Rosemary Koper

Rosemary Koper
Film Studies MA
I’m currently on the Film Studies MA course, having also completed my undergraduate degree here at Queen Mary in English and Film. I’m involved with PASS mentoring, helping first years settle in to university life. I’m particularly interested in European cinema and Shakespeare film adaptation.

Second Semester on the Film MA

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For the second semester of the course, I took two modules – the compulsory core class and a module at UCL called Genre in Italian Cinema. As part of the Intercollegiate Screen Studies Programme, MA Film students can take a module from a selection offered by various London universities, so it’s a good opportunity to try something a bit different and get a feel for another university (and I must say, UCL has a great canteen…)

The Italian class focused on two areas of Italian cinema: in the first half of the semester we looked at commedia all’italiana, then in the second half the focus shifted to Italian crime film. I learnt a lot about Italian politics and society in the twentieth century, from the post-war years of the ‘Economic Miracle’ to the anni di piombi (Years of Lead) in the seventies, which saw unprecedented levels of terrorism, with nearly a thousand people killed. The decade saw numerous bombings and assassinations, including the kidnapping of ex-prime minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in 1978. We discussed these events in relation to Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), a Kafka-esque black comedy about a murderous inspector, parodying the widespread police corruption and ineptitude.

While the first semester of the core module was concerned with space, the second shifted focus to time. We started the semester with a discussion on the cinematic construction of time and a screening of Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), a short film about time-travel which primarily consists of still images. The film draws attention to the inherent stillness of the cinematic image – of course, films usually consist of twenty four still frames a second, giving only the illusion of movement. We spent a week looking at Gilles Deleuze’s ideas of the ‘movement-image’ and the ‘time-image’, notions which attempt to account for a change in the representation of time before and after World War II. Time and temporality were also discussed in less direct ways in relation to reception studies and how Douglas Sirk’s work has been viewed across time, filming death and dying, and phenomenology, amongst other topics.

The third semester runs from now until the end of August and involves writing the dissertation. I’ll keep y’all posted on how that goes!

PASS with Flying Colours

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I’ve been mentoring with SLLF PASS since I was in my second year and it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done while at QM, so I thought I’d PASS on some information about the scheme.

PASS stands for ‘Peer Assisted Study Support’ (and as you’ve seen, facilitates some highly amusing wordplay) and involves trained second year students and above helping first years with questions about assignments, exams, their course or university life in general. We have weekly mentoring sessions which are usually themed around the topics being covered in first year classes at that time. The nature of the sessions varies from one department to another, as do attendance figures.

Some PASS schemes attract scores of students, regularly having 50+ mentees (STEM subjects tend to be very popular), whereas the figures are much lower for the humanities. For Film, we recently held a special ‘Production Skills’ session with a panel of 2nd year students who screened some short films they’d worked on and offered advice on filmmaking – this attracted about 15 students, which I think is the most we’ve ever had. Still, there are advantages to having smaller groups – we can establish a friendly atmosphere and have more time to focus on individual students’ questions.

I think PASS is useful for first years while they’re still adjusting to being at university – it provides a less daunting place for them to come with questions and concerns that they might not want to raise with their personal advisor. It’s reassuring for them to speak to second and third years who’ve survived first year and bought the t-shirt, and it’s also a lot of fun – once the hard work is out of the way, we usually just end up chatting about movies.

It’s not just the mentees who benefit, the mentors get a lot out of it too: the chance to meet new people, gain confidence, attend the annual PASS conference and certificate ceremony, etc. It’s also very gratifying to feel that you’ve been able to help someone; my fellow-mentor Ethan told me that ‘I’ve enjoyed PASS because it gave me an opportunity to help students do better than I did’.

You get more information on PASS here:  http://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/schools/wp/qmul-students/index.html

Moviegoing in London

As an avid cinema-goer and having now studied in London for over three years, I know a thing or two about the best places to go to the pictures in the capital. London is one of the best cities to be a film student, partly because there are so many cinemas. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourites, keeping the student budget in mind:

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Barbican Cinemas, Beech Street, EC2
In addition to its theatres, exhibitions spaces and countless cafés, the Barbican Centre also has three cinemas, mostly showing new releases. If you’re 14 – 25, then you can get £5 cinema tickets from Monday to Thursday with a Young Barbican account, which you can sign up for online for free.

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British Film Institute, Southbank, SE1
The BFI is the cinephile’s Mecca, showing 2,000 films a year across four screens and if you’re under 25, then it’s probably the most affordable cinema in London – bring ID and get a £3 ticket, available 45 minutes before the film starts. I can’t overstate how great this place is, on any given day there’ll be something worth seeing: classic Hollywood movies, the obscurest of obscure World cinema, experimental film, old TV series even. Upcoming seasons include retrospectives of Jean-Luc Godard and Quentin Tarantino. They also have two restaurants, a shop, library and Mediatheque where you can access an archive of film and TV for free.

