What are we doing?
1750 word essay (and a bibliography of all sources used) on a continuous 5 minute (maximum) extract from one of these three films.
When are we doing it?
Start now; you have time until Christmas, the Christmas holiday, the mock exam period and a few days after you return. That is approximately twice as long as you will have for the real assessment. Essays due January 22 2020.
How do we do it well?
As ever, just do what the assessment criteria ask for many times and at a high level. Full details here, but basically it is:
You need to explain the relevant CONTEXTS; the single most important thing is to analyse your extract in DETAIL; and throughout, you need to LINK that detail back to the wider context.
Your first task (after choosing your film) is to become an expert. That means research. A good place to start is with the reviews of the film - they are usually short and eminently quotable, and they will do a lot of your thinking for you. They're all available on IMDB - here, for example, is the page for If Beale Street Could Talk. That's the STARTING point of research, though, not the END. Plan to spend the first week at least going deeper, and keep a record of what sources you find.
The first criterion, and probably the first part of your essay, is about context. Not all contexts are appropriate for all films - your first task is to choose appropriate contexts. IBO lists possible contexts:
These contexts can relate to when the film was made or when the film was set or both.
If Beale Street Could Talk (Jenkins, 2018)
Set in 1970s New York, it is a romantic drama which deals (typically for Jenkins) with issues around race and ethnicity. (It's based on a James Baldwin novel.) Stylistically quite mainstream, so we might look to Noel Burch's Institutional Mode of Representation to provide a framework for detailed discussion of style and technique.
The Big Combo (Lewis, 1955)
Noir from the classic era (and shot by John Alton, who probably did more to create the noir cinematic aesthetic than anyone.) Directed by Joseph H Lewis, a B-Movie director known not only for his noirs but Westerns, action movies, thrillers and so on. Auteur theorists now use Lewis as an example of someone who managed to maintain a distinct style even while working in a constrained generic and institutional context. So while there is noir convention here, there is much more also!
The 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959)
The film that, along with Godard's Breathless, kicked off the New Wave in France (and then the world.) While Godard was concerned primarily with style, Truffaut perhaps looked more at content, seeking to reflect the underclass of France (probably inspired by the Italian NeoRealists.) But, there are stylistic revolutions here as well. Truffaut's essay, A Certain Tendency... shows just how much the prevailing 'Cinema du Papa' offended him, how much he sought to divorce film from literature, and how much he was the intellectual force behind New Wave (and all the Indie Cinema which followed!)