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August 1997, Week 5


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 29 Aug 1997 05:17:41 +0400
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Peter Latham writes:
>I hate to admit to a lack of knowledge in front of a group whose views I
>respect as much as I do yours. But I have always had difficulty in
>understanding the "auteur" theory, and in applying it to anyone other
>than Hitchcock and Truffaut.
>My (limited) understanding is that the auteur theory holds that films can
>best be understood through a knowledge of their authors' views and
>techniques, assuming the author is an "auteur". In this view, one might
>look at a narrative story (say Rebecca), and examine the auteur's methods
>of realizing it, methods which often present a richer or different
>subtextual story which represents the auteur's stamp.
>Is this correct? If it is, does the theory apply to all films, or only
>those of an "auteur?" If the latter, how does one know who is an "auteur"?
Yes, this is the basic thrust of the auteur theory.  It was a theory
championed by young French film critics (including Truffaut, Godard,
Rohmer, etal) to justify their adoration of American cinema, which at the
time suffered from critical charges of commercialism and hegemony.  In
other words, much of American cinema could be regarded as "art" because
auteurs such as Ford, Hawks, Walsh, Hitchcock, Lubitsch, Ray, through their
own personal "genius," were able to withstand and even transcend
constraints imposed upon them by the Hollywood studio system.  While
theoretically suspect in may regards, auteurism did serve a much needed
purpose in that it made it possible to regard such aforementioned directors
as important filmmakers rather than mere "competent craftsmen."
As for how they determined which filmmakers were auteurs, I'm not sure.
Needless to say, all designated auteurs were at least "good" directors; but
why other good directors were completely disregarded (such as John Huston
or Billy Wilder) is more ephemeral.
Jerry Johnson
Austin Film Society
(512) 322-0145
"I begin with documentary and give it the truth of fiction."
                                        -Jean-Luc Godard
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the 
University of Alabama.