Film Review Assignment Description:
The Final Assignment should be written from the point of view of convincing the instructor to include a film not currently on the course list as a screening. To do this, students will have to develop an argument and explain the relevance of the film to the course goals and the study of Film History.
The Final Assignment should answer the question “Why include this film in the course?”, or put differently, “How does this film add to our study of Film History?” You will make this argument by choosing a chapter of the textbook (Dixon and Foster’s A Short History of Film) and then show how the film could be taught alongside it. For example, you might select a film that exemplifies a different film movement that could hypothetically be added to the course, or which would give a different perspective on a movement like Classical Hollywood Cinema. Or perhaps you could use a film to help illustrate Dixon and Foster’s gaps or blind spots.
It would be desirable to single out one or two scenes and explain how they could be used in the classroom for close examination.
In my final assignment, I would like to argue for the inclusion of the film “The Handmaiden” (2016) directed by Park Chan-wook in a film history course. Specifically, I would like to show how the film can be taught alongside the chapter on “The New Korean Cinema” in Dixon and Foster’s A Short History of Film.
“The Handmaiden” is a perfect example of the New Korean Cinema movement, which emerged in the 1990s and is characterized by its use of genre-blending, stylistic experimentation, and political and social commentary. The film tells the story of a Korean handmaiden who is hired to assist a wealthy Japanese heiress but is actually part of a plan to defraud her. The film is a masterful blend of genres, including melodrama, thriller, and romance, and uses a non-linear narrative structure to reveal the complexity of the characters and the themes of class, gender, and identity.
In the classroom, one or two scenes that could be used for close examination would be the scene where the handmaiden, Sook-Hee, and the heiress, Hideko, first meet and the scene where they first consummate their relationship. These scenes are significant as they reveal how the film subverts the traditional gender roles and expectations of the melodrama and romance genres, and how it questions the power dynamics of class and colonialism. Through a close examination of these scenes, students can gain a deeper understanding of how “The Handmaiden” uses genre and style to comment on the social and political issues of its time and place. Additionally, this film will also help to fill in Dixon and Foster’s gap of new Korean cinema and how it differs from Hollywood cinema and its impact on other Asian cinema.
Furthermore, the film’s use of visual and aural elements can also be examined in the classroom. For example, the film’s use of color, lighting, and framing creates a sense of unease and tension, as well as its use of music and sound design to enhance the emotional impact of the scenes. These elements further contribute to the film’s genre-blending and stylistic experimentation and can be used to discuss the role of style in film history and its impact on the audience’s engagement with the film’s themes and meanings.
Additionally, the film can also be used to discuss the representation of Korea and Japan during the period of colonization and its impact on the identity of the characters in the film. Through the film’s representation of class and gender, students can have a deeper understanding of the impact of colonization on society and how the film portrays its representation of the time.
Overall, “The Handmaiden” is an excellent example of the New Korean Cinema movement and can be used to enhance the students’ understanding of film history and its representation of society, and its impact on contemporary Asian cinema. By studying this film alongside the chapter on “The New Korean Cinema” in Dixon and Foster’s A Short History of Film, students can gain a deeper appreciation of the complexity and diversity of film history and its impact on society.
No essay that does not develop an argument linking your chosen film to a single chapter of A Short History of Film will pass. You will be evaluated on an understanding of the elements of film history we have studied and your ability to usefully connect them with the film you are writing about.
Please follow the style guide and use the essay template. Any material you reference (including A Short History of Film) must be properly cited, including the use of page numbers; failures to cite properly may result in a plagiarism case. If you do other research, it must be of peer-reviewed material published by a reputable academic publisher.
Read the style guide on UMLearn and follow it fully. Download the essay template and use it.
I may be open to considering a version of this assignment in a format other than as an essay, perhaps as a Video Essay that might mix footage from the film with commentary. However, I will need to be convinced that as much work was put in (or more!) than would have been the case with a conventional essay. The requirements for research and citation will still apply.
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