Stephan Flores/Engl 222 History of World Cinema IISpring 2017
Assignment: Sequence Analysis 'Plus' Essay ( 80 points possible) due in class March 28, 2017--also send electronic copy to me by email, preferably in MS Word, as attachment, with your last name as the first word in the name of the attached file (such as, Smith_SequenceAnalysis.docx). Length and format: titled, five pages or bit longer if you wish, double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12-pt. Times New Roman font (do not use extra spaces/return between paragraphs); Modern Language Association (MLA) citation method, if you cite our main text or criticism from one or more of our folders/links in Bblearn, with Works Cited bibliography.
For the Sequence Analysis Plus Essay, you are to select a sequence of shots that create a dramatic unit within a film—select a sequence from one of the films listed below (available via weblink in our Bblearn site--you may select from any film that you can watch via the course Bblearn site and folders)--that is, these sources provide a selected range of films (nearly every film is recognized in film history as significant) that correspond to some degree with the chapters in film history that you have read in our main text-- in addition, for nearly every film there are resources/review-essays in the Bblearn folders that I advise you to read to strengthen and deepen your understanding of the film that you select to study and to write about. Do not analyze a sequence that we have analyzed in depth in class, or that is analyzed in depth in a scholarly review-essay or video-essay on the film. Note: Keep in mind when selecting the film for this assignment, that you cannot write about the same film for the Critical Analysis Essay--you will need to choose a different film for that assignment, and you cannot write about a film that you already wrote about in your midterm exam.
Note: If you can, please send your choice of film and brief descripton of your selected sequence and why you find the sequence significant, to me at email@example.com, by 4pm Saturday March 24th.
Ford’s The Searchers
Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train or Notoriousor Vertigo or Rear Window or Shadow of a Doubt
De Sica’s Umberto D. or Bicycle Thieves
Rossellini’s Journey to Italy or Rome, Open City
Renoir’s The River
Melville’s Le Samouraï
Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria or La Dolce Vita or 8½
Powell and Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going or Black Narcissus or The Red Shoes
Bergman's Persona, Wild Strawberries, or The Seventh Seal
Ozu’s Late Spring or Tokyo Story
Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai or Rashomon
Ray’s Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road, 1955), Aparajito (The Undefeated, 1956), or Apur Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959)--UI library
Antonioni’s Blow-Up or L’avventura
Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player or The 400 Blows
Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7 or Vagabond
Godard’s Contempt (Le Mépris, 1963) or Breathless or Pierrot le fou
Frears's My Beautiful Laundrette
Wilder's Some Like It Hot
Wenders's Alice in the Cities or Wings of Desire
Menzel's Closely Watched Trains
Jutra's Mon oncle Antoine
Egoyan's the sweet hereafter
Fassbinder's Ali Fear Eats the Soul
Erice's Spirit of the Beehive
Meirelles's City of God
Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham or Bhaji on the Beach
Kieślowski's Three Colors: Blue
Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love or The Chungking Express
Hunt's Frozen River
Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise
Tarantino's Jackie Brown
Lee's Do the Right Thing
Dardenne brothers' Two Days, One Night
Demme's Rachel Getting Married
Linklater's Before Sunrise or Before Sunset or Before Midnight
Allen's Manhattan or Annie Hall
Yates's Breaking Away
Granik's Winter's Bone
Alfredson's Let the Right One In
Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Iñárritu's Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Jonze's Her or Adaptation
Bertolucci's The Conformist
Makhmalbaf's The Silence
Campanella's El Secreto de Sus Ojos
Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Big-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride)
Nair's Monsoon Wedding
Gowariker's Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India
Advani's Kal Ho Naa Ho (There May or May Not Be a Tomorrow)
Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke (animated)
Dassin's The Naked City
Camell's and Roeg's Performance
Scorsese's Taxi Driver
Rozema's I've Heard the Mermaids Singing
Scherfig's An Education
Garland's Ex Machina
Raimi's A Simple Plan
Lynch's Mulholland Drive
Barnett's Killer of Sheep
July's Me and You and Everyone We Know
Miyazaki's Spirited Away (animated)
Your essay aims to understand how the sequence makes sense—how the sequence of shots has and creates meaning—including (and because of) its relation to other significant prior or subsequent parts of the film, as the film’s narrative story and plot unfold and arguably either cohere or work in contradiction to enact meaning. In other words, the sequence functions in its fullest significance and range of meaning(s) as it is understood to exist and as it is situated within the overall film and its contexts. You are to create an argument and conduct analysis that begins with a specific shot sequence but which also moves beyond close analysis to understand the film’s overall narrative arc and its primary modes of representing and working through problems/questions—both cinematic as well as cultural/social/historical problems and questions, and to consider to what degree the film seems to answer or resolve such questions.
