Contemporary film genres (Master in Film and Screen Studies)

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Program details
Subject: Contemporary film genres
Course: Second
Semester: 1
Modality: Optional
Professor: Josep Lambies


Rick Altman teaches us that cinematic genres are mutable categories, hybrid paradigms or directly signs of a phantasmagorical path, full of uncertainties, which is prolonged in time. Faced with such a problematic reality as the one outlined here, is it possible to establish a single definition of the concept of genre? We know that, at the time, classic Hollywood cinema invented a system of more or less paradigmatic narrative and visual codes that viewers could easily recognise and decode. This responded, to a large extent, to consumer criteria: among other things, it allowed the industry to segment the market, identify audiences and determine who each film was aimed at. In return, because of their cumulative and repetitive nature, generic patterns created reading expectations among the people who went to the cinemas.

Throughout history, however, these codes have been destabilised and controverted in different ways: they deteriorate, are reactivated, migrate their meaning, agonise, survive and, more often than not, lose their original function. These mutations are due to very diverse factors, ranging from changes in the socio-political context to the need to transform the audiovisual in accordance with new forms of reception, as well as the interference of new sensibilities that are so necessary to understand our present, such as gender perspectives or queer theory. Within the framework of a contemporaneity of reminiscent tendencies that articulates unsuspected relations with the past and memory, the persistence of the textual structures that constitute genres is subject to a historical discourse that is as tenacious as it is abject.

This subject proposes to adopt a comparative and hermeneutic model, based on a constant dialogue between heterogeneous images, which allows us to study how, and with what consequences, the cinema of the last twenty years has been able to absorb or redraw the generic map of classicism. The course also aims to introduce a critical point of view and poses, from the outset, a series of fundamental questions: Do genres have a real existence? Do they undergo a predictable evolution? To what extent is it relevant to use the old generic categories for the study of contemporary cinema? Does it make sense to continue to talk about film genres today? These are some of the foundational questions of the programme. Far from being associated with unappealable answers, they will motivate the spaces for debate that we will share throughout the course.


  • Identify the codes of the different film genres and their lines of survival in recent audiovisuals.
  • Encourage the use of a comparative and dialectical model of analysis, which makes it possible to compare different moments in the history of cinema.
  • To detect some of the factors that have determined the transformation of classical genres over time and, specifically, in the contemporary context.
  • To understand the theoretical discourses on generic structures and to relate them to other theoretical lines, such as feminism and queer theory.
  • To stimulate collective debate around audiovisual texts and the analytical capacity of each individual student.


  • Session 1. Musical (I). Survivals of an (almost) extinct genre
    • The gold diggers (Marvyn LeRoy, 1933) – Un americano en París (An American in Paris, Vincente Minnelli, 1951) – Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003)
    • Reminiscent images, dying forms – Has the musical disappeared? Industrial reasons: the crisis of the studios means the decline of the genre – Synchronic and diachronic criteria – Strategies of survival in the discourse of postmodernity: hybridisation, deformation and intertextuality – The case of Holy motors – The screen within the film: Femme fatale, Wall-E, Logan, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Problematising the generic – The difficulty of affiliation – Genres beyond Hollywood – Bibliographical approaches and methodological frameworks.
  • Session 2. Musical (II). The fatigue of the bodies
    • Small town girl (Leslie Karlos, 1953) – Mala sangre (Mauvais sang, Leos Carax, 1986) – Solo los amantes sobreviven (Only lovers left alive, Jim Jarmusch, 2013)
    • The sonorous vocation of cinema – Incidence of music – A new idea of choreographic physicality – The vampire’s body in Only Lovers Survive – Wounded, corpses and spectres in Leos Carax’s musicals – How to revive a dead genre? The strange case of Baby Face – The nostalgic musical and animated film.
  • Session 3. Western (I). Symbolic Universes
    • La diligencia (The stagecoach, John Ford, 1939) – Río Rojo (Red River, Howard Hawks, 1948) – Brokeback mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
    • From daytime to twilight, from twilight to night – Spectres of the masculine: from The Man Who Killed Liberty Valance to Dead Man – Desert and Graveyard: Clint Eastwood, Gus Van Sant, Joel and Ethan Coen – Spectres of the feminine: from Seven Women to Seduction – The Woman at the Keyhole: Kelly Reichardt, Jane Campion, Chloé Zhao.
  • Session 4. Western (II). Digging up the bodies
    • Once upon a time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968) – Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992) – Westworld (Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, 2016).
    • The expansion of violence. From the spaghetti western to the cinema of Quentin Tarantino – Quiet bikers, midnight cowboys: the western out of the desert – Rebirth and disarticulation of the western in television fiction: from Deadwood to Westworld – Far from America.
  • Session 5. Adventure films. The destruction of the indestructible
    • El halcón y la flecha (The Flame and the Arrow, Jacques Tourneur, 1950) – Misión: Imposible (Mission: Impossible, Brian De Palma, 1996) – Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)
    • Horizontal time and vertical time – From the peripeteia of the action hero to the suspended body – Reincarnation and death in James Bond films – Superhero cinema: the only ‘real’ genre in the contemporary film industry? – Indestructible bodies, vulnerable beings: a journey from Marvel to Shyamalan’s cinema.
  • Session 6. Film noir. Lysergic detectives, dying detectives
    • El sueño eterno (The big sleep, Howard Hawks, 1946) – El largo adiós (The long goodbye, Robert Altman, 1973) – Lo que esconde Silver Lake (Under the Silver Lake, David Robert Mitchell, 2018)
      El cuerpo abatido, la fatiga: Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, Fred McMurray – Letargo y alucinación: Robert Altman, Paul Thomas Anderson, El gran Lebowski –
      Post-mortem: David Lynch – Brian de Palma: el punto de vista de la femme fatale.
  • Session 7. Gangster cinema. In search of a place in the contemporary world.
    • Hampa dorada (Little Caesar, W.R. Burnett, 1931) – Érase una vez en América (Once upon a time in America, Sergio Leone, 1984) – El irlandés (The Irishman, Martin Scorsese, 2019)
      Social Contexts: The Gangster as Urban Foundational Story – From Underworld Power to Male Melodrama – The Clash of the Domestic – Last Memories of the American Gangster – Time and Ellipsis – Mafia and Drugs: New Criminal Narratives.
  • Session 8. Melodrama (I). Reinterpretations
    • Melodrama since Todd Haynes’ ‘Carol’.
  • Session 9. Melodrama (II). Projections of the subject
    • Una mujer bajo la influencia (A woman under the influence, John Cassavetes, 1974) – Relámpago sobre agua (Lightning over water, Wim Wenders, 1980) – I’m still here (Casey Affleck, 2010)
    • Iconography, gestuality, pathos: acting paradigms in melodrama – Landscapes of intimacy: the audiovisual diary, the family album – Autofiction in the post-truth era – The staging of oneself: genealogies of the body between Lightning on the water and I’m still here – Excess, exaggeration, limit.
  • Session 10. Comedy. Rethinking the normative
    • Daisy Doodad’s Dial (Florence Turner, 1914) – El botones (The bellboy, Jerry Lewis, 1960) – The Muppets (James Bobin, 2011)
    • The body and the word – The comic and the abject: the laugh, the grimace, the fall. Survival of the visual gag – Feminist dissidence through comedy – Characters outside the norm: Kathleen Rowe’s unruly women – Posthumor, parodies and other mutations: another deformation of generic codes – Subgenres of television comedy and its interference in cinema.
  • Session 11. Horror and fantasy. New forms, other fears
    • El proyecto de la bruja de Blair (The Blair Witch Project, Daniel Myrick y Eduardo Sánchez, 1999) – La bruja (The Witch, Robert Eggers, 2015) – Titane (Julia Ducornau, 2021)
    • Metamorphosis, flesh and metal – The female body – The anatomical interior and the empty exterior – “The origins of cinema are the terror of the human being”, says Leutrat – New devices of terror in digital cinema – What we do not see, what does not stop looking at us: the idea of otherness in the new fantastic stories – From the myth of the zombie to the invisible man.
  • Session 12. Oral Presentations


