Contemporary World Cinema

House Course Number: 
HOUSECS 59.04
Day-Time-Place: 
Monday, 7:30 - 9 PM Kilgo N-001
Sponsor/Department: 
Michael Moses, English
Instructor(s): 
Alex Sim, alexander.sim@duke.edu; Robin Wang, zhongyu.wang@duke.edu
Class Limit: 
15

Do you love travelling? In this course, we will take you to the most spectacular and fascinating places of the world through a great deal of film watching. We will begin our journey with a lesser-known corner of American independent films- Jim Jarmusch’s eccentric and deliriously funny Mystery Train (1989). Then, we will treat ourselves to two distinctive works of Latin American cinema: Walter Salles’ soulful Central Station (1998) and Guillermo del Toro’s magic realist Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). Shifting our attention to East Asia, we shall first visit the early 20th century China to examine the feudal notions of power and desire through Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern (1991), whereupon we shall time-travel to contemporary China and study the causes of civil violence through Jia Zhangke’s subversive lens in A Touch of Sin (2013). We will also journey to Taiwan, Korea and Japan, regions that produce films remarkably diverse in styles, subjects and genres: Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet (1993), a bittersweet engagement in toxic cultural mores and a light critique on matrimony; Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy (2003), a sensational modern resurrection of the classic Greek tragedies and Akira Kurosawa’s Ran (1985), a swooning adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Following the Silk Road, we shall stop by Iran and watch Asghar Farhadi’s tense and morally challenging drama- A Separation (2011). Next, we will head south to watch one of Africa’s most critically acclaimed films in recent years: Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu (2014) - a beautifully tragic fable of oppression and resistance. We will then teleport to Europe and appreciate the works of three contemporary masters: Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007), a representative work of the minimalist aesthetics of the Romanian New Wave; Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2001), a shocking study of perverted sexuality and masochism and Theodoros Angelopoulos’ Eternity and A Day (1998), a film of rare poetry and rumination about life. Finally, we shall come back home and conclude our journey with Terrence Malick and his purest form of auteur cinema in The Tree of Life (2011).