Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

COMM 274 Introduction to Cinema

Summer 2016 - Session II

COMM 274 – Introduction to Cinema

Mondays & Wednesdays, 8:30 a.m. – 12:40 p.m.

Instructor: Professor Aaron Greer

Office Hours: by appointment

Email Address: agreer1@luc.edu


Course Objective

Introduction to Cinema will study film as a complex medium of communication and art by way of an examination of some of the best Italian cinema from the last 70 years. The objective of this course is to provide students with the basic terminology, observational skills, theoretical knowledge, and historical background necessary for understanding and appreciating cinema more deeply. The format of the course will consist of lecture, screenings and discussion.


Goals of the Course:  In order to satisfy the objectives outlined above, the work of the course will be structured so as to meet the following specific learning outcomes:

  • Acquisition of the critical and technical vocabulary to describe and analyze cinema.
  • Improved critical reading, writing, watching, and thinking skills.
  • Increased ability to evaluate cinematic works in light of aesthetic and historic precedents.
  • Acquisition of the necessary skills in order to become informed and critical viewers of film.
  • Increased ability to articulate and to defend your views both verbally and in writing.


Class Textbook and Other Materials: There is one, primary textbook for this course. In addition, each week you will be assigned on film to screen outside of class. These films, along with some supplementary articles available on Sakai, are to be considered required texts as well.


Texts & Screenings

Required:         David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction, 9th edition.

                        Articles placed on Sakai.

                        Film Screenings online and/or on reserve in the library.

Optional:         A Short Guide to Writing about Film by Timothy Corrigan



Grading and Evaluation

Attendance Policy and Late Assignments:

Students are expected to complete all of the assigned projects and readings on time. Late projects will automatically be penalized a letter grade per class (i.e. an "A-" project will become a "B-").

Students are expected to arrive on time and attend every class. There will be a short quiz at the beginning of each class. Quizzes cannot be made up, so your absence from more than 1 class—your lowest quiz grade will be dropped—will severely undermine your quiz grade and ultimately your final grade in the class.


Grading & Evaluation:

Your final grade will be based on your participation in classroom discussions, your performance on quizzes, your close textual analysis assignment and your final exam.

Computer problems, corrupted files, etc. are not a valid excuse for late or missed assignments. The student must insure that assignments are submitted on time and readable by the instructor. Plagiarism and/or any other form of academic dishonesty such as cheating on an exam will be penalized and could result in a failing grade for the class (Refer to University “Statement on Plagiarism”).



Close Textual Analysis Assignment – 20%

6 In-class Quizzes – 10% each – 50% total (lowest quiz dropped)

Final Exam – 20%

Participation – 10%


The grading scale is as follows:

A = 93-100      A-  =  90 - 92

B+ = 87-89      B = 83-86                    B-  =  80-82

C+ = 77-79      C= 73-76                    C-  =  70-72

D+ = 67-69     D = 63-66                    D-  = 60-62


Close Textual Analysis Assignment: Select one of the Italian films from the list provided by the instructor (see next page). Complete a close, textual analysis of the film, examining the relationship between the film’s form and content.


Consider the formal concept you were assigned at the beginning of class (editing, cinematography, mis-en-scene or sound) and focus your analysis of the film around that element. How does the use and manipulation of this element affect your reading of the film as a whole?


Select 3 specific scenes or sequences in the film and explore them closely. Explain how each is crafted to impact your understanding of both that particular scene as well as how it relates to the larger theme, design or meaning of the film.


This project can be completed as a traditional, written paper (3-5 pages typed) with embedded pictures, audio, etc. or as a video essay (3-5 minutes). Either way, the project should be submitted electronically (as YouTube link, Word Document, PDF, etc.) by the beginning of class on your assigned due date.


You will also present a summary of your analysis in class the final day of the course (day of the final exam). Your 5-minute, in-class presentation will consist of screening one of the scenes you analyzed for your assignment and briefly explaining your analysis of said scene and the film as a whole.

