Introduction to Film Studies: Course with Richard Peña
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Richard Peña has been at Columbia University since 1989, becoming full time in 1996 and being named Professor of Professional Practice in 2003. From 2006-2009, he was a Visiting Professor in Spanish at Princeton University. Professor Peña has also served as the Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival from 1988-2013. At the Film Society, he has organized retrospectives of many greats of the film world, as well as major filmseries devoted to African, Chinese, Cuban, Polish, Hungarian, Arab, Korean, Japanese, Soviet and Argentine cinema. He is also currently the co-hsot of TV Channel 13’s weekly film program, Reel 13.
What is Cinema? was the title of one of the most important books written on film theory, by Frenchman André Bazín. Bazín was interested in the aesthetic and metaphysical aspects of the medium, but “what is cinema,” in more practical terms? It’s a series of decisions, every shot, that deals with everything from composition to sound to quality of light to what shots precede or follow.
In this five-part mini-course, we go over the basic techniques filmmakers have at their disposal in order to convey information and create meaning in film:
Cinematography – all operations involving the camera
Mise-en-scene – all operations having to do with what is to be filmed by the camera
Editing – the combination of individual shots to create desired effects
Sound – all operations having to do with pre-recorded audio accompaniment for images
Narrative – the assemblage of series of shots into stories
Each day, students will hear basic ideas about the uses and aspects of each of these techniques, illustrated by short sequences drawn from a wide variety of films from all over the world. For the last class, an entire feature film is screened, after which the students will perform a detailed stylistic analysis and interpretation based of what has been learned during the previous four days.