1997 (Spring)

Film 24:
Screening the Machine:
Technology, Anxiety & The Movies


What the icons below mean:

We'll be viewing extracts from the films indicated during class

We'll be viewing the entire film during class

23 January


  • What the course will cover/how it will operate

  • Readings

  • Assignments: Movie Archaeology (digging up cultural and historical clues)

  • Course web site

  • Class introductions

  • Toy, Mirror & Art: Movies as Technology/Technology in the Movies

    30 January

    Toy, Mirror & Art: Movies as Technology/Technology in the Movies (continued)

  • The Prehistory of Movies -- gizmos, gewgaws, whirlygigs and the Persistence of Vision

    Viewing: Excerpts from Film Before Film

  • The earliest film subjects, the earliest film styles. Movies look at movies.

  • Earliest audience experiences with the technology; movies and the great cognitive shift

  • Viewing: Segments from the films of Lumiere, Edison, Melies, other early pioneers

    Second hour of class: A kamakaze introduction to library research; primary sources, cultural evidence

  • Recommended Readings: Levinson, Paul. 1977. "Toy, Mirror, and Art: The Metamorphosis of Technological Culture." Etc. (June), 151-166

    Optional Out-of-class viewing: The Mechanical Paradise (from the series Shock of the New). Media Resources Center VIDEO/C 217 (discusses the impact of technology on early 20th Century art movements and art aesthetic)

    6 Februrary

    Discussion Team I: 1900 - 1920's: The Social and Cultural Background

  • The Face of the Machine in the Arts: Futurism (also take a look at The Futurist Manifesto), Constructivism, Dada and Surrealism,
  • Early Comedies: the movies take on the machine age; the rise of automobile and life in the technological fast lane
    Viewing: Keystone and Sennett shorts--the automobile as slapstick character and menace
    Viewing: The Electric House (Buster Keaton; 1922) (23 min); excerpts from The General (Keaton, 1927)

    Recommended Readings:

  • Basalla, George. 1981. "Keaton and Chaplin: The Silent Film's Response to Technology." In Technology in American: A History of Individuals and Ideas. Edited by Caroll W. Pursell.
  • Gunning, Tom. 1995. "Buster Keaton or the Work of Comedy in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Cineaste v21, n3 (Summer)14 (3 pages).

  • 13 Februrary

    Group discussion of last films from last session.

    Viewing: Metropolis (Directed by Fritz Lang, 1926 (90 min.)
    Recommended Readings::
  • Telotte, J.P. "Just Imagine-ing the Metropolis of Modern Amercia," Science Fiction Studies, (July), 23:161-170

  • Biro, Matthew. 1994. "The New Man as Cyborg: Figures of Technology in Weimar Visual Culture." New German Critique (Spring-Summer), 79-110.

  • Muyssen, Andreas. 1981-82. "The Vamp and the Machine: Technology and Sexuality in Fritz Lang's Metropolis." New German Critique 8 (Fall/Winter), 221-237
  • 20 February

    Viewing (continued): Metropolis (Directed by Fritz Lang, 1926 (90 min.)

    Discussion Team I: Discussion of Metropolis
    Viewing: Excerpts from Man With a Movie Camera(Directed by Dziga Vertov, 1929)

    Discussion Team II: 1930's: The Social and Cultural Background: US and Abroad

    Viewing: Modern Times (Directed by Charlie Chaplin, 1936) (87 min)
    Recommended Readings:: Modern Times and the Question of Technology(from Chaplin Chaplin: A World Wide Web Celebration)

    27 Februrary

    Viewing (continued): Modern Times (Directed by Charlie Chaplin, 1936) (87 min)

    Discussion Team II: Discussion of Modern Times

    Viewing: Excerpts from Things to Come
    (Directed by William Cameron Menzies, 1936)
    Viewing: Excerpts from Just Imagine
    (Directed by David Butler, 1930)
    Viewing: Excerpts fromNight Mail
    (Directed by Harry Watt and Basil Wright, 1936)
    Viewing: 30's industrial filmsMaster Hands (1936)

    Class discussion of Things to Come, Just Imagine, and Night Mail

    6 March

    Viewing: Excerpts from The World of Tomorrow (documentary on 1939 NY World's Fair)

    Discussion Team III: 1940's (The War Years) The Social and Cultural Background

    Out of class Viewing: Apocalypse Now(Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, 1979 ). Media Resources Center VIDEO/C.999:429 Watch the first half hour or so of this movie and be prepared to discuss how its treatment of war technologies contrast or compare to films made during WWII.

