So this semester I was given the opportunity of giving a class of my own design in the honors college where I teach. We meet Mondays and Wednesdays, with screenings Monday evenings, which meant that we started on a Wednesday, met for a full week the following week, and then only Wednesday last week because of the Monday holiday. Which is the round-about way of saying that today it felt like I was finally beginning to engage with the cinema of (extended) adolescence in the films of Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola.
The course lets me riff on some of my favorite things over the past few years of teaching. In addition to the film studies survey course I've taught for yonks, I've been focusing on coming-of-age stories in my lit classes. So there's that. Plus, you know, soundtracks. The plan is to revitalize this dusty corner of the interwebs with my blathering as the semester unfurls because I suspect hindsight will render the whole experience a blurry whip-pan with a British invasion soundtrack.
These first few weeks I've also felt like I've had to jam a third of a semester's worth of film studies concepts into our reading and class time, just to get the kids up to speed on cinematography, mise-en-scene, editing, and sound design. To that end we've looked at Anderson's AmEx commercial, and the recent short he did for Prada.
And, of course, our first screening was Harold and Maude. You know, to set the table. That'll also be the subject of the first paper: a shot analysis of three-ish minutes of Ashby's film (with me reading from Nick Dawson's essential Ashby tome for prep), riffing on Nicholas Rombes' 10/40/70 model of analysis. So, Harold driving away from the first funeral at which he sees Maude and peeling out in the driveway in his hearse, Maude and Harold identifying the tree to be rescued under the cops' noses, and the sun setting on Harold and Maude by the water through the introduction of his third computer date, Sunshine (you know, the prelude to the hari-kari).
Today in class we looked at Harold's mom swimming past his "corpse" to Tchaikovsky, Harold and Maude singing "If You Want to Sing Out," and the "Trouble" montage. Then we switched over to The Graduate, continuing the pool theme Harold Blume later extended during tonight's screening. And we finished with contrasting "This Time Tomorrow" sequences, from the beginning of The Darjeeling Limited (we'd looked at the making-of doc as an example of tracking shots while discussing editing) and this wonderful clip from Garrel's Les Amants Réguliers.
The screening itself was the original 13-minute b&w short of Bottle Rocket, followed by Rushmore (hello, Vince Guiraldi!). I can't wait for Wednesday's class discussion. I feel like I have no fucking idea what I'm doing, and it's exhilarating. I mean, what could go awry when Bill Murray is your patron saint?