.
  2. How successful do you think Soviet filmmakers were in combining mass entertainment and revolutionary politics?
  3. For many Soviet filmmakers editing was the source of cinematic energy and impact. Did this mean that they neglected the impact of mise-en-scène and music?
  4. Trace the influence of Soviet cinema of the 1920s on subsequent filmmakers and film movements.
  5. What are the key differences between Soviet montage editing and continuity editing?
  6. Why did the Soviet montage filmmakers believe that a new cinematic form was required to communicate revolutionary ideas?
  7. ‘Soviet montage films were more successful as avant-garde art than propaganda for the masses.’ Discuss.
  8. Discuss the use of mise-en-scène in Soviet montage films.
  9. Russian artists and poets had already experimented extensively with ‘montage’ prior to the 1917 revolution. Why didn’t the Russian film makers of the 1910s experiment with montage earlier?
  10. Discuss the significance of the social and political context of Soviet montage cinema.
  11. Discuss the use of performance and mise-en-scène in Kuleshov’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks.
  12. What is meant by the term ‘creative geography’?
  13. Outline the key differences between Eisenstein’s and Pudovkin’s approach to editing.
  14. Why did the FEK’s manifesto favour popular art forms such as cinema, circus and music hall posters?
  15. What is meant by the term ‘dialectical montage’?
  16. Why was Bazin interested in cinema as a ‘means of capturing a record of events before the camera with minimum mediation’?
  17. Define four different types of film ‘montage’.
  18. Why might Soviet montage films be classified as ‘alternative’?
  19. Why does Eisenstein favour non-actors over actors?
  20. ‘An Eisenstein film resembles a shout, a Pudovkin film evokes a song’. Discuss.
  21. Why do Eisenstein’s films tend not to focus on individual ‘heroes’?
  22. What were the distinctive features of pre-revolutionary Russian cinema?
  23. Why did Vertov believe that ‘Film drama is the opium of the people’?
  24. What might a statistical analysis of Soviet films reveal if compared to an analysis of Hollywood films from the same era?
  25. Trace the influence of Soviet cinema of the 1920s on subsequent filmmakers and film movements.
  26. Why might Bazin claim that the audience of Soviet montage films was essentially passive?