The sequence should be between 30 seconds and two minutes in length—resist the urge to analyze a sequence longer than two minutes (that is, don’t exceed three minutes!), and for this assignment, choose a genuine sequence of shots, not just one or two shots, and choose a sequence different than one that we may have analyzed in depth in class or that is analyzed in depth in a secondary review-essay or video-essay. Although the formal qualities of film and its production are not a primary focus of our class (such study and analysis occurs more fully, for example, in Engl 230), this assignment prompts you to develop your competencies in situating as a point of focus and departure an initial close, micro-analysis of a dramatic sequence, including some attention to the film’s cinematic language, and to connect or situate the meanings of the sequence (including its cinematic elements/language) with the film's larger, overarching meanings and effects. That is, your analysis will seek to explain--to a limited degree--how the mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound work—are constructed or can be construed to work—to produce meaning (significant or signifying effects) through the dramatic sequence in the context of the film. Note: if your selected sequence contains a great many shots (for example, of only 1-3 seconds each), you may elect/decide not to analyze EVERY single shot in a sequence that may contain 20-40 shots, but to examine as many as you need in order to establish/sustain/develop your analysis (and offer a more concise description and generalization of the individual shots that you do not examine).
Steps in preparation for your analysis/essay:
Step 1: Select a sequence of shots (a sequence that lasts typically between 30 seconds and two minutes long) that create a dramatic unit within a film scene. A discrete shot is defined as one uninterrupted run of the camera, i.e., an unedited strip of film consisting of those images that are recorded continuously from the time the camera starts to the time it stops. Do not, however, select a sequence that we have studied closely in class or which is analyzed in minute, close detail in one of our texts. I advise that you describe the shot sequence to me by email at least a week before the due date.
Step 2: As you examine the sequence through repeated viewing/study, it may be useful to take precise notes of one or more of the following elements:
1. Shot #—begin with Shot #1 in your selected sequence.
2. Mise-en-scène— significant aspects of lighting, costume, props, setting, character blocking (positions/movement), actors' performances, gestures, and notable colors and color patterns.
3. Cinematography— the camera distance and angle in relation to the action or points of focus, any camera movement, composition of the frame, depth of field.
4. Duration of the shot and its editing—shot duration (e.g., :15, for 15 seconds), and notable transitional editing into and out of the shot, continuity or discontinuity, graphic/imagistic patterns and relations, and rhythmic or associational connections.
5. Sound—the use of sound (and silence). Consider dialogue, sound effects and music, if present, whether sounds are linked to camera cuts or movement; when and how onscreen and off-screen sounds are used; are sounds diegetic or non-diegetic?
6. Other aspects of your notetaking/study—begin to analyze, to ask questions, to suggest interpretation, note oppositions or repetitions or similarities, trace the action/narrative plot and story… that is, begin to do the work of writing your sequence essay analysis by noting things that stand out to you. You might also want to note/transcribe any dialogue or provide an excerpt selection of dialogue that you might be likely to use or draw upon later in your Sequence Analysis Plus Essay.
Sequence Analysis Plus Essay
To restate and elaborate a bit more on this assignment: How do the mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing and sound design work together in the sequence to underscore its themes or aims and those of the film as a whole? What argument or hypothesis can you make about the rhetorical aims (its aims to persuade) of the sequence and the film—what might the film as a work be arguably seeking to achieve or do, including any problems that it identifies and arguably seeks to address or resolve or appeals that it seems to make? Put more directly, why do you think this sequence is effective and what are its (various) effects? Moreover, how does this sequence make sense--have and create meaning--because of its relation to other significant parts of the film that come before and after this sequence? In other words, a sequence of shots can be analyzed closely but the significance/function/meaning(s) of that sequence are not autonomous--the sequence exists and is (must be) situated within the overall film and its contexts.
