Special Topics in Film: Hollywood Renegades: American New Wave Cinema, 1967-1982

English 390-6.01

“New Hollywood” (or the American New Wave) helped to revolutionize world cinema between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s. During a

tumultuous period marked by the Vietnam War, anti-war and student protests, the Civil Rights movement, urban violence, the rise of Black Power, the Woman’s Liberation movement, the sexual revolution, the Watergate scandal and the emergence of a generational counter-culture that celebrated personal freedom, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, a small but influential group of artists in Hollywood made movies that transformed American cinema and American society. The accelerating collapse of the old studio system that had dominated Hollywood since the early 1930s provided an opportunity for independent-minded film-makers such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Dennis Hopper, Arthur Penn, Bob Rafelson, Sam Peckinpah, William Friedkin, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Peter Bogdanovich, Terence Malik, Ridley Scott, George Lucas, and Stephen Spielberg to change the way American movies were made. In the process, these “renegade” filmmakers (some American, some European expatriates) of the New Hollywood simultaneously reflected and contributed to a profound reshaping of American cultural identity that we are still coming to terms with today. In the course of the semester, we will consider a renewed fascination with American outlaws and criminals in Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, The Wild Bunch, The Godfather, and Badlands. We will explore the legacy of Vietnam and Watergate in Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, and The Conversation. We will examine the rise of the neo-noir film and explore the corruptions and the temptations of city life in Mean Streets, Midnight Cowboy, Chinatown, The French Connection, and Taxi Driver. We’ll consider the cinematic nostalgia for (and satire of) lost ways of American life in The Last Picture Show, Nashville, and Stardust Memories. We will ponder the fate and the future of American love, desire, and romance in The Graduate, Five Easy Pieces, Manhattan, and Days of Heaven. We will travel to distant galaxies and alternative (dystopian) realities in science fiction epics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, and Blade Runner. And finally, we’ll look at the emergence of such escapist blockbusters as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the success of which marked the end of an era of “independent” and counter-cultural Hollywood cinema.

READING ASSIGNMENTS: Students will be required to watch one or two feature-length films per week. All films will be available in DVD, BRD, or in streaming format via a digital portal at Lilly Library. In addition, students will be assigned one to two short essays of film criticism each week that will focus on the history of film genres, the formal grammar and technical innovations of cinematic art, and the political, cultural, and historical contexts of the films under discussion.


TERM PAPERS: Students will be required to write four (4) five-page essays (2,500–3,000 words each) in addition to weekly one-page (300 word) response papers.

GRADE TO BE BASED ON: Four essays, weekly one-page response papers, class attendance, and regular participation in class discussion. 

Special Topics in Film: Hollywood Renegades: American New Wave Cinema, 1967-1982