    13 March
    Viewing: Excerpts from: Flying Tigers(Directed by David Miller, 1942) ; Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, 1944); Destination Tokyo(Directed by Delmer Daves, 1943)

    Discussion Team III: Discussion of WWII films/contrast with Vietnam War films

    20 March

    Discussion Team IV: 1950-1960 The Social and Cultural Background

    Viewing: Excerpts from Atomic Cafe
    Viewing: Excerpts from Ephemeral Films andOur Secret Century
    Viewing: The House of Tomorrow (Tex Avery, 1949); The Car of Tomorrow (Tex Avery, 1951)
    Viewing: Excerpts from Playtime (Directed by Jacques Tati, 1954) (93 min)

    27 March

    Viewing: Forbidden Planet (Directed by Fred Wilcox, 1957) (98 min.)

    Discussion Team IV: Discussion of Forbidden Planet

    Recommended Readings: Telotte, J.P. 1989. "Science Fiction in Double Focus: Forbidden Planet." Film Criticism XIII (Spring), 25-36

    3 April

    Viewing: Excerpts from Them! (Directed by Gordon Douglas, 1954) (93 min)
    Viewing: Desk Set (Directed by Walter Lang, 1957) (103 min)

    10 April

    Group discussion: films from last week

    Discussion Team V: 60s and 70s: The Social and Cultural Background

    Viewing: Episode from:The Jetsons

    Viewing: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1968) (139 min.)
    Recommended Readings: Nelson, Thomas Allen. 1982. "The Ultimate Cinematic Universe: 2001 A Space Odyssey." In Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press), pp. 99-132

    17 April

    Viewing: 2001: A Space Odyssey (continued)

    Discussion Team V: 2001

    Viewing: Excerpts from Colossus: The Forbin Project (Directed by Joseph Sargent, 1969) (100 min); The Omega Man (Directed by Boris Sagal, 1971) (139 min.); The Demon Seed (Directed by Donald Cammell, 1977);
    Recommended Readings: Hornig, Susanna. "Digital Delusions: Intelligent Computers in Science Fiction Film." In Beyond the Stars III: The Material World in American Popular Film. Edited by Paul Loukides and Linda K. Fuller. pp. 207-215

    24 April

    Discussion Teams VI & VII: The 80s and 90's: The Social and Cultural Background

    Viewing: Brazil (Directed by Terry Gilliam, 1985) (131 min.)

    Web Surfing: For next session: check out the Survival Research's Web site ( and have a look at their brand of techno-hell performance art. You'll need Netscape 3.0 to see the movies at this site. You can also use the Macs in the Media Resources Center

    1 May

    Discussion Team VI: Brazil

    Viewing: Robocop (Directed by Paul Verhoeven, 1987) (101. min.) OR Terminator 2 (Directed by James Cameron, 1991)
    Recommended Readings:
  • Telotte, J.P. 1991. "The Tremulous Public Body: Robots, Change, and the Science Fiction Film." Journal of Popular Film and Television 19 (Spring), 14-23
  • Telotte, J.P. 1988. "The Ghost in the Machine: Consciousness and the Science Fiction Film." Western Humanities Review, XLII (Autumn), 249-258
  • Lloyd, Donald G. 1990. Renegade Robots and Hard-Wired Heroes: "Technology and Morality in Contemporary Science Fiction Films." In Beyond the Stars III: The Material World in American Popular Film. Edited by Paul Loukides and Linda K. Fuller. pp. 216-227

    8 May
    Discussion Team VI: Robocop (or T2)

    Viewing and group discussion: Virtuosity (Directed by Brett Leonard, 1995) OR Johnny Mnemonic (Directed by Robert Longo, 1995)

    Wrap Up

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