Fall 2024

Gaze, Image, Countergaze: Introduction to French Film and Film Theory

Listed in: French, as FREN-362


A medium barely a century old, film has been an object of creative expression as much as it has been of theoretical reflection: the discovery of film went hand in hand with the development of film theory. As filmmakers and theorists produced and watched films, they found themselves faced with an array of questions: How does the filmic image relate to reality? How does the experience of film resemble and differ from other aesthetic experiences? How should filmmakers exploit the specificities of the filmic medium? What are the politics of image production? What psychosocial drives and desires does the act of film spectatorship mobilize? This course introduces students to the basics of film analysis, familiarizes them with key concepts and debates in film theory, and enables them to apply their technical and theoretical know-how to pathbreaking films in the French tradition. After first exploring the French filmmaking avant-garde of the 1920s and the essential work of Jean Renoir, we will focus on the filmmaking practices of the Nouvelle Vague and its successors. We will pay particular attention to the way in which films inspired by the Nouvelle Vague dialogued with major concerns of film theory: the nature of the image (its iconic power, its illusoriness, its status as ideology), the subjectivity and gender of the filmic gaze, the role of the spectator, and the counter-gaze of the represented. Theoretical texts include essays in French and English by John Berger, Charles Baudelaire, Jean Epstein, André Bazin, Alexandre Astruc, Jean-Louis Baudry, Christian Metz, Laura Mulvey, and bell hooks. Films include works by Robert Bresson, Alain Resnais, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Med Hondo, Chantal Akerman, Agnès Varda, Claire Denis, Céline Sciamma, Ladj Ly, and Alice Diop. Class conducted in French. For each week of class, students should expect to spend approximately three hours outside of class viewing film independently and three hours reading critical essays. 

Fall semester: Professor Dominick.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Speaking, reading, writing, and aural comprehension in languages other than English, close readings, visual analysis, aural analysis, brief oral presentations, written work, independent research.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2024