The evaluation of the course consists of three parts: a 20-minute oral presentation (30 %), a written paper (50 %) and class participation (20 %).


Altman, Rick (1999). Los géneros cinematográficos. Barcelona: Paidós.

Benavente, Fran (2017). El héroe trágico en el western. El género y sus límites. Sevilla: Athenaica.

Bou, Núria, y Pérez, Xavier (2000). El tiempo del héroe. Épica y masculinidad en el cine de Hollywood. Barcelona: Paidós.

Bordwell, David; Staiger, Janet; Thompson, Kristin (1997). El cine clásico de Hollywood. Barcelona: Paidós.

Browne, Nick (ed.) (1997). Refiguring American Film Genres. Berkeley: University of California.

Cavell, Stanley (1999). La búsqueda de la felicidad. Barcelona: Paidós.

Clover, Carol (1992). Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Nueva Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Costa, Jordi (ed.) (2010). Una risa nueva: posthumor, parodias y otras mutaciones de la comedia. Madrid: Nausícaä.

Cueto, Roberto, y Santamaría, Antonio (ed). (2011). American Way of Death. San Sebastián: Donostia Kultura.

Deleuze, Gilles (1989). La imagen-movimiento y La imagen-tiempo. Barcelona: Paidós.

Garín, Manuel (2014). El gag visual. Madrid: Cátedra.

Grant, Barry Keith (ed.) (1986). Film Genre Reader. University of Texas Press.

Heredero, Carlos F., y Santamarina, Antonio (1996). El cine negro. Buenos Aires: Paidós Ibérica.

Hoberman, J. (2012). Film after Film. Or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema. Londres, Nueva York: Verso.

Hoberman, J., y Rosenbaum, Jonathan (1983). Midnight Movies. Nueva York: Harpers and Row.

Kaminsky, Stuart M. (1974). American Film Genres. Approaches to a Critical Theory of Popular Film. Dayton: Pflaum.

Kaplan, E. Ann (1998). Women in Film Noir. Londres: British Film Institute.

Kovacsics, Violeta (ed.) (2012). Very funny things. Nueva Comedia Americana. San Sebastián: Donostia Kultura.

Leutrat, Jean-Louis (1999). Vida de fantasmas: lo fantástico en el cine. Madrid: Ediciones de la Mirada.

Naremore, James (2008). More than Night. Film Noir in its Contexts. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Neale, Steve (1980). Genre. Londres: British Film Institute.
Neale, Steve y Smith, Murray (1998). Contemporary Hollywood Cinema. Londres/Nueva York: Routledge.

Pérez, Xavier (1999). El suspens cinematogràfic. Barcelona: Pòrtic Edicions.

Rowe, Kathleen (1995). The Unruly Women: Gender and the Genres of Laughter. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Sánchez, Sergi (2013). Hacia una imagen no-tiempo. Deleuze y el cine contemporáneo. Oviedo: Ediciones de la Universidad de Oviedo.

Schatz, Thomas (1981). Hollywood Genres. Formulas, filmmaking and the studio system. McGraw Hil-Humanities.

Zizek, Slavoj (2006). Lacrimae Rerum. Ensayos sobre cine moderno y ciberespacio. Madrid: Debate, 2006.

*Además de la bibliografía básica, en cada sesión se facilitarán referencias bibliográficas específicamente relacionadas con los temas, autores y películas que en ella se aborden.