The Artist in Film

Class Description

The Artist as a social archetype and mythological cultural character has been portrayed and reinvented numerous times in film. In this class we will be viewing films where The Artist is the central character of a fictional narrative. Through these varied examples, we will examine how this portrayal is often both stereotypical and prototypical. While it is sometimes treated skillfully, it can result in seemingly clichéd depictions. In some more recent films these clichés become the subject themselves. If the trope of The Artist serves as an important role in narrative cinematic storytelling, then what fantasies, fears and desires are expressed through this character? How has the depiction informed the cultural view of artists?

The limited yet typical depiction is often of a troubled, white man who is a frustrated and misunderstood visionary. He can be motivated by dark desires for love, acceptance and success or crushed by the pressures of an adoring public while remaining psychologically isolated. Is he the irascible and haunted genius bent on self-destruction or the naive man-boy who is burdened by the double-edged curse of ambition and failure? He can be a truth-teller, an ego-driven narcissist or the outsider and rebel we all want to be. Sometimes, though very rarely, The Artist can be portrayed as a woman. Other characters that contribute to the construct of The Artist, such as The Muse and The Patron will also be investigated. There will be a brief introduction to each film as well as time for discussion after. The films we will be watching are listed below:

The Scarlet Street, 1945 (Fritz Lang dir.)
A Bucket of Blood, 1958 (Roger Corman dir.)
Excerpts from Color Me Blood Red, 1965 (Herschell Gordon Lewis dir.)
Hour of the Wolf, 1968 (Ingmar Bergman dir.)
F is for Fake, 1975 (Orson Wells dir.)
Life Lessons (from New York Stories), 1989 (Martin Scorsese dir.)
The Painter, 1995 (Paul McCarthy dir.)
Pecker, 1998 (John Waters dir.)
High Art, 1998 (Lisa Cholodenko dir.)
Art School Confidential, 2006 (Terry Zwigoff dir.)