HIS 350L • Movies & Modern America-W
This seminar focus on the changes in American filmmaking against the background of the upheavals in American culture, politics, and society from the 1950s to the present. We will examine the breakdown of the traditional Hollywood studio system, the rise of a new generation of American directors (both in the 1970s and 1990s) who were heavily influenced by their counterparts in Europe, their efforts to deal in cinematic terms with the social and psychological schisms in American society, and the impact of their films on audiences abroad as well as at home. More specifically, we will focus on these issues through the prism of some of the major American actors and actresses who not only transformed the nature of screen acting in the U.S. and overseas, but who also became cultural role models for a variety of generations over the past 50 years. Among the performers whose work we will examine are Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Meryl Streep. Most of all, we will seek to explain why the movies they appeared in were at once so controversial and so memorable, why they seemed to reflect so accurately the personal and social problems of movie-goers, and why people felt after seeing them that they needed to change their lives.
The movies to be shown and discussed include On the Waterfront, Bonnie and Clyde, Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver, Glengarry Glen Ross, and The Hours.