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August 1997, Week 5


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
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Fri, 29 Aug 1997 11:35:09 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (37 lines)
On Tue, 26 Aug 1997 21:33:10 -0500 plath3 <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Dear List Members:
> 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"?
That view of "auteurism" is not incorrect, but the term is a pretty
vague one at best.  There have been several citations recently of works
that examine the concept, but the basic approach that I've found most
helpful is the one advanced by Peter Wollen in SIGNS AND MEANINGS IN
THE CINEMA: a "structural" approach that finds commonalities among
groups of films that happen to have been directed by the same person.
Such a version gets away from the vaguer searches for "personality" or
"interior meaning" that Truffaut and Sarris, among others, cited.
Donald Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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