Introduction to Film History

Academic year: 2022-23 

Course: Introduction to Film History 

Credits: 3

Period: First semester 

Number of hours: 24 

Teacher(s): Giulia Simi (

Language of instruction: English 

Learning outcomes 

The main aim of this course is to familiarize students with the key features in the Western film history, and to prepare them for further study in the audio-visual field, providing them with the basic competencies of cultural, star, and gender studies. 


Students are expected to become confident in contextualizing films, authors, and tendencies in their historical, cultural and stylistic characters. 

Assessment criteria of knowledge 

  • basic knowledge of the key turns of Western history 
  • ability in framing the films studied in their cultural context 
  • good knowledge of the methodology of cultural, stars, and gender studies 


At the end of the course students will be able to analyze the films studied in their stylistic and aesthetic characters. 

Assessment criteria of skills 

  • good knowledge of the basic elements of film language 


Students are expected to actively participate to classes, interacting both with the professor and the other students. 


No prerequisites needed. 


  1. The invention of cinema: pre-cinema devices, Edison’s kinetoscope, Lumières’ cinématographe. Early cinema visual grammar. Cinema as a product of modernity.  
  1. Cinema as a new form of narration: the beginning of narrative continuity and the Silent Era Hollywood. 
  1. The origins of Stardom and the Italian Divas: between tradition and women’s emancipation. 
  1. The Late Silent Era in Hollywood, 1920-1928: the Studio System.  
  1. Experimental and artists’ films (1920s) and their relations with the current visual culture: advertising production and fragmented narrative.  
  1. The European avant-gardes: French Impressionism, German Expressionism, Soviet Cinema.  
  1. The advent of sound, Classical Hollywood and its authors: 1930s – 1950s. 
  1. Italy during the regime: fascist narration and the role of woman between tradition and innovation.  
  1. Neorealism and its historical context: a new cinematic aesthetics and the political engagement. 
  1. French New Waves: youth culture and radical politics.  
  1. Italian Modern Cinema: a critic to Neocapitalism and Modernity.  
  1. Postwar experimental cinema and its relations with contemporary art (1945-1970). 
  1. New Hollywood: against the American Way of Life (the 1970s – 1980s).  
  1. Contemporary tendencies 1: the found footage films.  
  1. Contemporary tendencies 2: curating the film (museums and archives).  

Many films – or excerpts of them – will be analyzed during the course, focusing both on style, film-specific techniques (framing and editing), cultural and historical relationships. A comparison with the current audiovisual production will be always elicited. Films will include but will be not limited to:   

  • Auguste and Louis Lumière, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory, Baby’s Breakfast, The Gardener (1895) 
  • Georges Méliès, The Vanishing Lady (1896), The Man with the Rubber Head (1901),The Trip on the Moon (1902) 
  • Edwin S. Porter, The Great Train Robbery (1903) 
  • David W. Griffith, The Lonely Villa (1909), The Birth of a Nation (1915) 
  • Mario Caserini, Ma l’amor mio non muore (1913) 
  • Buster Keaton, Sherlock Junior (1924) 
  • Germaine Dulac, The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923) 
  • Robert Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) 
  • Fernand Léger, Dudley Murphy, Ballet Mécanique (1924) 
  • Sergej Ėjzenštejn, Battleship Potemkin (1925) 
  • Victor Sjöström, The Wind (1928) 
  • Howard Hawks, Bringing Up Baby (1938) 
  • Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (1941) 
  • Maya Deren, Mashes of the Afternoon (1947) 
  • Roberto Rossellini, Rome Open City (1945) 
  • Billy Wilder, Sunset Boulevard (1950) 
  • Vittorio De Sica, Umberto D. (1952) 
  • François Truffaut, The 400 Blows (1959) 
  • Michelangelo Antonioni, The Red Desert (1964) 
  • Mike Nichols, The Graduate (1967) 
  • Jonas Mekas, Walden, Diaries, Sketches and Notes (1969)  
  • Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver (1976) 
  • Alina Marazzi, For One More Hour with You (2002) 
  • Todd Haynes, The Velvet Underground (2021) 


Students may refer to D. Bordwell, K. Thompson, Film History: an introduction, McGraw-Hill Education, New York 2018 (or other previous editions).  
Slides and other short essays will be provided during the course.  

Assessment methods 

Final paper (5000 words with footnotes, excluding the bibliography). 

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