Week 8 Discussion Guide: Tuesday
In class, we will discuss Casablanca's "literary" qualities: plot, character, and themes. Please send me individual shots, scenes, or shot sequences you would like to re-view in class to begin detecting patterns of evidence you might use to support a thesis for a film paper. Remember that, as with the Hawthorne paper, you can write about a paper in either one or both of the films, though focusing on one film will give you an easier paper to manage. Especially if you had trouble with your Hawthorne paper, consider focusing on only one film. You can always draw connections to the other film in endnotes, or even in your conclusion, if the points of comparison or contrast are very strong and relevant to your thesis. Also, as with the Hawthorne paper, you can approach the paper's thesis from a number of disciplinary perspectives, begining of course with film criticism, a subset of the Humanities field of disciplines. Social Sciences also play a role here if they help us understand the film's social dynamics, and even Natural Sciences may help us understand the physical dynamics of characters, plot, or specific events.
First, though, to be "scholars" of the film, we will need to construct our own written outline of the main scenes, the characters who play major and minor roles in the scenes, and the issues that emerge from the dialogue and action. Getting the characters right also involves knowing who played the parts because sometimes what one wants to discuss is the actor's role in making meaning within the film.
Then we will move into its shooting sequence (how it actually was filmed vs. how it was assembled) and its technique, including important shots, sound (incl. its use of music and multiple languages), montage, etc. Curtiz' directorial sensibilities have been hotly debated in previous decades when "auteur theory" argued that great directors ought to exert complete authority over every moment of film they create. The screenplay given Curtiz by the Epstein brothers and Howard Koch contain many plot details, but the visual representation of characters' emotional states and other powerful intangibles often must be created by the director and cameraman as they plan sequences of shots. For an example of how Curtiz' European training may have introduced a classical image in the camera's representation of the scene of Rick's and Sam's departure from Paris, click here.