33830 - History of Cinema Theories

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes

By the end of this class students will:

- know the basic notions of the theory of cinema, with special attention to the concepts developed in the classical period (1915-1945), with a few significant openings on the following period;

- acquire a theoretical competence allowing them to fully understand the language of film;

- master the specific language of cinema studies;

- know how to connect the theoretical debate on cinema with the history of the arts in the 20th century.

Course contents

Part 1. Classical Film Theories

Theories of montage

  • Lev Kuleshov: making meaning with montage
  • Sergej Ejzenštejn: montage as dialectics
  • Dziga Vertov and the "theory of intervals"
  • Esfir Shub and "factographic" editing

Theories of Photogénie

  • The beauty of cinema according to Louis Delluc
  • Jean Epstein and the photogénie of the imponderable
  • Photogénie and "estrangement" (Victor Sklovsky)

Theories of Reproducibility

  • Walter Benjamin: film and the end of the aura of the artwork
  • André Bazin: from the aura of the image to the aura of the event

Part 2: From the Archive Film to Videographic Film Criticism

  • Esfir Shub and the history of compilation film according to Jay Leyda
  • Dziga Vertov and "database cinema" (Lev Manovich)
  • Nicole Vedrès, Myriam, and the secret genealogy of the archive film
  • From collage-film to lettrist cinema (Isidore Isou and Maurice Lemaître)
  • Theory and practice of détournement (Guy Debord)
  • Jean-Luc Godard, historien du cinéma
  • Theories of found footage cinema (Nicole Brenez, Catherine Russell, William Wees)
  • Blob, Grifi & co.: techniques to subvert the Spectacle
  • What is videographic film criticism? 


Readings are listed below in four different groups.


1) Lecture notes provided by the teacher:

Che cos'è la teoria del cinema?

Ricciotto Canudo: il cinema come settima arte

La fotogenia secondo Louis Delluc

La fotogenia secondo Jean Epstein

L'avanguardia russa al tornante della Rivoluzione d'Ottobre

Lev Kulešov, maestro del cinema sovietico

Sergej Ejzenštejn: dal montaggio delle attrazioni al montaggio intellettuale

Dziga Vertov, il kinokismo e la fabbrica dei fatti


2) Books and book chapters:

Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility (1936)

André Bazin, What Is Cinema? Vol. 1.


3) One book among the following:

  • Marco Bertozzi, Recycled cinema. Immagini perdute, visioni ritrovate, Venezia, Marsilio, 2013
  • Jaimie Baron, The Archive Effect: Found Footage and the Audiovisual Experience of History, London and New York, Routledge, 2013
  • Catherine Russell, Archiveology: Walter Benjamin adn Archival Film Practice, Durham, Duke University Press, 2018


4) The following essays:

Students are also required to see at least 15 films. They will pick up 8 titles from this list:

  • The Cheat (Cecil B. DeMille, 1915)
  • Nanuk l'eschimese (Robert Flaherty, 1922)
  • Le avventure di Mr West nel paese dei bolscevichi (Lev Kulešov, 1924)
  • Sciopero (Sergeji Ejzenštejn, 1925)
  • La sesta parte del mondo (Dziga Vertov, 1926)
  • La corazzata Potemkin (Sergej M. Ejzenštejn, 1926)
  • La madre (Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1926)
  • Ottobre (Sergej M. Ejzenštejn, 1928)
  • L'uomo con la macchina da presa (Dziga Vertov, 1928)
  • La règle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)
  • Quarto potere (Orson Welles, 1941)
  • Le tempestaire(Jean Epstein, 1949)

and 7 titles from this list:

  • La caduta della dinastia dei Romanov(Esfir Sub, 1928)
  • Paris 1900(Nicole Vedrès, 1948)
  • La course des taureaux (Pierre Braunberger, Myriam Boursoutsky, 1951)
  • Traité de bave et d’étérnité (Isidore Isou, 1951)
  • Notti e nebbia(Alain Resnais, 1956)
  • A Movie(Bruce Conner, 1958)
  • All’armi siam fascisti (Lido Del Fra, Cecilia Mangini, Lino Miccichè, 1962)
  • F come falso(Orson Welles, 1973)
  • Ways of Seeing(John Berger, 1972)
  • Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer(Thom Andersen, 1972)
  • La societé du spectacle (Guy Debord, 1973)
  • L’origine du XXIe siècle(Jean-Luc Godard,
  • Histoire(s) du cinéma(Jean-Luc Godard, 1988-1998)
  • Rock Hudson’s Home Movies(Mark Rappaport
  • Wittgenstein Tractatus (Peter Forgacs, 1992)
  • Arbeiter verlassen di Fabrik (Harun Farocki, 1995)
  • November(Hito Steyerl, 2004)
  • Der Mensch im Ding (Tom Twyker, in Nachrichten aus der ideologischen Antike - Marx/Eisenstein/Das Kapital, Alexander Kluge, 2008)

Teaching methods

Assessment methods

The final examination will take place in the form of an interview in Italian. Students will be asked to answer a few questions about the program, so as to verify whether they have achieved the following learning outcomes:

Ability to historically contextualize the main periods in the development of film theory, especially with regard to the classical period, as well as to understand the continuity and discontinuities lines along the elaborations of the different authors in the syllabus

Ability to use the theoretical tools acquired to analyze the films in the syllabus

Mastery of the specific vocabulary of cinema studies

Ability to link the theoretical debate on cinema to the history of the 20th century

Students demonstrating a full knowledge and critical understanding of the subject matter will be assessed with the highest marks. Students demonstrating a purely notional exposition of the subject matter will be assessed with good/medium marks. Students with a limited knowledge of the subject, an uncertain or inappropriate vocabulary will be assessed as barely sufficient. Students with major learning gaps in both critical- theoretical-critical and historiographic terms will be assessed as insufficient.

Teaching tools

Video projector, Internet connection. An E-learning course is available at  https://iol.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=16684

Office hours

See the website of Monica Dall'Asta