Think about how cinematic elements and techniques function in the sequence. Develop an argument about how these techniques reinforce the scene’s themes or modes of representing and working through problems/questions (both cinematic and cultural problems and questions), then select detailed, individual examples from the sequence. You do not need to describe the entire sequence, nor do you need to write about every shot. You don’t even need to write about every technique. Rather, use selective examples to analyze how particular elements and techniques create specific effects in the overall design of the sequence.
Does the film engage with genre conventions? How and for what purpose? With whom do we identify? What effect does this have? What are the roles and relationships between characters who appear to be aligned with dominant cultural politics and ideologies, and as these characters are juxtaposed or connected to characters in subordinate or marginalized positions and identities? How are they shot and lit? What story and plot and action and performances are these characters embedded and embodied within? What patterns of familiar images and motifs help to structure the film?
Try not to be daunted by so much of this guidance and advice: keep in mind that you must focus your analysis and be selective in what you explore and address, especially given the relatively short length of this essay assignment.
-Avoid plot summary and extended visual description.Aim instead to analyze how specific cinematic techniques function to underscore the film’s themes and ideas. Organize your essay around key points in your argument, rather than a chronological examination of the sequence.
-Avoid evaluative language.(“The costumes are beautiful.”) Aim instead to analyze the effects of the techniques used. (“Ada’s restrictive, layered clothing impedes her movement through the natural surroundings and symbolizes her oppression.”)
-If you know precise film terminology, use it.(Is the camera movement a track, tilt, pan or zoom? Is it a high-angle shot or a low-angle shot?, etc.)
-Avoid vague language.(“The use of lighting in this scene is very effective” or “Parallel editing helps to
create suspense,” etc.) Aim instead to analyze the specific effect of individual techniques. (“Closed
frame compositions emphasize Susan’s entrapment.”)
-Make a strong argument about the sequence.
-Ineffective thesis statement: In this essay I will analyze the use of sound in Blackmail’s “knife” sequence, connecting it to larger thematic and visual patterns in the film as a whole.
-Effective thesis statement: In Blackmail off-screen sound illustrates Alice’s powerlessness, while also encouraging viewers to identify with this position of victimization.
-You are not required to do any additional research for this paper but I encourage you to read one or more review-essays on the film that you are studying.Rely on the analytical skills that you have been learning in class and our reading and study materials in the main text as well as via our Bblearn site.
-You may find it helpful to read/review several examples of student essays that were written for shot and sequence analysis assignments and critical essay assignments in Engl 222 and 230--though these assignments differ somewhat from your assignment, these examples provide some instances of how other students have analyzed films productively. See the folder in Bblearn on writing advice and examples of student writing.
-As you know, there are also short videoessays about the elements of film, in a Bblearn folder entitled Film Clips, including clips with analysis--these provide a short course in learning about cinematic form and technique--you might start with the Film Analysis short video essay clips on analyzing Harry Potter and on analyzing Juno.
• Type and double-space your paper, using 1-inch margins and 12 pt Times New Roman font. Do not use extra return/spaces between paragraphs.
• Number the pages.
• Underline or italicize film titles. (CAPS or “quotation marks” are incorrect.)
• Give your paper a title that reflects your argument about the sequence.
• Put your name near the top left of the first page, followed by Engl 222.01 and the date on separate lines
• Spell check and proof read your paper.
• Works Cited page, see guidance on MLA format at Purdue's OWL site
List films by their title. Include the name of the director, the film studio or distributor, and the release year. See examples immediately below:
The Usual Suspects. Directed by Bryan Singer. Polygram, 1995.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Directed by George Lucas. Twentieth Century Fox, 1977.
Ebert, Roger. Review of An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim. rogerebert.com, 1 June 2006, http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/an-inconvenient-truth-2006. Accessed 26 March 2017.
