Tuesday, December 11, 2007

a query

So I've been giving some thought, over the last week or so, to next semester's syllabus. It will be a reprise of last spring's "Researching and Writing About Film" course, although I'm giving thought to integrating more group readings into the course. As a result, I started thinking about the BFI Modern Classics series of "succinct and beautifully illustrated paperbacks," in which "distinguished film critics, scholars, and novelists explore the production and reception of their chosen films in the context of an argument about the film's importance." I've read two of the books in this series (Ryan Gilbey's Groundhog Day and S. S. Prawer's Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht) and enjoyed both of them: they each were smart and substantial, and (more importantly for classroom use) they each seemed accessible to a audience of (relatively bright) general readers. They might need to work a little bit, but they wouldn't need to learn a whole body of esoteric film theory (or any other critical theory) in order to get the main points.

With that in mind, I've decided to choose two films for next semester that have BFI volumes written about them: it's a good way for me to narrow down the otherwise bewilderingly-large field of potential movies. I put a few other restrictions in place: nothing too violent or disturbing (so Salo or The 120 Days of Sodom is out, although I'm sure Gary Indiana's book on it is worth a read), nothing too sexually explicit (ruling out Eyes Wide Shut), and nothing that's just plain weird or esoteric (bye-bye WR - Mysteries of the Organism).

That still leaves a good list of films. Here are the ones I'm leaning towards most heavily...

Unforgiven, by Clint Eastwood (a finalist held over from last time)
Do the Right Thing, by Spike Lee
Amores Perros, by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Pulp Fiction, by Quentin Tarantino
and The Terminator, by James Cameron

What would you pick? I should make a decision by week's end so as to order the books and start doing the secondary research.


Chet Mellema said...

I currently own and would highly recommend the following BFI Classic titles:

The Thin Red Line
Modern Times
Taxi Driver

Those are three of the most unique films in the BFI catalogue and offer a wealth of topics for discussion and writing. If I had to choose one, it would be The Thin Red Line.

jpb said...

All good suggestions, Chet (although I think some segments in Taxi Driver may be a little rough for some of my more sensitive students). The Thin Red Line would be interesting to discuss. I personally have some problems with it, ideologically speaking (while admiring many of its formal choices), but sometimes the ideological issues are exactly what can lead to a fruitful discussion.