Saturday, 9 October 2010

Being A Film Student: Week One

For those readers who don't know, I'm a Film Studies student at the University of Sussex in my second year. Lots of people think this involves watching films like Pirates of the Caribbean and talking about how hot Johnny Depp is. Although we may do this before the lecturer turns up, it's actually a lot of intense work. Here's a weekly blog showing the ins and outs of the course...

The Best Years of Our Lives and Mambo Girl

I've got my 3 folders organised, sectioned and the reading highlighted. I have my notepad ready and timetable neatly printed inside each folder. Now, I am ready to start the 2nd year! The topics this term are Film Theory (Scarily confusing) and World Cinema. After being told this year is counting towards our final grade, I think it's probably right I am ready... Ahh!

Imagine the world's most stuck up film snob, then imagine the work they write is in French, then picture the translation from French to English is bad and add that the work was written over 50 years ago. That's the sort of stuff we're reading for Film Theory this year; A lot of intense, hardcore text. I'll give you an example:

The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity. Chemical analyses of the patina of a bronze can help to establish this, as does the proof that a given manuscript of the Middle Ages stems from an archive of the fifteenth Century.

Yeah, that's taken from a piece called "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". This is the sort of thing we have to read on a weekly basis, with about 50 pages full of lovely jumble... Just for ONE module. I haven't mentioned the film this week yet, have I?

Made in 1947, this black and white drama called The Best Years of our Lives was about 3 men coming home from the war to greet their families. It was 3 hours long. The aspect we had to pay attention to? Deep Focus and long takes. So, as well as being quite a long story anyway, we had to focus on how slow the cutting was, how everything on screen was in focus, causing you to notice a lot more detail and why this gave the effect it did. That dragged out the tale a little more, but actually it was really fun. Homer, the man with no hands actually has hooks from fingers, he was cast for that. Interesting fact there!
World Cinema is a little different. We have the reading but not as intense and we have the films which are very peculiar. This weeks was Mambo Girl - A Hong Kong musical. I'd never seen one before and it was very enjoyable. You have the read the
subtitles for the songs which was quite amusing but the film was like something out of the 50s in America - We had to look at influences from the Western World of film, so it makes sense we watched that. My lecturer did make me think though... We have so much access to film, but we're not cultured. We see predominantly Hollywood and a lot more European Cinema - Euro-American it can be called. Asian cinema decreases slightly, but when it comes to African cinema, I have no clue. What we think is more important wouldn't be there. Just got me thinking...

You may have also seen a blog on here ranting about why Film Studies students get such a hard time. I also do an elective called Theory, Taste and Trash - It's part of Cultural Studies. The lecturer there said "Why shouldn't something that's involved in everyone's lives be studied?" Film Studies has got just as much credibility as any other degree, but because the context is so easily available (films, music, tv) it hold less hierarchy over something like Maths. So there, the next time I get asked "Oooh, but don't you just watch film?" I'll say "Go read this paragraph in my blog."

That's week one done, better start reading for week two.

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