Lateness Policy: Excerpt from Course Requirement #6: All required work is due at the begin ning of class on the due date—work turned in late will be graded accordingly. Required graded written work will be downgraded one notch (for example, B+ to B, converted to points for each assignment) for each weekday late (not just days classes meet but counting just one day for a weekend).Work submitted more than a week late will not be accepted. I will grant short extensions for medical and family emergencies—but talk with me as soon as possible to request an extension. Always keep copies of your work.
Academic Misconduct: Any act of academic misconduct, including but not limited to cheating, fabrication, plagiarism or facilitating academic dishonesty, will result in failure of the assignment and given the points available, likely failure of the course. Your case will be reported to the Dean of Students according to campus guidelines.
Reminder of Guidance and Advice:
• Consult "Film Analysis: Approaches and Strategies (from Film Analysis: A Norton Reader)" and also see in the Bblearn folder "Examples of Student Sequence Analysis essays from Engl 230, plus two Critical Analysis essays, and other advice on writing about film" that I have included many examples of other students' sequence and shot analysis essays and critical essays so that you can get a sense of what other students have done on similar assignments
Also see Corrigan and White chapter on Writing a Film Essay: Observations, Arguments, Research, and Analysi (PDF in Bblearn folder); also see the PDF excerpt from Gocsik et alWriting About Movies. For example, the Sequence Analysis Plus Essay shares features of the Formal Analysis that Gocsik, Barsam and Monahan describe as follows: a Formal Analysis “dissects the complex synthesis” (33) of elements that work together to express the meaning of a film. A Formal Analysis involves “dynamic, detailed, descriptive writing,” in which you show, rather than tell your readers (35) what happens in the film. In other words, your analysis should evoke the film’s form and your experience of it. [See Writing About Movies (35 – 37) for a detailed example of this principle, using the open sequence of Vertigo as an illustration]. [For fuller guidance, see Writing About Movies (37 – 50) for a detailed discussion of how these elements relate to Formal Analysis]. As you know, there are also short videoessays about the elements of film, in a Bblearn folder entitled Film Clips, including clips with analysis--these provide a short course in learning about cinematic form and technique--you might start with the Film Analysis short video essay clips on analyzing Harry Potter and on analyzing Juno.
Rubric for Evaluating Sequence Analysis Plus Essay
Concise Advice on Writing a Critical/Analytical/Argumentative Essay
• You are invited to meet with me – Office hours: W 2:30pm-4:00 p.m. & by appt./Office: Brink 125
“Fellini’s structuring of his heroine’s story as a series of incidents rather than a linear plot was innovative at the time, doubly so because examples of a woman at the center of a picaresque adventure are exceptionally rare. Part of the picaresque tradition, one that dovetails nicely with Fellini’s own inclinations, is a fervent anti-clericalism. Nights of Cabiria is filled with such feeling.”
It’s rare for a movie director to inspire a new word, but by the 1970s, “Felliniesque” was a common synonym for the grotesque, the satirical, and the surreal. In the 1950s, long before the images that made him famous in this regard – La Dolce Vita’s flying Christ, Juliet of the Spirit’s lurid fantasies, Satyricon’s dying hermaphrodite and homosexual minotaur – Fellini was a major neorealist who would have rejected such dreamy indulgences.
The Nights of Cabiria (1957) is in some respects the crown jewel in his pre-“Felliniesque” work. While I Vitelloni (1953) is a more overt social critique and La Strada (1954) more widely known, Cabiria paints an arguably richer, more sweeping portrait of an outsider among outsiders. Just how rich can now be properly judged in a pristine restored print that also reinstates a crucial censored sequence known as “The Man with the Sack.”
Cabiria, unforgettably portrayed by the director’s wife, Giulietta Masina, is a rather pathetic aging prostitute who plies her trade in a desolate red-light district outside Rome. In the opening scene, which provides a blueprint for all of what will follow, she’s cavorting through a field in what looks like a romantic idyll with her boyfriend. But romance turns quickly to treachery and near-tragedy as he unceremoniously dumps her in the river and steals her purse. Surprisingly, after nearly dying, she reviles her saviors, curses her fate, and stumbles off in one high heel to the echoing words of a boy who explains to the others, “She’s living the life.”
