Course Review

AP: On reflection, I think the most valuable element of this course has been how it has changed the way that I now view actual city experiences. The literature and examples we have presented have given me a practical, real viewpoint of the cities I experience rather than a merely theoretical standpoint. The literature was all relevant (although I don’t remember discussing the very first piece?). I think the popular texts (De Certeau and Bass predominantly) were the most interesting in this aspect as they provided frameworks that really related the city to its experience – De Certeau through the act of walking and Bass through the different ‘types’ of viewpoints that can be established. I do think however that this was too simply linked in some presentations as to whether the Director was an insider or outsider to the city in question, which is a relevant contextual question to ask, but Bass’ points were perhaps more complex in relation to constructing representations than the origins of the film maker themselves. More questions could be posed in relation to the intended audience and the constructions presented in the films. I think also De Certeau was a challenging piece, so some extra support in the literature sessions in terms of helping us extrapolate the key points within his writing could have helped. We seemed to all agree that it was difficult to fully comprehend rather than have time to delve into what the core points actually were.

From my perspective as a Film Studies student, I felt fairly at home with some of the literature, such as Sanders, Clarke and Chapt5 Schwarzer, however when we had to choose the literature to read for week 2’s discussion, I don’t think there was time to read through them all to select the most appropriate choices for me, so I tended to choose ones that interested me in my field of study rather than pushing my boundaries. Perhaps on blackboard each could have a small abstract to aid our choices for discussions and make them more fruitful for each individual. I think the Kogeto camera discussions were great, but perhaps moreso for assessment purposes at this stage rather than our individual learning – they are of course accessible to us, but with the workload of weekly presentations it was difficult to find time to rewind to the conversations of a few weeks ago and watch through each groups presentations. I did watch some of them and although interesting, rarely pushed my understanding much further. As our presentations were based upon the application of literature to film examples, I wonder if a clear case study could have been presented after the discussions (perhaps cut down the second round of group swapping  as I think too many texts were used in this session to truly get to grips with them, which is why we ended up spending time explaining them to each other, especially in the 2nd round). I realise this is a masters level course, thus we are expected to conduct our own research but at the end of the literature session an example of a theory such as De Certeau’s in application to a film would have illustrated it more clearly, perhaps helping with general understanding of the concepts and closed the session nicely.

I have to admit I was a little lost at the beginning of the course in finding the relevance between the in depth (although interesting) geographical history and development of the city and aim of the course in terms of cinematic representation. This became clearer as we got into the city presentations but I feel that the information presented at the start was not easily applicable, although that might have been just down to the locations that we selected in our group. I enjoyed discussing the Tuschinski and Cinetone as they are both closely related to film production and exhibition, but this did limit the information we needed in terms of the surrounding area/architecture that may have been presented in this first week. Due to this we also didn’t use the Geoplaza site, but we did make use of the other archive sites for information and photographs which were useful, but hard to present on the ipads.

The final presentations worked well to show differing applications of the literature and I think everyone worked hard to present examples that would add something to the group’s understanding. I mostly enjoyed those that extended the theories with examples rather than merely illustrating the existing  literature. Robyn’s selection of Inception as a case study was great in this respect as the film lent itself to several different points being drawn from it. Monica’s presentation was also interesting, I liked being able to learn more about the lived experience of the city by hearing her viewpoint of it as a resident, then seeing the film examples that approached these issues in different ways. Unfortunately my home town is a little small and not much happens/films are not made there so this was not an option for me! But I think that as this is an international masters, one of the benefits is that we learn about other people’s home cities as well as the one we are temporarily inhabiting. Working in groups was useful in terms of sharing out research, but I do think that individual blogs would have been more useful rather than sharing posts/cluttering a single blog page. Overall I know much more about Amsterdam (and was able to give some great tour guide advice to a recent visitor!!) and the course has extended my previous studies on representations of city spaces in film.

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