Transcript for Filmmaker IQ Video:
Today, we’ll look at the origins and implications of Auteur theory, while systematically butchering the pronunciation of several French words. Simply put, the autour theory holds that a film is a reflection of the personal creative vision of a director that he or she is the author of a film like a writer is an author of a novel. The natural line of thinking from this in film criticism is that a film’s quality is tightly intertwined with the film’s director, as Truffaut said, there are no good and bad movies only good and bad directors.
But to really understand the impact of this idea, which doesn’t seem all that controversial on the surface, especially in today’s media environment, we must consider it in a historical context. And to do that, you must look at the early 20th century French cinema. France has always had a special place in filmmaking history from the first ever public film exhibition in the grand cafe in Paris in 1895 by the Lumiere brothers, to the works of George Miller Yeah, as though Hollywood and American films would quickly dominate international cinema even in the early silent era.
The French film industry was in important artistic force through the 1920s with Paris, a major cultural center of Europe, cultivating avant garde films like own shot on the loo by smash director, Louie Bruin yell and co authored by Salvador Dali, to the passion of Joan of Arc by Danish director Caro Theodore Dreier. The arrival of sound in French film spelled an end to this experimental avant garde. This new technology sort of caught French filmmakers with their pants down as they had developed the sound technologies, but held no patent rights. Instead, the French would have to license this technology from American and German companies, which came with really heavy fees.
Until sound most French filmmakers were small artists and operation sound changed that and powerful organized foreign studios began to move in. In 1930, Paramount from America opened a studio in Zhong Ville to make films into different languages. a year earlier. 1929 German sound film company tobis clang film open studios in the Parisian suburb of echo ne. From this episode, a studio would come one of the first internationally recognized artistic triumphs of the sound air, so they taught a party under the roof of Paris in 1930.
By Rene Claire, as French theatres converted to sound musicals and filmed theater became the rage, adapting literary and dramatic works for a movie going audiences. The grandiose musical films would start to see some artistic pushback in the 1934 with the rise of a movement called poetic realism. Those were studio shot films with a fatalistic view of life focusing on disappointment, bitterness, and nostalgia.
Perhaps most prominent poetic realist was john Renoir, whose film enjoys much international success with la grani Lucien in 1937, being the first foreign film to be nominated for an Oscar in the best picture category, then called Best outstanding production. But war, especially a World War disrupts everything. When the Nazis marched into Paris, many filmmakers, including Renoir fled, those that stuck around continued working under German occupation, making escapist films and adapting literary works under the watchful eye of German and Vichy censorship. British and American films were outright banned.
So French cinema took off even more heavily reliant on musicals and stage plays as a light pleasant distraction from the grim realities of war. When hostilities ceased, French cinema was actually quite strong and a source of national pride culminating in 1945. The Air Force a part of the the children of Paradise by Marcee Karna and National Center for cinematography He was founded in 1946 to support a strong national cinema.
But when the ban on American films was lifted after the war, Hollywood films rushed in encouraged by a generous quota in exchange for French luxury goods in the bloom burns trade agreement to pay off the war debts. French film production went back to its pre war averages about 100 to 120 Films annually. But the difference now was they were more highly organized, more polished, and better crafted than ever before. But the French output was lacking something artistically, at least to a group of young men who desperately wanted to be filmmakers themselves. Against this old guard tradition of quality, a new generation of outsiders, film critics would establish a new way of thinking about cinema as art.
The liberation of France also saw the rise of the cinephile movement. This was a generation of people who had grown up with film and had access to a huge library of French and American films available at the cinema tech francais in Paris. Therefore would be the K do cinema, the cinema notebooks, a magazine started by Andre Bazin and Jacques Dinoire Val crows with a group of young French film critics including Frank qua Truffaut, john Luca, Darth Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette, and Eric role mer, are one of the central principles of Kaya is derived from Andre Bazin is the rejection of montage editing in favor of me’s on sand long take with deep focus, which allowed audiences to take in a scene as it unfolds.
The other principle derived from film critic Alexandria strokes, is the idea of camera stylo and idea that directors should wield his camera, like a writer uses his pen and he need not be hindered by traditional storytelling. A combining these two ideas an essay in 1954, la politique the art tours, Frank qua Truffaut attack the French cinema of quality. With their heavy emphasis on plot and dialogue.
These contemporary French directors he claimed, added nothing to the script beyond pretty pictures they were met door on sin stage setters, not true cinematic art tours like genre Noir, and Hollywood filmmakers like Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks, direct these were directors that managed to imprint a personal style into their work, using a professional film crew.
It also happened these are tour directors that Truffaut was so fond of, were very established masters oh me zone Sam. To Truffaut, there could be no peaceful coexistence between the tradition of quality and the cinema they are tour. Even the best film of the old guard would be less interesting than the worst film of a true autour of cinema.
In his subsequent writings, Truffaut would continue to attack established French commercial cinema as lacking in ambition in imagination, and preventing young men from making films without a long, drawn out apprenticeship. actually sounds kind of familiar. There were certainly economic barriers in place in the early 1950s. government money was only available to filmmakers with established track records. By the end of the decade, laws would change to provide funding based on the quality of the submitted script regardless of the filmmakers track record.