Ciné Lumiere, Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, 17 Queensberry Place, SW7
The Ciné Lumiere, located in the Institut Français near the Natural History Museum, specialises in French, European and World cinema, hosting Q&As with filmmakers and actors and showing a classic French film every Sunday. It’s like a corner of West London that is forever France; the box office staff greet you with a ‘bonjour’ and the signage is all in French, c’est charmant. The building itself is very nice and the seating is spacious with ample legroom. Student tickets are £6 for matinee screenings.

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Close-Up Film Centre, Brick Lane, E1
Having recently moved into a new premises just off Brick Lane, Close-Up houses a café, a DVD library with 19,000 titles and a small cinema which seats 40 and shows films in ‘glorious 35mm’ (as the chalkboard outside declares). Tickets are £10, which sounds pricey but it’s worth it for the experience; every time I’ve been there’s been an exciting atmosphere and a sense of occasion. As well as films by the likes of Cassavetes, Tarkovsky and Fassbinder, Close-Up specialises in little-known works which are yet to be digitised.

Genesis, Mile End Road, E1
Genesis is the go-to cinema for every QM student – just five minutes down the road and tickets are only £4.50 on Mondays and Wednesdays. It has five screens, one of which is the luxury Studio5, as well as a bar and pie shop, and the films are a mix of blockbusters and more niche fare, including NTLive broadcasts. It’s something of a carrot-cake cinema, recently refurbished with distressed wallpaper and exposed lightbulbs and serving that most hipster of pastries, the cronut. Genesis also hosts monthly Cinema Italia screenings where you can see brand new Italian films which are yet to get a UK release (as well as some classics) and generally there’s a Q&A afterwards.

The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, SW1
Secluded from the hustle and bustle of Trafalgar Square, the ICA is easily missed from the outside, but it’s worth looking out for. On its two screens you can see arthouse new releases, art films as well as retrospectives (previous retrospectives include Chantal Akerman, Luis Buñuel and Paul Thomas Anderson). There’s a bookshop where you can stock up on Derrida, Sartre and all your critical theory needs. Student tickets are £8, and a cinema ticket will also grant you ‘day membership’ to the art gallery.

Odeon Panton Street, SW1
While this list is mostly independent, arthouse cinemas, I’ve included this crusty little Odeon because it primarily shows films which were released a few months back. Located on a backstreet just off Leicester Sq., if you missed something when it was released but you still want to see it on the big screen, then it’s worth checking the Panton St listings. It could do with a lick of paint, but it has a certain ramshackle charm; one gets the sense that the place is aware that it can never compare with its fancy Leicester Sq. cousins, so it’s given up making an effort. Student tickets are £6.00

First Semester on the Film MA

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In my first blog post I thought I’d reflect upon the modules I took during my first semester on the Film Studies MA course. I took two modules: one is the compulsory core module which everyone on the course has to take, the other was a class run by the History department called Hollywood and the Second World War. In both instances, the class sizes are quite small (fewer than 10) and instead of a lecture followed by a seminar, as you might get as an undergraduate, the format tends to be a sort of lecture-seminar hybrid for 2 hours, with ample time for in-depth discussion.

The core module lasts for two semesters, the first semester focusing on space and the second semester on time. The first couple of weeks consisted of a whistle-stop history of film theory as well as all the key concepts necessary for film analysis. After this, each session was taught by a different lecturer and covered a topic (directly or loosely) relating to space, including spatial theory, marginality in cinema, set design and deconstructing the city. The great thing about the module is the variety; we’d be watching Code Unknown (2000) one week and Dredd (2012) the next. In the first essay, we could pick from the different topics covered and apply it to a film of our choice, so if a particular week sparked your interest you could spend more time exploring it in greater depth.

The Hollywood and the Second World War module looked at the impact of the war on the studio system while also covering some key approaches to film history and theory. Though you may expect from its title that we’d be watching lots of war films, the set viewing didn’t include any combat films, and many of the films didn’t even make direct reference to the war. In addition to classics like Casablanca (1942) and The Big Sleep (1945), we also watched a few titles which I was less familiar with, like Since You Went Away (1944) and Gaslight (1943). Each week we’d discuss the set film in the light of a different approach: star studies, genre, auteurism, reception studies, etc. I found the week on reception studies especially interesting as it involved reading responses to a Mass Observation survey from 1942-3 about people’s favourite movies from the past year. The general consensus was that the respondents didn’t like films about the war or anything they perceived as propaganda. Generally, the responses express a low opinion of contemporary filmmaking, with the exception of Fantasia and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (though one respondent didn’t like it, saying that ‘I don’t like colour and I can remember that the cinema was cold’). A few avoid movie-going altogether because they don’t want to catch flu at the ‘germ-exchange’.

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