Back in college, when I was a wide-eyed freshmen who thought he was smarter than half of the people on the planet, I was recommended a film history course offered by a retiring professor. According to a coworker of mine in the college library, this professor was a brilliant man who will not only teach you all about film, but will also give you a love for it. At the time, I was looking for class recommendations, and took his words to heart. Through some careful scheduling, I was able to get into one of Dr. Noletti’s final semester classes.
And god, I am glad I did.
Before this class, I simply watched movies. After this class, I analyzed films.
The class couldn’t have been more straightforward. It met twice a week for two hours. One of those days would be spent watching a film. Another day would be spent discussing it. A paper on one of the films would have to be written, and another paper written about a film we see outside of class. That’s basically all there was to it.
A lesser professor would’ve all but slept through his last semester, giving easy assignments and counting the days until retirement. Not Dr. Noletti. He sprung into every discussion with an unparalleled gusto and passion that was infectious. The two hour discussions sounded like a long affair at the time, but they were anything but. In fact, I found myself looking forward to the discussions more than the films themselves.
To make the lecture more entertaining than the movies is remarkable indeed.
I can remember almost all the films we watched too, off the top of my head. There was Broken Blossoms, a silent film about an abusive father. There was City Lights, the film that introduced me to Charlie Chaplin. There was Tampopo, a Japanese film about a woman who wants to be a ramen chef. Citizen Kane, which needs no introduction. Three Kings, a modern war movie. An Italian film about a missing bicycle whose name eludes me at the moment. And a few more which are eluding me at the moment.
I remember thinking that silent films were a relic of a bygone age. I walked out of that class still thinking that, but a relic that deserved to be cherished and remembered. After all, modern movies owe much to the silent film era.
Not only that, but I recall thinking that movies were just something fun to do on a Friday night, or watch when bored. But Dr. Noletti opened my eyes to the true power of film, and of storytelling in general. He taught me that every shot in a film mattered, and that every carefully planned scene worked together to make a whole. He taught me to pay attention not only to the characters, but to the details placed in the background. Films could be beautiful, bizarre, action-heavy, character driven, boring, exciting, poorly made and carefully crafted, and so much more. Suddenly, films were a topic worthy of discussion. Films were something to pay attention to. Films were worth analyzing.
I keep those ideas in mind to this day. Remember when I wrote that I was hypercritical? (LINK TO BLOG) I swear that the reason that thought process applies to film was because of this class.
But Dr. Noletti was also a storyteller. I remember one day, he was telling us about his wife back when they were planning their wedding. I don’t remember how the story started, but it went that his wife asked if he wanted her to get him a ring for his wedding. He said he didn’t like rings, and wanted a film projector instead. Then he held up his hand, no ring, and smiled at us.
I wish I could do the story justice.
Suffice to say, I was quiet in this class. I wasn’t intimidated by it, far from it. I just hadn’t thought about films this way before, and was concerned that I would be unable to contribute to the discussion.
Because of this, I doubt Dr. Noletti remembers me. I was just one more freshmen enrolled in one of his final classes.
But I remember him. And I will never forget the way he made me look at films.
Thank you Dr. Noletti.