Now by time Truffaut became a director and made it big internationally with his 1959 film, net costs and cool 400 blows, which turned a $75,000 investment into $500,000. In American distribution rights deal. More private money found its way into independent French production, establishing the financial groundwork for the French New Wave that put a lot of the kbase Film Critics into the director’s chair. Ultimately, Truffaut’s call for the cinema dead tour may not have been a universal plea for cinema, but a manifesto against French commercial films that would ultimately lead to the French New Wave. But Film Critics across the Atlantic Ocean would take Truffaut’s idea and run with it.
mid century American filmmakers didn’t exactly receive the concept of cinema tour very well. Unlike French cinema, which had always been small artisanal like productions. Hollywood in the studio system was an assembly line with films produced on a large scale, collaborative effort. But one film critic would really bring our tourism to the American public eye Andrews Sarris Sara’s writing for film culture Cree the term tour theory in his landmark essay notes on the tour theory in 1962. Heavily influenced by Andre buzzin and the case do cinema.
Cyrus puts forth autour theory as a way to judge films by the way of their director. In the essay he outlines three premises as a series of concentric circles for determining whether a director is an odd tour or not. The first premise of autour theory is technical competence of the director as a criterion of value that is, a great director must be at least a good director at least holding elementary skills in craft and technique of filmmaking. Moving inward. The second premise is a director must have a distinguishable personality that can be seen over and over again in his body of work.
Lastly, and autour imbues his film with an interior meaning which is extrapolated from the tension between the director’s personality and the material he has to work with, at the time, 1962 Sarris lists office Renoir missile gottschee Hitchcock, Chaplin, Ford wells dryer Rossellini murnau Griffith Sternberg Eisenstein von stroheim Brunel Bresson hawks Lang, flirty and Vigo as true on tours of the cinema, masters of film whose body of work must be studied to appreciate their career spanning genius, although much further would be written about autour theory by film theorists and historians.
There would be a popular backlash from another famous American film critic Pauline Kael writing for film quarterly in 1963 Pauline Kael rips apart Sarah’s his premises of autour theory in her essay, circles and squares the joys and Sara’s on the subject of director needing to be competent Calle argues that it’s a pointless distinction to make of a film works. Who cares if the director meets some standard of proficiency? And how are we really to judge on the second premise of our tours signature style being unmistakable? In his work, Hale asked the question well, why? Why is a consistent signature style across films important at all? Why not judge a film on its own merit?
When a famous director makes a good movie, we look at the movie, we don’t think about the directors personality. When he makes a stinker, we noticed his familiar touches, because there’s not much else to watch.
To kale. Ignoring a film’s quality based on the authorship indicates that you’re incapable of judging either a film as a film, does it make it better if you have to watch all the other works by particular director to get the style? Finally on the last premise, kale argues that the autour theory glorifies trash? A piece of art is a medium of expression. Why does there need to be additional hidden meanings? There’s subtext of course, but what really is there to gain from further obscure meanings.
Their ideal auteur is the man who signed a long term contract, directs any script that’s handed to him, and expresses himself by shoving bits of style of the crevices of the plot.
Instead, Calle argues that we should judge the artist by the movie, not the movie by the artists. This spat between two Film Critics sparked off a culture war with two seemingly ideologically opposed camps, the poets and the sonrisa. But in reality, conflict is best used to sell papers outside a jab back and forth, and a snarky line here and there. There was not a lot of gunfire exchanged. Cyrus himself said in 2009 we were so gloriously contentious everyone bitching at everyone.
We all said some stupid things but film seemed to matter so much urgency seemed unavoidable. Perhaps SARS, his greatest mistake was to call Truffaut’s politique the tour a theory, the idea that there is a central figure in a film’s production whose creative vision is translated onto the screen is an easily accessible way to talk about film as works of individuals, especially after the end of the old Hollywood studio system. But authorship in such a collaborative medium can be tough to discern.
Consider Tim Burton‘s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Burton wrote the original poem he came up with much of the concept and design, but he only spent eight and 10 days total on set During its a laborious, three year production schedule because he was busy with Batman and Ed Wood. The directorial duties fell on his friend Henry Selick, who directed the film in the style of burden may have the singer look of a Tim Burton film.
But Selleck was the one in charge and nightmarish shares a lot of similarity with selux later films like James and the Giant Peach and coralayne it gets even more complicated with franchises George Lucas is closely associated with Star Wars and he did direct the first film A New Hope but directorial duties fell on Irvin kershner for the Empire Strikes Back and Richard marquam, who directed Return of the gennai many fans disappointed at the prequels point to Lucas’s over involvement that the original trilogy had a more balanced input from his other collaborators.
The fact is filmmaking is complex. In his later years, Andrew Sarris said, I tourism is and always has been more a tendency than a theory more a Mystique than a methodology more an editorial policy than an aesthetic procedure. The cinema is a deep, dark mystery that we are tourists are attempting to solve and what is infinitely more difficult to report our findings in a readable prose.
The cinema is a labyrinth with treacherous relation to reality. Though proponents of the autour theory weren’t the first to recognize the directors importance to the Cinematic Arts, Truffaut and others place it first and foremost above the plot above dialogue shaping in many ways, the way we talk about films, and film history, acting, cinematography, editing, music, all these things are ultimately in service to the director’s vision.
But some influences shine above others. And an otter doesn’t necessarily have to be a director. It can be a writer, an actor, a producer, even a special effects artist. If you study modern cinema, you will be hard pressed not to find least one individual or even a group of people whose vision and persistence were key to birthing that wonderful piece of Motion Picture history.
So the question is, why can’t that person be you? Go out there, make something great.