English Film Series begins

Katrina Moses, Staff Writer

Students and faculty watched “The Maltese Falcon” on Wednesday, Sept. 23, one of the first films of the semester for the English Film Series at Francis Marion University (FMU).

“The Maltese Falcon” was originally released in America in 1941 in black and white. It follows film style rules originating from France. This style is known as film noir (French for “dark film”).

English Professor, Shawn Smolen-Morton is the coordinator of the English Film Series. He says that film noir has very dark lighting which is a contrast to most Hollywood movies.

These noir films typically expressed America’s anxiety about politics and featured unique characters. These characters are often in crime movies and are usually detectives, gangsters and femme fatales (the seductive woman who brings disaster to the life of the man she is involved with).

Smolen-Morton chose the movie because he tries to offer a variety of movies to FMU students.

“We try to get a variety of films. This is a film from 1941, the next film is from 2013 and then 1957,” Smolen-Morton said. “We try to select from different eras.”

The English Film Series usually presents a movie once a month and has two showings on the same day.

Smolen-Morton said that on average 50 people come to each showing. Smolen-Morton says it is harder to get students to a film when it is not tied into a class assignment or sponsored by another department.

Amber Zonca and Amelida Lazo were of the many that attended the first showing of “The Maltese Falcon.”  The title of the film sparked their interest, and they were also told by their professor that they could receive extra credit on a quiz if they attended.

“I think the name was interesting. It was out there, and you didn’t know exactly what was going to happen,” Zonca said.

Amelida Lazo said that she was more interested than she thought she would be.

“It was old but funny at the same time. It made me appreciate our age of film,” Lazo said.

Both students expressed that they wished they could change a few things about the movie. They would add color and slow the rate of the actors’ dialogue.

“Color attracts your eyes – it grabs your attention. Black makes you feel old … Color fascinates me more,” Lazo said.

However, Smolen-Morton would not change anything about the movie, especially since it is a classic in the film world.

“The movie can be difficult for students today to follow because the dialogue is rapid. People talked in a high nasal pitch [in the film],” Smolen-Morton said. “There is not much action in the movie. That allows students to get a feel for the style of classical Hollywood films of that time.”