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Not Much Watching Movies: Graduate Film School

February 27, 2012

A lot of conservative people think that I got my M.A. by sitting around watching movies, when in reality, it was mostly reading/researching, writing about, and discussing philosophical and ideological theories. I took one undergraduate course on 16mm film production, and it was a film production in which I got a C because the film lab supervisor, who really didn’t like me and alleged that I ogled female classmates in excess, “accidentally” forgot to get my film shoot cleared with campus security.

It was not often that we saw complete feature-length films in class, and often short films, such as Andy Warhol’s Blow Job and Todd Haynes’s Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story were shown to us only in excerpt.

Films we viewed included:

Undergraduate screenwriting course taken for graduate credit:

Adaptation. (Spike Jonze, 2002)
In the Mood for Love (Kar-Wai Wong, 2000)
The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001)

Regular graduate courses:

Temptress Moon (Kaige Chen, 1996)
Medium Cool (Haskell Wexler, 1969)
The Patriot (Roland Emmerich, 2000) –for the ideology class
Beijing Bicycle (Xiaoshuai Wang, 2001)
The Piano Teacher (again)
Close Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
Salaam Cinema (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1995)
Rock My Religion (Dan Graham, 1984)
Paris Is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990)
Les maîtres fous (Jean Rouch, 1955) [we saw only clips of Chronicle of a Summer, which I saw in undergrad]
The Look of Love: A Gothic Romance (Suzie Silver, 1998)
The Gleaners & I (Agnès Varda, 2000)

We might also have seen Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, but I can’t remember if that’s one of the places I’ve seen it.

In a course on experimental cinema, taught by Sherry Millner, we saw the following shorts:

Adynata (Leslie Thornton, 1983)
Peggy and Fred in Hell, The Prologue (Leslie Thornton, 1984)
The Smiling Madame Beudet (Germaine Dulac, 1923)
The Seashell and the Clergyman (Germaine Dulac, 1928)
Weather Diary 3 (George Kuchar, 1988)
Me and Rubyfruit (Sadie Benning, 1989)
Living Inside (Sadie Benning, 1989)
A New Year (Sadie Benning, 1989)
If Every Girl Had a Diary (Sadie Benning, 1990)
Glass Jaw (Michael O’Reilly, 1991)
Scenes from the… Micro-War (Ernst Larsen, Sherry Millner, 1985)
A Desert Bush (Ernst Larsen, Sherry Millner, 1991)
Unruly Fan Unruly Star (Sherry Millner, 1996)

In a class on film authorship in which the prof used Gus Van Sant as an example:

Mala Noche (1986)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
To Die For (1995)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Psycho (1998)
Finding Forrester (2000)
Gerry (2002)
Elephant (2003)

I also got a private screening of F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans on LD for an independent study, but it ran over, and I had to watch the remainder on a bad VHS copy.

In an undergraduate 16mm filmmaking course I took, we saw one of the instructor’s films. I was not impressed. I’d list it by title and the instructor’s name, but I can’t remember either. It showed a bunch of people in Central Park in slow motion with a lot of heavy breathing from sweaty runners.

If I remember one or two others that we saw (I don’t currently have access to my old syllabi–they’re in a box in a storage unit, and not organized), I’ll add them, but this is the majority of the in-class film screenings that we had over a period of four semesters in which I was a full-time student.

My personal favorites were Peggy and Fred in Hell, Sunrise, Elephant, The Smiling Madame Beudet and To Die For.

I think overall there was a big clashing of tastes. The professors were predominantly interested in audience analysis, and so wanted us writing about Hollywood blockbusters from a snooty point of view of “the rabble.” They didn’t seem to like any of my film choices, no matter how I tried to fit them into the ideas of the course. These included The Medium (Gian Carlo Menotti, Alexander Hamid, 1951) [for the authorship course], The Force Beyond (William Sachs, 1978) [for the nonfiction media course], The Hidan of Maukbeiangjow (Lee Jones, 1973) [for the ideology course], Oz (Chris Löfvén, 1976) [for the history course], His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (J. Farrell MacDonald, 1914) [for an independent study], and What’s the Matter with Helen? (Curtis Harrington, 1972) [for cinema and gender]. I should say that they did like what I did the first year, and then treated me contemptuously the second year, as if they were bored with me. Although I think my work improved, my grades started dropping to B+s with really vague explanations. For the paper on What’s the Matter with Helen?, I was told that I needed “greater focus, and depth, and precision.”

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From → autobiography, Film

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