• During this semester, you will write a review of a film released before 2000.
• You may only review films
not included in the syllabus. Following the theme of the
course??"i.e., “contemporary” and “reality” films
[gendai-geki, shomin-geki, etc.]??"
these should be films
that are not historical dramas [jidai-geki], fantasy, sci-fi,
anime, etc. (see below for genres/classifications.)
• Reviews will be submitted for a grade and posted for your classmates to view. Ideally,
no more than three reviews of the same film will be permitted. However, once a review
has been posted, subsequent reviews must offer significantly different perspectives or
insights into the film. In other words, you will need to keep an eye on the films
or turn yours in early. These reviews may also inspire you to watch more films
• Your completed review should be between 700-900 words. Include word count on
• Keep in mind that this review should be a polished piece of writing, relatively free of
errors or typos. If your review has significant grammatical mistakes or other problems,
your grade will reflect this. It should not be too casual (this doesn’t mean it can’t be
clever or witty) in its style. Try to avoid “I” and instead just assert your view (e.g., “In the
final scene, Kurosawa suggests XXX”, “The film creatively uses sound to XXX” vs. “I
think Kurosawa wants us to XXX” or “I found the use of sound to be really interesting.”)
Choosing a Film
If you don't have a film in mind, start by looking through the films
available at UBC (see
list on Vista in “General film terminology and other useful information” folder). For
more information on a film, you can find short summaries in Donald Richie's A Hundred
Years of Japanese Film (on reserve at Koerner Library), or check out online sources such
as IMDb (Internet Movie Database) and Midnight Eye (see Vista for links).
Please avoid the following:
which were not produced by the Japanese film industry (i.e., Japanese-
Canadian and Japanese-American films
• TV shows
which are not available with English subtitles
which are not readily available on DVD
If you don’t have an easy way to watch the film at home (UBC copy, DVD rental,
Netflix, etc.), Koerner Library has a few DVD and VCR players available in the reserve
area on the main level. There are also a number of computer terminals on the second
floor of the Asian Library available for watching DVDs. Room 506 in the Asian Library
can be reserved for group screenings, or for watching Region 2 DVDs.
Find out a little about the film before you see it. Useful information might include the
year the film was produced, the name of the director or main cast members, and relevant
cultural or historical information. This is similar to the guidelines listed at the top of the
“Film note taking tips” handout on VISTA.
In order to write an effective review, you should expect to watch the film at least twice.
The first time, simply watch in order to gain a general impression. What do you like or
dislike about the film? Do you find anything striking or perplexing?
Watch the film a second time, stopping when necessary to take notes. Here are some
questions you might want to ask yourself:
• How does the film begin and conclude?
• Who are the central characters and how do they relate to each other?
• What kinds of sets and costumes are used? (elaborate, simplistic, colorful,
expansive nature scenes, interior scenes, etc)
• Is there any striking or unusual use of lighting?
• Are there any striking camera shots or movements? (long shots, close ups, abrupt
transitions, unusual angles, etc)
• Are there any patterns or elements that are repeated? (sounds, colors, phrases,
images, actions, etc)
• Are there any noteworthy special effects?
• What are the most important sequences in the film?
• Does the film value or criticize any particular actions, attitudes, or lifestyles?
• What themes can you identify in the film? How does the title relate to the themes
of the film?
• Is the storyline coherent? If not, why do you think so?
• How does the film differ from other films
you have seen? Does it reflect certain
attitudes or concerns specific to its time/place of production? Etc.
Writing the Review
-Broadly speaking, a film review is an analysis of a film. The primary purpose of your
review is to introduce the film to others who have not seen it, and to recommend it or not.
Try not to rely too heavily on plot summary, try not to simply express your uncensored
opinions! You need some analysis and evidence to make your review persuasive.
-Your review must have a title (catchy is preferable)
-Reviews are usually written in the present tense (e.g., “when X attacks Y”, “the
costuming is”, “the soundtrack distracts”, etc.) rather than past tense (“when X attacked
-Below is a suggested five-paragraph outline for writing a film review. Keep in mind
that this is only a guideline: you are not required to follow this format, especially if
you have experience writing film reviews or feel confident of your organizational and
writing skills. A sample review has been posted on VISTA “Discussions” under “Student
Introduce the film, including the following information: the name in both English and
Japanese (include variant names, if known), the year the film was released, the director
that stand out, etc.), prominent cast members (do not give an exhaustive
list), and film genre. Italicize or underline film titles! Be sure to include the director’s
name and film’s date in parentheses the first time you mention it. [e.g., “In Seven
Samurai (Kurosawa Akira, 1954), we meet…”].
Give a brief summary of the plot, encompassing the entire scope of the film except the
ending. Try to discuss at least 3-5 significant events. Try to avoid revealing the ending
or other spoilers. This is trickier than it might seem. How you frame your summary and
what you choose to include will often reveal your interpretation/evaluation of the film.
Discuss one aspect of the film such as acting, directing, editing, costume and/or set
design, characters and character development, lighting, camerawork, music, sound,
special effects, themes, symbolism, or cultural relevance. Use concrete language and cite
specific examples from the film.
Discuss a second aspect of the film, using concrete language and citing specific
Give your overall reaction to the film, and your general opinion of it. Include your
recommendations for potential viewers. Include a warning if the film contains excessive
violence, nudity, sex, or offensive language.
-Avoid judging a film based on its conformity to realism or “Hollywood” standards.
Keep in mind that realism is a relative concept that can vary across time and cultures, and
that realism is not necessarily the goal of every filmmaker.
-Avoid sweeping generalizations about “the Japanese” or “Japanese film”??"especially if
you don’t have some strong specifics to back up your claims.
-Avoid making cultural judgments based on the viewing of a film. Keep in mind that the
majority of films
are produced primarily to entertain and make a profit, and should not be
interpreted as an unbiased perspective of a situation or issue.
USEFUL TERMINOLOGY (More can be found in the glossary and other resources
SOME GENRES AND CATEGORIES
with contemporary settings)
about everyday people)
J-horror (Japanese horror)
new cinema, new wave cinema
OTHER USEFUL TERMS (Use the resources on VISTA if you want more explanation)
story (all relevant events, either directly presented or inferred)
plot (the order or arrangement of events, how the story is told, etc.)
mise-en-scene (everything that is put into a scene: sets, costumes, lighting, acting, etc.)
set (the location for a shot or scene)
shot (the image seen on a screen before the camera cuts to another image)
establishing shot (the shot that begins a sequence)
sequence (a unified series of shots)
close-up, medium shot, long shot
angle (the position of the camera relative to the subject being filmed
shot/reverse-shot (cutting between individuals, usually to follow a conversation)
pan (a shot that pivots horizontally while the camera remains stationary)
frame (the borders of the image)
editing (the linking of two shots)
wipe (a line moves across an image, wiping it out and revealing a new image)
dissolve (one image is briefly superimposed on another)
sound (diagetic vs. non-diagetic)
onscreen sound (the source of the sound is in the frame)
offscreen sound (the source of the sound is outside the frame)
sound effects (everything other than voices and music)
voice-off (a character who is not onscreen at the time the voice is heard)
voice-over (a narrator who cannot be heard by the characters)
narrative cueing (a sound that supports or enhances a moment or motif in the story)
*a more extensive list of terms (with definitions) is available on Vista
Obviously, you can find an endless array of examples of film reviews on-line. For the
film you’re reviewing, don’t read too many in advance! It will only make it more
difficult for you to write something original and present your own views…
There are faxes for this order.
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