Reflections of Cinema

         I took this class because I love watching movies. I figured that English 313 would give me a chance to see some films I had never seen before, as well as give me a better grasp of where certain techniques and genres came from and evolved. I can definitely say that I was not disappointed. I had never seen The Birth of a Nation, Citizen Kane, nor the original King Kong before taking this class, as well as most all movies shown. If not for this class I would not have probably ever seen some great films, especially the foreign ones. Along the way certain films were more valuable to me in seeing the history of cinema, while others were not so valuable; these I will discuss.

         The first film that I would like to talk about how valuable it was is The Gold Rush made in 1925 and directed by Charlie Chaplin. Up to this point in the class I was starting to enjoy silent movies a little, but not really enough to say I liked them completely. After watching Chaplin’s work, I could honestly say I have enjoyed a silent movie. The Gold Rush was the first Chaplin film I had ever seen, and I am glad that I did see it. I love comedy in the first place, but to see Charlie Chaplin work was amazing. I could not believe he was able to make me laugh without saying a word. They were not cheap laughs either but honest, that is funny, laughs. Chaplin’s film was definitely valuable to me in shedding new light on comedies as well as silent film.

         A second film that was valuable to seeing the history of cinema was Orson Welles's 1941 film Citizen Kane. After watching this two-hour masterpiece, I found that it was easy to see why it is such a classic that is one of the best films ever. The film work was cutting edge, and Welles was doing every thing he could to push it to the limit. Many people would have thought it was too much to do in one film and it would jumble up to create an incoherent film. Welles was not afraid to try though, and the outcome was a classic masterpiece I will probably watch again.

         A third film that was very valuable to seeing an importance in the history of cinema was Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 Rashômon. This is a film that if not for English 313 I probably would have never seen, which would have been a horrible shame. Rashômon was one of my personal favorites this semester: a true who-done-what story that leaves a lot to the viewer to figure out. While Rashômon was not the first film to use a very powerful technique of flashbacks; the way the film used them to tell the story was groundbreaking. The same story was told over again by about four different people; each was a bit different, which left the viewer to find out what the truth was. The same technique was used in newer films such as Basic, and it is nice to know where it came from.

         A film I watched in English 313 this Spring 2007 semester that I felt I did not get anything of real value was Federico Fellini’s 8 ½. This movie was honestly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I ought to watch it again to see if I can catch something I missed, but it just seems too painful. I just became so lost in what was going on I could not understand what was going on which made it hard to pick up anything of real significance. One of the things I disliked most about the film was its name. 8 ½ does not seem to fit in with anything from the movie unless the “1/2” is what this was; half a movie.

         All in all, I really enjoyed English 313 and learned a lot about the history of cinema, especially through watching films in class. Almost all the movies we watch had some kind of significance to the history of cinema and in a roundabout way all were valuable in showing the history of cinema to us students. However, some were more valuable than others. Movies always have and I hope always will be a part of my life, and English 313 has definitely enriched my movie watching forever.

Travis J. Martin

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