Framing Offenders: The Crime Film

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"All you need for a movie is a gun and girl," Jean-Luc Godard famously said and the endurance of the crime film suggests the validity of his claim.  One of the most enduring of all Hollywood genres, if we can call it a "genre" at all, crime films first appeared during the silent period with films like The Great Train Robbery (1903) and continue to be huge box-office draws with films like crime-film auteur, David Fincher's Gone Girl (2014). Their popularity should come as no surprise given that crime films reflect our ideas about fundamental political, social, and economic issues.  Whether watching a courtroom drama or a 'cop' film, a police procedural or a gangster flick, a serial killer thriller or a film noir classic, crime films allow us to dwell in a world full of contradictions: where outlaws rule and rebels evade the hand of the law and where determined legal forces protect the innocent and restore moral order. Throughout this class, we will examine a range of criminal subgenres in film and television: 1930s gangster films, 1940s film noir, 1980s police films, courtroom dramas, and more.  This course will explore, both historically and theoretically, the ways in which crime and criminality have been imagined, enacted, and punished in films and television, paying particular attention to how they impact our understanding of race and gender.  Students will be expected to participate in thoughtful and respectful dialogue and complete both a short analytical paper and a longer research-based project. 

Course semester: 
Fall 2020
Instructor: 
Dr. April Miller