Section C Close Critical Study

The Films identified in the specification are as follows. Typically we explore three-four of these films and then each student is free to focus on the one they prefer. It is not advisable to revise more than one film for this section.

The selection is as follows

Modern Times (Chaplin, US, 1936)

Les Enfants du Paradis (Carné, France, 1945)

Vertigo (Hitchcock, US, 1958)

The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, Algeria/Italy, 1966)

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Van Peebles, US, 1971)

Solaris (Tarkovsky, USSR, 1972)

Happy Together (Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 1997)

Fight Club (Fincher, US, 1999)

Talk to Her (Almodovar, Spain, 2002)

Morvern Callar (Ramsay, UK, 2002)

The WJEC’s guidance note for A2 Film Studies Unit 4 has published some very useful pointers as to what could be expected in the exam as a point of focus for each of the films

Modern Times

The political satire of the film

Chaplin as left wing?

Chaplin’s continuing preference for the conventions of silent cinema

Chaplin’s tramp persona

Physical comedy – and other aspects of performance

The importance of the love story

Accusations of excessive sentimentality against Chaplin’s work

The ending of the film – narrative closure but no resolution?

The impact of the film – both on release and subsequently

(maybe …. The plagiarism accusation vis-à-vis René Clair’s A Nous la


Les Enfants du Paradis

The film as allegory of the situation of France under occupation

Other factors that contribute to specific ‘readings’ of the film

Practical issues concerning the film’s production context in 1943/44

The creative contributions of Carné and Prévert

The representation of performance

The film as star vehicle (Barrault, Arletty, etc.)

The narrative intricacies and the maintenance of spectator involvement

Defining and discussing the film’s style

The film’s canonical status


A film about film: identification / obsession / misrecognition?

A film about film: the gendered look, the female object

The significance of this as a “Hitchcock” film

Recurring motifs and the possible symbolic patterning of the film

Interpreting the Madeleine / Judy split

The spectator relationship to Scottie as the film develops

The use of locations

The success or otherwise of the film as a thriller

Difficulties in taking the film seriously from a narrative realist perspective

and problems of audience response that result from this

The film’s canonical status

The film’s critical reception

Battle of Algiers

The political context

Mix of styles: neo-realist and mainstream thriller techniques

The film as docu-drama, including production context

The conflict between a humanist and committed political position

The use of Christian music and iconography

The strength or weakness of constructing audience sympathies for both


Identification with the thrill of terror attack

Construction of the Colonel Mathieu character

The success or otherwise in narrating a mass movement uprising, set

against the audience need for individualised characters

The reputation / impact of the film today

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

A politics of the film

The representation of black masculinity

The film as satire

The context of production

Van Peebles as auteur / avant garde figure

Low production values and visual style

The success or otherwise of the film as a narrative

Specific evocation of a black history

The impact of the film for African American audiences in the US

The film’s reputation (including its UK release problems)

Status as radical film , the Black panther/Ebony debate


As a philosophical film about identity and memory

The role and function of Hari

The undemonstrative character of Kris and the reasons for this

Issues of representation in relation to conventions of the Sci-Fi genre

The significance of the earth sequences – including the emphasis on nature

The overall pace and length of the film

Spectatorship issues related to the above and to narrative development

The film as characteristic of Tarkovsky’s work

Contexts of production

(Maybe : the challenge to the film by Soderbergh’s version)

Happy Together

The relationship between Ho Po-wing and Lai Yiu-fai

And between Lai Yiu-fai and Chang

The representation of gay relationships and gay culture

Themes of exile, dislocation

The use of the Argentinian locations

The film within Wong Kar-wai’s work.

Chris Doyle’s cinematography and the significance of the film’s look

The film as an experimental melodrama

The film as life-affirming or as a negative portrayal of human relationships

The film as substantial or lightweight

Fight Club

Jack /Tyler Durden – the meaning and significance of this split person

A progressive film or a deeply reactionary one?

The representation of modern urban and corporate life

The representation of masculinity and its threats

Marla: women as object of scorn? Misogynistic?

Managing the spectator’s identification and sympathies

Distinctive stylistic features and the look of the film

Motifs and their function

The social and cultural context of production

Critical and popular responses to the film

Talk to Her

A melodrama that works according to its own internal rules (of coincidence,

etc.) and the viewing problems this may create

A film about love?

The problems of maintaining sympathy for Benigno after the rape of Alicia

Lydia as character or plot function

Marco and Benigno

An Almodovar film – signature characteristics?

The social and cultural contexts of production

Critical response

Morvern Callar

The rather opaque central character and problems of audience identification

that arise from this

Loose narrative that lacks plausibility

The difficult to pinpoint qualities of the film …

The importance of Ramsey’s visual style

And soundtrack

A film directed by a woman film maker?

And with a feminist agenda?

A Scottish film?

Critical response


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