Community Outreach | Third Age Learning at Kwantlen (TALK)

As an ongoing part of my community service and professional development, I serve as a volunteer lecturer for the TALK series. Promoting life-long learning for seniors in the community, this program brings them on campus where they can take non-credit condensed courses taught by KPU faculty. (Read participant Karen Jensen's review of my film studies TALKs here.) Course topics include everything from language and literature to history and political science. I lead a film studies series, which I have taught with the following variations:

TALK, Spring 2017
Presented by Greg Chan
March 6 & 13

Film Study - Black Comedy

The black comedy is notorious for pushing the boundaries of decency, good taste, and moral certainty. As a film genre, it encourages the viewer to find humor in its twisted outlook on otherwise taboo subjects. In what other medium can you vicariously have your wife kidnapped so that you can extort a ransom from your wealthy father-in-law (Fargo) or swap murders with your two best friends to collectively get rid of your bosses (Horrible Bosses)? This two-part course will look at several cinematic variations on the black comedy, with a main focus on Damian Szifron’s Wild Tales (2014), an anthology film comprised of six shorts united by a common theme: revenge. Delve into the
cathartic, visceral power of the black comedy in this film study. Isn’t it better to choose laughing over crying?

TALK, Spring 2016
Presented by Greg Chan
April 6, 8 & 13

Film Study - Assembling Narrative Continuity: Editing Techniques in Alfred Hitchcock’s Experimental Films

What does it mean if you are “left on the cutting room floor?” Just ask Johnny Depp, whose character and subplot were removed entirely from Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986) or Phyllis Diller, whose cranky neighbour disappeared from the final cut of Jason Reitman’s Juno (2007). Kevin Costner, though, is probably the most famous case of being left on the cutting room floor: the suicide of his character, Alex, in Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill (1984), is the inciting incident for the reunion of friends, but all of his flashback scenes were cut from the iconic film. With the advent of DVD extras, home viewers now know that a feature film involves hours of footage that do not make it into the finished product. The process of determining the outtakes, deleting unnecessary scenes, reconfiguring censored material, streamlining the sequences, and creating overall narrative continuity is known as editing. As visual storytellers, filmmakers face space/time limitations that demand the average 2-hour feature film be created from, on average, 4 times that amount of footage. Editing, in the words of famed director Alfred Hitchcock, “means the assembly of pieces of film which, when moved in rapid succession before the eye, create an idea.” This three-day film study will look at how filmmakers create such ideas through editing techniques—including narrative verisimilitude, eye-line matching, cross-cutting, and diegetic sound—by screening and closely analyzing two of Hitchcock’s editing triumphs: Rope (1948) and Rear Window (1954), along with Strangers on a Train (1951, select scenes only). These three films are a master class in the creative possibilities of film editing. Come prepared to learn about the editing techniques that guide screen narratives; your movie-going experience will never be the same after this course!


TALK, Fall 2015
Presented by Greg Chan
October 26 & November 2

Film Study - Escape Route: North by Northwest and Auteurist Filmmaking

You may have noticed how the cachet of a film increasingly depends on recognizing its director, as in “have you seen that Martin Scorsese film?” or “Big Eyes is Tim Burton’s latest release.” In some cases, the director is so integral to a film genre that a “cult of the director” forms around his/her body of work. On occasion, the director even becomes an adjective, perhaps best exemplified by Alfred Hitchcock giving rise to the term “Hitchcockian” (as in “femme fatale Amy from David Fincher’s Gone Girl is a Hitchcockian homage to the Icy Blonde”). In this TALK film study, you will discover the formalist school of filmmaking that brought directors into the foreground as the “auteurs” or authors of films. With a focus on aestheticism, formalist filmmakers like Hitchcock elevated B-level material to create artistic pieces now considered film classics. You will be viewing Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959) as our prime example of auteurist filmmaking on Day 1. On Day 2, you will be analyzing the film’s formalist elements, including its emphasis on Cary Grant’s grey suit, its Wrong Man motif, its set design/manipulation of the VanDamm hide-out, and its iconic crop duster scene.
Join this film study group to uncover the depths of film artistry concealed within those deceptively superficial screen images.

TALK, Spring 2015
Presented by Greg Chan
February 25 & March 4

Film Study - Cinéma Vérité: Disaster Filmmaking and the 9/11 Narrative

As a moviegoer, have you ever found yourself drawn to the cinematic genre that includes documentaries, docudramas, historical treatments, and—inexplicably—disaster films?
With its largely unmanipulated production values, the so-called Realist school of filmmaking subscribes to the idea that "if it's too pretty, it's false." Such films are all about character-driven narratives that are unreliant on special effects, complex editing, headlining stars or the cult of the director. Their rawness can transport you to the war-torn Cambodia of The Killing Fields (1984), immerse you the social experiment of The UP Series (1964-present), or have you vicariously experience The Impossible (2013) amidst a natural disaster. Our TALK film study will explore this antithesis to the Hollywood blockbuster by travelling alongside the passengers and crew of United 93 (Greengrass, 2006). This acclaimed docudrama reconstructs a narrative around the struggle onboard the only flight not to reach its target on September 11th. Harrowing in its unflinching realism, Paul Greengrass' film is not only a cathartic tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11, but also a fascinating example of the impact storytelling can have when matched with the artistry of cinéma vérité. Come prepared to view and discuss United 93, a triumph in objective filmmaking.


TALK, Spring 2014
Presented by Greg Chan
February 14, 16, 24 & 26
Film Study - The Post-romantic Films of Richard Linklater

As a savvy moviegoer, you have no doubt observed a storytelling pattern found in romantic comedies and dramas. This might include the idea that opposites attract; the need for secondary characters to couple up before the leads do; the feeling that everything is a prelude to that first kiss; and the inevitability that lovers must have a passionate confrontation . . . while it is raining. Such clichéd motifs are a staple in romantic films, but they have been repurposed or avoided altogether in the post-romantic films of Richard Linklater. In this interactive seminar, you will be viewing and analyzing two post-romantic films, Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) and its sequel Before Sunset (2004). Your guided tour of post-romanticism will focus on how these dialogue-driven, essentially plotless films rely on other motifs and narrative techniques to tell the love story of Jesse and Céline.


TALK, Spring 2013
Presented by Greg Chan
February 20 & 27

Film Study - Becoming an "Apt Pupil": A Critical Study of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo

Are you a film buff who wants to learn more about the artistry behind celluloid images? This course introduces you to some of the central concepts of film studies: form, aesthetics, and style. Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), recently named the greatest film ever made by Sight and Sound, will be the focus of our film talk.