Uniforms and Uniformity


Henri Cartier-Bresson, School children, Moscow, USSR, 1954

Ideas for a photography and film-based ESL/EFL class around the theme of uniforms and uniformity

Writing about Walkabout the other day got me thinking about another theme that normally inspires debate in the English classroom, that of school uniforms and, more broadly, what constitutes a uniform or uniformity more broadly in society. The first clip from my Walkabout-themed lesson plan is particularly evocative in this regard, framing the school uniform as just one form of costume in a vision of Western society that is highly prescriptive and regimented: we see not only the blazered boys and girls at school but marching soldiers and besuited office workers all busying about as if in rhythmic unison. Continue reading

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation

Communicative English lesson about surveillance based on Francis Ford Coppola’s classic film The Conversation

A companion piece to Antonioni‘s Blow-Up, or even Rear Window, Francis Ford Coppola’s Watergate-era surveillance thriller The Conversation (1974) may well be the director’s best film. A bold statement by a fan of the original Godfather films and Apocalypse Now, but Coppola’s self-proclaimed favourite strikes me now as the subtlest and most insidiously rewarding of his movies. Moreover, it is arguably the best of the Watergate inspired or themed movies, of which there was a glut in the mid 70s, including prestige productions such as The Paralax View and All The President’s Men.

Continue reading

Retro-futurist virtual realities

Video-based ESL/EFL lesson plan about virtual reality, featuring iconic tv series The Prisoner and forgotten ’80s sci-fi movie Brainstorm

Blogging about The Prisoner the other day reminded me of a great episode of the cult series in which Patrick McGoohan finds himself playing a role as a gunslinging sheriff in a western. Watching a repeat of the series as a youngster in the 90s, I was totally thrown by the way the series removed the normal opening credits and plunged us into what was ostensibly a totally different genre. The only thing that linked us back to the show was the presence of McGoohan, but none of the series’ other hallmarks were present. I have even written a paper on this episode, entitled ‘Living in Harmony’, published in French in this volume. Continue reading