Great Directors, Great Films – Spring Term

Andy Hiss
April 9, 2015

Students in the spring class of Great Directors, Great Films examine the lives, processes and film work of important and influential directors of World Cinema. Issues of story and design, cultural and artistic relevance, creative process and drive, as well as visual and narrative style are explored and discussed for each director and each film. In January, we began the semester examining three films by Italian director Federico Fellini: La Strada (1954), The Nights of Cabiria (1957) and, Fellini’s masterpiece - and one of the great pieces of art in any medium -  8 ½ (1963). We then moved on to three films by French director, Claire Denis: Chocolat (1988), Beau Travail (1999) and 35 Shots of Rum (2008).

Students are now in the process of proposing, creating and presenting to the class projects that demonstrate an aesthetic, technical and thematic understanding of either Fellini or Denis. (It’s their choice). To accomplish this task, some students are choosing to do shot-for-shot analyses and recreations of exemplary scenes. (This is akin to painters copying to works of masters – how light or fabric or shadow is handled – in order to better understand technique in their craft.) Other students are responding to Fellini or Denis with original work (screenplays or films) that addresses, reflects or reinterprets the themes and shooting style of either director. These projects, undertaken with seriousness and passion, offer enormous opportunities, not only to demonstrate an understanding of the course and the directors and films we are studying but also for each student to stretch and strengthen his/her own filmmaking muscles.

Students present their projects in the next week or so. After that, we move on to three films by American director, John Cassavetes. I’m excited to see what the rest of the semester brings!