The Six Week Film School

Welcome to the home page for the Six Week Film School. Here you'll find links to articles and resources that will provide context for the films, both individually and as they fit in the series. All materials presented below are of course optional; don't worry, we won't grade you on whether you did your homework.

You are welcome to attend any individual film in a series, or join us for all six.  All films are free to attend, and there's no need to register or RSVP in advance.  Each night will feature a brief introduction and post-show discussion led by Illinois State University's William Thomas McBride.

Fall 2017 - From ALICE to SILENCE: The Scorsese Style

“Marty Scorsese is one of the greatest living filmmakers. He’s earned the right to independently finance a movie and make the movie he wants to make."

- Megan Colligan, Paramount’s marketing and distribution head on SILENCE (2016)

Listen to William Thomas McBride discuss the Six WeekFilm School and Martin Scorsese on WGLT.

ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE - Wednesday, September 27th at 7:00pm

TAXI DRIVER - Wednesday, October 4th at 7:00pm

  • William Thomas McBride's Chapter on TAXI DRIVER
  • From series curator William Thomas McBride: "Last night's post-film lively discussion, concerning Scorsese's style, hand gun violence, and Sunday night's Las Vegas trauma, concluded with an audience member's question: "Was Scorsese's ending of his film a dream?" Interesting points were made on both sides. Driving home Wednesday evening my wife found this article, citing critics, DeNiro, and Scorsese, and seems to settle the question.

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST - Wednesday, October 11th at 7:00pm

GANGS OF NEW YORK - Wednesday, October 25th at 7:00pm

HUGO - Wednesday, November 1st at 7:00pm

SILENCE - Wednesday, November 8th at 7:00pm

“My whole life has been movies and religion. That's it. Nothing else.”

- Martin Scorsese


Spring 2017 - Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Style

When we awake with a vivid dream fresh in our memory, or are regaled by someone else’s dream narrative, we often launch head on into an analysis of the latent meaning of the dream’s manifest content. Without hesitation, and usually without trained expertise, we apply common principles of psychology and insights about gender, myth and popular culture, and make claims relating to biographical knowledge of the dreamer as well. The spectacularity of dreams is often attributable to both the uncannily realistic nature of them and their cinematic quality. Early on in its development, Hollywood (and Hitchcock) fell in love with Freud, and given cinema’s dreamlike status, it is rather easy to see why. Hitchcock’s psychoanalytic bent is evident in many of his titles: PSYCHO, VERTIGO, FRENZY, STAGE FRIGHT, SHADOW OF A DOUBT. His 1945 film SPELLBOUND took the extraordinary steps of hiring as co-writer and psychiatric advisor, May E. Romm M.D. and, as dream sequence designer, surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Freud characterizes dream form as Darstellbarkeit (suitability for display) whose plastic representation exhibits the visual and auditory modes we associate with film over and against a novel or epic poem. Just as we translate Freud’s monumental publication, Die Traumdeutung (1900) as The Interpretation of Dreams, so these Six Week Film School semesters center directly on the art of interpretation (hermeneutics). This scholarly search for meaning in texts originates as Biblical exegesis and Midrash, soon branching out to legal, philosophical and aesthetic hermeneutics, all marked by a concern with the relation between interpretive subject, text, and argument. As we have been discovering, the metaphors film style employs, like the ones populating our dreams, are simple and commonplace—often to the point of being clichéd. Of all of the films that most consistently and fluently speak the stylized language of cinema, it is those directed by Alfred Hitchcock. And it should come as no surprise that Alfred Hitchcock began his film career as an Art Director and composer of storyboards—hand-drawn images composed prior to shooting that depict and direct what each shot in the film should look like—a practice he continued throughout his life in film. This Six Week semester promises to deliver fun along with the language and interpretive "skill set" necessary to read films and other narrative texts via their formal elements. Éric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol conclude their little 1957 Hitchcock book this way:

Hitchcock is one of the greatest inventors of form in the entire history of cinema. Perhaps only Murnau and Eisenstein can sustain comparison with him when it comes to form.

While Hitchcock's oeuvre certainly invites our formal analysis of its cinematic language and a feminist, masculinist, queer problematizing of its psychosexuality, we will not limit our investigations there—grindhouse theory (PSYCHO, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN), ecocriticism (THE BIRDS), music theory (VERTIGO, PSYCHO), marxist and trauma studies (most films)—are all fruitful approaches and welcome.

William Thomas McBride discusses the Six Week Film School theme of "Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Style"
William Thomas McBride discusses the Six Week Film School on WGLT
Alfred Hitchcock Wiki Mainpage
1000 Frames of Hitchcock
“Hitchcock’s Stylized Capture of Post-Adolescent Fatheads.” by William Thomas McBride. Children in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock. Ed. Debbie Olson. Palgrave-McMillan, 2014, pp 237-263.
The Women Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory 2nd Edition by Tania Modleski

Fall 2016 - Film Noir: Visual Style and Fortune

60 Free Film Noir Movies - Open Culture
How To Be a Glamorous 40's Femme Fatale
Paint It Black: The Family Tree of the Film Noir by Raymond Durgnat. (1970)
“Noir America: Cynics, sluts, heists, and murder most foul.” by Stanley Crouch from Slate. (2007)