Introduction to Film, ENGL-1210



Groucho in Duck Soup





Instructor: John Cole

Office: Room 3210


Phone: 825-2362

Office Hours: M: 11:00-1:00; W: 11:00-1:00 (Warwick Campus); R: 11.00-1.00 (Liston Campus).

My Faculty Website:


Text:  No Text; however, we will be using Yale Film Site, an online resource, from which I will assign reading, and class notes, which I will provide.

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of the course, the student will acquire the listed skills:

  1. Discuss a wide range of film techniques, offering descriptive examples from films viewed during the semester
  2. Write essays organized around interpretive ideas and supported by abundant specifics about single films seen and discussed in class, as well as about new films not discussed in class
  3. Write essays linking several films through discussions of shared techniques, thematic materials, genre or directors, supported by abundant specifics

Course Overview:  The course introduces students to the basics of film analysis by providing the necessary critical vocabulary to write and talk about film.  Most of us rarely engage in careful analysis of film for a number of reasons: we see filmgoing as a form of entertainment, a social activity, or a good way to spend a couple hours.  Therefore, we tend to either “like” or “dislike” what we see.  This course enables students to take a more critical stance towards film as an art form.  By the end of the semester, when given a film you haven’t seen, you should be able to demonstrate the following competencies:

  • Locate the film within a specific tradition and genre
  • Describe the principles of narration, including the film’s basic structure and pattern of development
  • Analyze elements of mise-en-scene, including lighting, frame composition, figure expression and movement, acting, and props
  • Analyze cinematography, including camera angles, camera movement, the camera lens, depth of field, and other features particular to cinematography
  • Analyze film editing, including the principles of continuity editing and alternative practices, montage, rhythm, shot length, and transitional devices
  • Analyze film sound, including diegetic and non-diegetic sound, with particular attention to sound effects, music, and voice
  • Demonstrate orally and in writing how all these features contribute to the film’s overall meaning
  • Demonstrate understanding of film as an ideological practice


Delivery Method: Face-to-Face

Course Outline:   You will see a number of films during class, and many of these will not be the types of films you are used to watching.  The films shown in class illustrate the major concepts covered in class.

Course Requirements and Policies:  Bring a notebook to class with you and save all of your observation notes.  (You will learn to take notes in the dark quickly.) You must see all films whether you are in class or not. Some of the films shown in class will be available through Kanopy, a free streaming service available to all CCRI students through the library. Also, check the course homepage for links to specific film sites, clips, and announcements.  As with most other college classes, you should plan on two hours of outside work for each credit hour per week.  Finally, the official syllabus is on my website.  Please do all of the linked reading for each of the major films listed.

Attendance:  You will be allowed to miss one class with no penalty.  Your grade will be dropped by one letter grade if you miss a second class, and if you miss a third class, you will not be able to pass the course.  Class begins on time; do not arrive late.  Two late arrivals will count as one absence.

Grading:  Your grade will be based on two exams and two short (3-4 pages) analysis papers.  Each will count for 20% of your grade. In addition, I will also assign short response papers, usually no more than one typed page.  Those responses, along with quizzes, participation and attendance, will comprise the remaining 20% of your grade. Note: In order to pass the course, you must submit all required work.

Paper One:  20%

Paper Two:  20%

Mid-Term:  20%

Final:   20%

Responses and Quizzes:   20%

Total:  100%


Grade Table:

A: Superior 93-100

A-: 90-92

B+: 87-89

B: Above Average: 84-86

B-: 80-83

C+: 77-79

C: Average: 74-76


D+ 67-69

D: Below Average: 60-66

F: Failure: Below 60


Other Matters:  I expect proper classroom decorum, and I deal with any disruptive behavior immediately.  (Please consult the Student Handbook for details if you need to.)  Turn off all cell phones or other electronic noisemakers before you come into the classroom, and keep them out of sight. Laptops are not permitted in class.  It will not often be possible to take a break during class, so take care of stuff before class.  During screenings, do not talk and stay in your seat.  Do not turn on a cell phone or computer during the screening of a filmYou will be marked absent if you open a computer or use a cell phone. Careful and attentive film viewing is essential.

Plagiarism:  Plagiarism is the appropriation of another writer’s thoughts or words as your own.  If you plagiarize, you will receive an F in the course. I am versed in film writing, and I recognize plagiarized work instantly.

Disability Services for Students: Students who feel they may need an academic accommodation based on a disability may meet with me privately after class. Contact the Office of Disability Services for Students to coordinate reasonable accommodations. DSS Coordinator contact information.

Other Student Services: Students who faces challenges securing  food or housing and believe this may affect their performance in the course are urged to contact CCRI’s Community and Social Resources Office for support.


Reading and Screening Schedule

Jan. 23. Week One:  Early Silent Films & Looking Closely, including Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973), Melies’ Trip to the Moon (1902), shorts by the Lumiere brothers (1895-1900), The Great Train Robbery (Porter, 1903), and Chris Marker’s La Jetee (1962).

Jan. 30. Week Two:  Silent Film:  Review Basic Terms in Yale Film Site. City Lights (Chaplin, 1931). Response due next week on City Lights.

Feb. 6.  Week Three: Mise-en-scene.  Review Mis-en-Scene in Yale Film Site. In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000).

Feb. 13.  Week Four:  Review; Discussion; Lecture

Feb. 20.  Week Five: Cinematography.  Review Cinematography in Yale Film Site.  Punch-Drunk Love (Anderson, 2002).

Feb. 27.  Week Six:  Review; Discussion; Lecture

Mar. 5. Week Seven: Mid-Term Exam. Short Analysis Paper Due Next Week on Mise-en-scene or Cinematography.


Mar. 19. Week Eight: Editing.  Review Editing in Yale Film Site. F for Fake (Welles, 1974).

Mar. 26. Week Nine:   Review; Discussion; Lecture

Apr. 2.  Week Ten: Sound.  Review Sound in Yale Film Site. Blow Out (De Palma, 1981).

Apr. 9.  Week Eleven : Review; Discussion; Lecture.

Apr. 16.  Week Twelve:Ideology in the Classic American Film Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942).  Second Analysis Paper Due Next Week on Editing or Sound.

Apr. 30. Week Thirteen: The Greatest Film of All TimeVertigo (Hitchcock, 1958).

May 7.  Week Fourteen: Review and Discussion.

May 14. Week Fifteen: Final Exam.

Note: Films are subject to change, and I will update the syllabus accordingly.  Make sure you read the linked articles either before or right after the screening.