“The life” she’s stumbling off to is a raw existence played out in an unstable, post-industrial world of ravaged fields, broken cisterns, and the crumbling arches of the whore-ridden Passeggiata Archeologica, a pitiful reminder of the long-gone glory of Rome’s past. The whores, along with Cabiria’s unkillable sense of hope, are what help her survive; indeed, they’re the only group in the film with a sense of community and caring, in spite of being marginalized and ridiculed by those who observe or abuse them. Cabiria’s simpatico friend Wanda (Franca Marzi), particularly, rides out Cabiria’s desperate moods that inevitably follow her many misadventures.
Much of the film is a subtle study of class conflict, with Cabiria, in spite of owning a small cement house and having a bank account, in the lower ranks even of her fellow prostitutes. This doesn’t prevent her sudden, brief rise in status in one of Fellini’s most celebrated scenes, a bittersweet encounter with the famous actor Alberto Lazzari (Amedeo Nazzari). Everything good that their meeting implies is denied her – from a fancy feast of lobster and caviar to Alberto himself. When his girlfriend unexpectedly appears, he locks Cabiria in the bathroom where she sits until morning, when he sneaks her out with a few bucks. Fellini neatly sums up her situation architecturally; Lazzari’s house is impossibly large and mazelike, causing Cabiria to bang into glass doors and lament out loud that she’ll never escape.
Fellini’s structuring of his heroine’s story as a series of incidents rather than a linear plot was innovative at the time, doubly so because examples of a woman at the center of a picaresque adventure are exceptionally rare. Part of the picaresque tradition, one that dovetails nicely with Fellini’s own inclinations, is a fervent anti-clericalism. Nights of Cabiria is filled with such feeling. In a particularly grim sequence, Cabiria and some of her friends join a pilgrimage to beg for redemption. This presumably solemn event turns out to be anything but, with pilgrims screaming and smashing into each other, hysterical pleas for cures unmet, and peddlers rudely hawking religious paraphernalia.
If this didn’t bring on the wrath of the Catholic Church, another sequence did. In a scene that was cut in all but one French print, Cabiria, abandoned in a field, meets “the man with the sack.” The man is an anonymous do-gooder; his sack is filled with bare necessities he gives to the literal “wretched of the earth” – people living in squalor in caves. Cabiria accompanies him on his silent journey, and sees her possible future when she meets a hooker she knew, once wealthy, now living in a hole in the ground. The Church was apparently so annoyed by the idea of a layman appropriating one of its activities that it got the scene cut. More to the point, perhaps, the church feared a permanent visual record of its apathy toward its most hopeless constituents.
In another famous sequence that reveals the depth of Cabiria’s inner life, she’s hypnotized in a seedy variety theater to believe she’s an unspoiled young girl in a budding romance with an equally idealized young man. Giulietta Masina’s Chaplinesque movements, her masterfully simple pantomime of a desperately desired amour, cast a subtle spell that quiets the rowdy crowd of local males, just as it mesmerizes us as an audience. When she awakes, the crowd ruthlessly ridicules her for being an aging whore mimicking what she can never be – an “innocent.” From there it’s downhill all the way, though Cabiria maintains her dignity and fragile sense of hope even in the most dire circumstances, which come quickly in an extended, ultimately catastrophic love affair.
Nights of Cabiria was the last film in which Fellini tried to make sense of an increasingly fragmented, chaotic Italian society. In Masina’s brilliant incarnation of the simple-minded, doomed prostitute – a character the director called the “fallen sister” of La Strada’s celebrated Gelsomina – he found an ideal vehicle for attacking the Church, the class system, movie star culture, and all the other forces destroying the lives of ordinary people. With his next film, La Dolce Vita, his neorealist voice would become quieter; in a few years, it would vanish entirely as Fellini drifted deeper into a private fantasy world.
— Gary Morris
Gary Morris founded Bright Lights Film Journal as a print publication in 1974; it became a web-only magazine in 1996. He is the author of the monograph Roger Corman (Twayne Publishers, 1985) and the editor of Action! Interviews with Directors from Classical Hollywood to Contemporary Iran (Anthem Press, 2009).