Home    Film   My Art    Art     Other: (Travel, Rants, Obits)    Links    About    Contact

American Melodrama: Course Description and Screening List                                                         

Following is the course description and screening list for American Melodrama, a course I'll be teaching in Fall 2000 in the Art History Department of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Because the course is offered in cooperation with the Gene Siskel Film Center each program is open to the public for the normal admission of $7.00 In general each program will begin with a brief introduction to the film being shown, followed by the film, followed by a brief break, followed by a lecture/discussion. Where there is more than one film being shown, each film will be treated separately. Each program will begin at 6:00 PM and end at 9:00 PM; screenings are at the School of the Art Institute at 280 S. Columbus Drive, in the Film Center's auditorium.

All films will be shown in their original format except where noted by "16mm." Thus most of the Hollywood films will be shown in 35mm. The two films by Douglas Sirk are being shown in archival 35mm original Technicolor IB release prints; I have seen these prints and they are spectacular. It's now generally agreed that these are the best prints of these films that survive.

American Melodrama

This series concentrates on the Hollywood melodrama, both as a genre and with a focus on the unique styles and themes of key directors such as Douglas Sirk, Vincente Minnelli, Frank Borzage, Max Ophuls, and George Cukor. The direct appeal to emotion rather than plot mechanics is what marked these films as "women's pictures," not to be taken as seriously as others with "bigger" themes, but in the hands of visionary directors they become human dramas writ large, with the key theme being a collision between character aspirations and social context, individual and the world. Whether the milieu is Nazism in THE MORTAL STORM, small-town America in SOME CAME RUNNING, or the opulent life of a Texas oil family in WRITTEN ON THE WIND, composition and camera movement can suggest the ways in which society opposes personal freedom with very different outcomes in the work of different directors. The lectures will focus on the films' use of decor, the placement of characters in settings, and the relationship between visual style and the narrative. Several avant-garde films are included, both for their own merit and as examples that fall completely outside the genre; the way these filmmakers develop similar themes using very different film grammar should help illuminate and make more specific the Hollywood films shown.  Fred Camper
 


Tuesday, September 5
SUNRISE
1927, F.W. Murnau, 95 min.
THE DRUNKARD'S REFORMATION
1909, D.W. Griffith, 12 min. (16mm)

Tuesday, September 12
MAN'S CASTLE
1933, Frank Borzage, 75 min.

Tuesday, September 19
STELLA DALLAS
1937, King Vidor, 106 min. (16mm)

Tuesday, September 26
THE MORTAL STORM
1940, Frank Borzage, 100 min. (16mm)

Tuesday, October 3
THE WOMEN
1939, George Cukor, 132 min.

Tuesday, October 10
LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN
1948, Max Ophuls, 90 min. (16mm)

Tuesday, October 17
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE
1955, Nicholas Ray, 111 min.

Tuesday, October 24
BIGGER THAN LIFE
1956, Nicholas Ray, 95 min.

Tuesday, October 31
SOME CAME RUNNING
1959, Vincente Minnelli, 136 min.

Tuesday, November 7
ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS
1955, Douglas Sirk, 89 min.

Tuesday, November 14
WRITTEN ON THE WIND
1957, Douglas Sirk, 99 min.

Tuesday, November 21
CLARA'S HEART
1988, Robert Mulligan, 108 min.

Tuesday, December 5
FILM ABOUT A WOMAN WHO...
1974, Yvonne Rainer, 105 min.

Tuesday, December 12
SINK OR SWIM
1990, Su Friedrich, 48 min.
THE END
1953, Christopher Maclaine, 35 min.


Melodrama Course Home    Camper Web Site Home   Submit Papers  Contact

Home    Film   My Art    Art     Other: (Travel, Rants, Obits)    Links    About    Contact