            Grading Rubric (20 points total)

• Writing – structure, grammar, spelling, clarity, organization, etc. (scale 1-5)

• Analysis – analysis of the film’s meaning and relationship between form and function (scale 1-5)

• Evidence – selection/reference to specific scenes images, audio, video, etc as evidence (scale 1-5)

• Presentation – in-class summary and presentation of the analysis (scale 1-5)



Selection of Films Available for Analysis:

8 ½

Lo Dolce Vita

Il Postino

Il Divo

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Investigation of a Citizen Under Suspicion

Seven Beauties

La Strada

Battle of Algiers

Black Sunday




I am Love

The Beyond

Death in Venice


How participation is evaluated:  Class participation encourages comprehension and memory retention…and it usually makes the class more exciting.  Participation includes but is not necessarily limited to speaking in class.  Looking attentive in class, taking notes during screenings and discussions, and corresponding via email are all less obvious but nearly as important ways of class participation.  Getting into the habit of doing some or all of these things will improve your performance in the course and give you an advantage in “borderline circumstances.”


Poor participation (0-6 pts):

  • Student regularly arrives to class late
  • Student sleeps in class and/or is obviously inattentive in other ways
  • Student never willingly participates in class discussion, and is unable to respond to questions when called upon
  • Student regularly disrupts class (e.g. noisily leaving screenings, rattling food wrappers)


Average participation (7-8 pts):

  • Student is attentive in class, actively takes notes and clearly listens to in-class discussions and lectures
  • Student rarely volunteers to speak in class, but is able to answer questions with thoughtful, cogent responses when called upon
  • Student asks questions or adds comments about course material after class or via email


Excellent participation (9-10 pts):

  • Student is attentive in class, actively takes notes and clearly listens to in-class discussions and lectures
  • Student volunteers regularly to speak in class, asks questions and responds thoughtfully to comments and questions offered by me and by other students
  • Student rarely arrives late to or misses class



July 4               Intro to course syllabus. Early Cinema. Film production: process and industry.

            Screening: clips from L’Inferno (1911) and Rome, Open City (1945).

Readings for 7/6: Film Art, chapters 1 (Film as Art)


July 6               Quiz 1. Narrative approaches to cinematic form. 1950’s Film and Neo-realism.

            Screening: Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958).

Readings for 7/11: Film Art, chapter 2 (Film Form) 3 (Narrative).

Out of class screening for 7/11: Umberto D (1952) or Bicycle Thieves (1948).


July 11             Quiz 2. Mise-en-scene: formalism and realism. 1960s film and genre.

            Screening: A Fistful of Dollars (1964) or Divorce Italian Style (1961)

Reading for 7/13: Film Art, chapter 4 (Mis-en-scene) and 9 (Genre)


July 13             Quiz 3. Cinematography - realism vs. stylization. The Long Take.

                        Screening: The Decameron (1971) and long take from The Passenger (1975).

Reading for 7/18: Film Art, chapter 5 (Cinematography)

Out of class screening for 7/18: The Conformist (1970) or A Lizard in a

Woman’s Skin (1971).


July 18             Quiz 4. Editing: analytic montage. 1970-80s Film.

            Screening: Mediterraneo (1981) or Amarcord (1973).

                        Readings for 7/20: Film Art, chapter 6 (Editing), Pudovkin (Sakai)


July 20             Quiz 5. Sound in cinema. 1990s and 2000’s film.

                        Screening: The Son’s Room (2001).

            Reading for 7/25: Film Art, chapter 7 (Sound) and 10 (Documentary)

Out of class screening for 7/25: Cinema Paradiso (1988) or Life is Beautiful (1997) or Gomorrah (2008).


July 25             Quiz 6. Documentary film. Final Exam Review.

            Screening: Caeser Must Die (2012).


July 27             Final Exam. Close Textual Analysis Presentation.


* Note: the instructor reserves the right to adjust the syllabus and schedule according to the needs of the course.