This course surveys distinctive films and figures in the history of cinema over a period of three decades. The period spans transformations in technology (the advent of sound, color, cinemascope), genres (the musical, screwball comedy, the western, film noir, domestic melodrama), institutions (the consolidation and then the challenges to the Hollywood studio system, the birth of new national cinemas), and trends (German Expressionism, the French New Wave, Italian Neo-realism, etc.). Where possible, we will trace the migration of forms, influences and determinations across national borders. We will situate developments within a broader atlas of historical events, and geographical areas: the Great Depression and New Deal politics; the buildup to World War II and its aftermath; the paranoia of the Cold War, etc.
One of our goals will be to acquire some comparative sense of often complex and simultaneous developments in films, styles, and film industries in multiple locations during this period. A second goal, inseparable from the first, will be to develop skills necessary to approach this period as an informed and questioning historian. To that end, readings, lectures and assignments (including a mid-term and final exam) are designed to facilitate your engagement with both primary and secondary critical sources.