Alex E. Blazer Course Site Assignments Description
Materials Assignments Policies Schedule


Film and Psychosis:

The Relations among Spectators, Actors, Writers

English 263 (07942-4): Introduction to Film

Spring 2002, M: 8:30 - 11:18 AM, W 8:30-10:18, Denney Hall 250


Instructor: Alex E. Blazer

Departmental Phone: 292-6065

Mailbox: Denney Hall 421 Office Phone: 292-3754
Email: Office: Denney Hall 324

Office Hours: M: 11:30-12:30

W: 10:30-11:30


Course Description

The hopeless dream of being—not seeming, but being. At every waking moment, alert. The gulf between what you are with others and what you are alone.

        —The Doctor, Persona


The primary objective of this introduction to film course is to learn how to become active and analytical viewers of film. We'll first learn the major elements of film (mise en scène, narrative, cinematography, editing, sound) through the course textbook and lecture, then examine how those elements function in various films. The course's thematic focus inquires into the various relationships between, on the one hand, the work of art (broadly defined, including film and literature) and, on the other hand, the spectator (viewer or reader), and the performer (actor), or creator (author or director). We'll investigate how the emotionally charged world of art puts subjects in this world in question, and why those psyches sometimes fall—or are pushed—over the edge.


Course Materials



Phillips, William H., Film: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (available at SBX)

on reserve or available to rent

film and screenplay availability

useful handouts

film study questions

strategies for viewing, analyzing, and writing about film


Assignments and Grade Distribution


response (email, 500 words minimum), 10%

To prepare yourself and the rest of the class for discussion of films, you'll give me a type-written response as well as post it to the course listserv,, that is simultaneously scene breakdown and thematic analysis. More instructions and sample response here: Instructions and Sample Response. Sign-up here: Listserv Sign-up.

quizzes, 15%

To test your understanding of the textbook as well as to compel you to view films actively, every Wednesday at the beginning of the class, you will take a short quiz on the reading and the film from Monday's class. 6-7 out of 7 questions is an A, 5 is a B, 4 is a C, 3 is a D, 0-2 is an E. No make-ups; the lowest quiz will be dropped.

midterm exam, 25%

To apply your analytical abilities and knowledge of the elements of film, you'll write an essay exam that covers the five films viewed in class as well as gives you a short scene to analyze.

paper (1500 words minimum), 25%

To apply the active viewing and analytical abilities honed in the listserv response, class discussion, and midterm exam, you will compose a final paper that compares and contrasts a film viewed in class with a film from a recommended viewing list.  More instructions here: Final Paper Prompt.

final exam, 25%

Same as midterm, cumulative but focusing on the second half of the quarter.


Course Policies


Attendance and Participation

We're going to be working with intense, challenging films this quarter. Consequently, we'll all benefit from sharing our questions and ideas, both in class and on the listserv. Regular Attendance is highly recommended to do well on the quizzes, exams, and paper as no make-up quizzes will be given, exams are based on class lecture and discussion, and the paper draws heavily on the modes of analysis presented in class. The only excuses accepted for missed exams or due dates are university-sponsored athletics, jury duty, deaths in the family, and sickness with doctor's note.


Plagiarism is the representation of another's works or ideas as one's own.  It includes the unacknowledged word for word use and/or paraphrasing of another person's work, and/or the inappropriate unacknowledged use of another person's ideas.  All cases of suspected plagiarism, in accordance with university rules, will be reported to the Committee on Academic Misconduct.

Office of Disability Services

If you have any specific needs or concerns, please feel free to discuss the issue with me during office hours.  Students with disabilities who need accommodations should be registered at the Office for Disability Services (292-3307).

Writing Center

If you have difficulty writing analytical and argumentative papers, the staff of the Writing Center serve as readers and responders to writing for the English department writing programs as well as all other university disciplines.  Besides giving feedback, the English graduate students tutors can help with other writing issues such as topic development, organization, coherence, clarity, and self-editing.  To make an appointment, call 292-5607 or stop by 485 Mendenhall Labs M/W 8:30-5:30, T/R 8:30-7:30, and F 8:30-1:30.

Student Work

On the Monday after finals week, I will have your final exams ready for you to pick up.  Make arrangements with me to retrieve your exam, or I will discard it after two quarters.


Course Schedule


This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.

Even though we won't usually discuss the Phillips text until Wednesday classes, please read the text before viewing Monday films as study questions for the films will be based in part on the the text.


Week 1

Opera (Dario Argento, 1987, 107m)


Phillips, Ch1 "Mise en Scène" (1-54)

Discussion: What is a spectator?

Week 2

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962, 132m)


Phillips, Ch2 "Cinematography" (55-98)

Discussion: What is an actor?

Week 3
Barton Fink (Joel Coen, 1991, 117m)

Phillips, Ch3 "Editing" (99-140)

    Ch4 "Sound" (141-80)

Discussion: What is a writer?

Week 4

Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999, 112m)


Phillips, Ch5 "Expressive Film Techniques in The Third Man" (169-80)

    Ch6 "Sources for Fictional Films" (181-222)

Discussion: What is being?

Week 5

Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950, 110m)

Discussion: What is obsession? What is psychosis?

Midterm Exam
Week 6
eXistenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999, 97m)

Phillips, Ch7 "Types of Fictional Films" (223-60)

    Ch8 "Narrative Components of Fictional Films" (261-98)

Discussion: What is existence?

Week 7

Croupier (Mike Hodges, 1999, 91m)


Phillips, Ch9 "Alternatives to Live-Action Fictional Films" (299-352)

    Ch10 "Variety of Films and Hearts of Darkness" (353-62)

Discussion: What is real?

Week 8
Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001, 147m)

Phillips, Ch11 "Understanding Films through Contexts" (363-402)

    Ch12 Thinking about Films" (403-44)

    Ch13 Understanding "The Player" (445-56)

Discussion: What is a dream?

Week 9

No Class: Memorial Day observed


Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966, 81m)

Final Paper Due

Week 10

Discussion: What is an authentic act?

Final Exam Review

Conclusions, Evaluations


The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995, 106m)

    (determined by class vote)

Graduating Seniors: Final Exam Due

Final Exam: 7:30-9:18AM