Forms of the Cinema

Forms of the Cinema

The Anti-Hollywood: Global Neorealist Cinema
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Marianne Kaletzky
88 Dwinelle

Since at least the Second World War, Hollywood cinema—with its recognizable stars and formulaic plot lines—has dominated the global film industry. Moviegoers across six continents now arrive at theatres with expectations shaped by big-budget American studios. Yet during the same years that saw “Hollywood” increasingly become a synonym for “film,” another approach to cinema quietly extended its reach across the globe. Films known as “neorealist” turned away from studio sets to shoot in run-down streets and nondescript apartment buildings; in place of movie stars, they cast amateurs—often ordinary people who had never acted in their lives. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, neorealist films focused not on engineering thrilling or cathartic plots, but on representing the everyday struggles of working-class life—from trying in vain to fix a broken-down car to selling pirated DVDs in the hopes of making ends meet. This course will explore the unlikely persistence and popularity of neorealist film. Although we will begin in postwar Italy, we will focus primarily on films produced in the Global South or directed by filmmakers of color. What factors account for neorealism’s global appeal and its resurgence in recent years? What are the politics of neorealism, and what does it mean to say a cinematic style is political? And how might studying this approach to filmmaking, so different from Hollywood cinema, bring into relief often invisible assumptions and desires shaped by mainstream American movies?

The course will give students a foundation in the terminology and methods of film studies. It will also introduce students to a variety of traditions of cinema scholarship, including formalist, historicist, materialist, and psychoanalytic criticism and approaches influenced by race and ethnic studies, gender studies, queer theory, and the Frankfurt School.

Required viewing:
Vittorio De Sica, The Bicycle Thieves
Yasujiro Ozu, Tokyo Story
Satyajit Ray, Pather Panchali
Luchino Visconti, Rocco and His Brothers
Michelangelo Antonioni, Red Desert
Ousmane Sembène, La noire de…
Charles Burnett, Killer of Sheep
Chantal Ackerman, Jeanne Dielman…
Stephen Frears, My Beautiful Laundrette

Abbas Kiarostami, Close-Up
Jia Zhangke, Unknown Pleasures
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma