The Auteur Theory

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It seems as though there is a debate over what the true meaning of Auteur is. Sarris seems to have an understanding of an auteur is one that has “technical competence of a director as a criterion of value” and “the distinguishable personality of the director as a criterion of value”. He argues that a director who makes bad movies can’t always be considered a bad director. This is argued because a “bad” director doesn’t always end up with a bad film. There are many different factors that cause a film to be bad and that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily all in the hands of the director. Actors, if cast poorly, effect the final product of a film.

Wollen’s reading discusses how the importance of American cinema and the acknowledgment of American cinema by the Cahiers du Cinema. There are two schools of Auteurs according to Wollen: 1) the school who focused on the mise-en-scene and style of the film, themes, and meanings 2) the “work of the matteur-en-scene”. The matteur-en-scene refers to the director who leaves his signature in his films – much like that of Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Quentin Tarantino. Each of these directors leave or have left their signatures in their films. When you watch their films, it is easily recognizable through their style. Wollen says the auteur theory has been “seen as a way of introducing the creative personality in Hollywood cinema”. Thus giving American directors more of a push to mark their films with their unique approach/style/imprint as opposed to their European counterparts which focused more on the “art” of the film.

Dyer’s reading looks at the star and their performance as being an auteur. The reading in short delves into the performances and star quality that both John Wayne and Henry Fonda possess and how it can affect the way the audience perceives the film. Many actors have the power to make decisions in films that they will be working on and in turn those who are highly recognizable stars leave their signature in their performances. However, in my opinion, when a film is centered around a star and the audience anticipates a certain signature from an actor, it takes away from the cinematic qualities of the film. No longer is the audience focused on the film itself but on the actor’s star quality. For example, I went to see Alice in Wonderland this weekend – not because it was a Tim Burton film, but because Johnny Depp was in it. I went to this film expecting that it would depart from the original context of the story of Alice and Wonderland. However, I didn’t care because I expected Johnny Depp to be brilliant as he always is in his films. The movie could be a flop but Depp always manages to transform into his characters with such ease and make it believable. My argument here remains, the star performance takes away from the director. Am I alone on this argument? This movie did not live up to my expectations but Depp did. Tim Burton has a quirky style and his work is great. The style of his films are wonderful. The story was awful and without Depp keeping this film afloat the movie would not have been enjoyable. Even the advertisements focused on Depp which says a lot.

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Posted by christina421   @   10 March 2010

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