media blog

December 11th, 2010

Art for the Artist’s Sake

Posted by kwildermuth in

Auteur is a French word for author.  In film, we use the word auteur to describe the vision, or even lack of vision a director has to describe the success or failure of that film. The auteur theory is similar to a pattern theory.  The way a film looks and feels is similar to that of the directors. After a given number of films, the audience can notice a pattern and similar feel in each and every film.  It’s the body of the director’s work.  Most often times we expect great directors to make great films.  Similar to “bad” directors, we expect the outcome to not be as good.  This leaves fans flocking to the theaters when a known director releases a new film.  The theory written in 1962 by Andrew Sarris can still be used till this day.

Characteristics of Auteurism in film:

  1. Technique (clarity and coherence)
  2. Personal Style (their signature, consistency)
  3. Interior meaning (personality inside the material)

Alfred Hitchcock is an innovator, an icon, a legend of his time.  His directional style was in fact unique.  Viewers are identified with how the character feels through camera style.  His styles manipulated the audience into feeling a certain way.  He created many violence, crime and thrilling movies.  Many of his films contained female blonde characters and sexuality.  How may Hitchcock be considered an auteur you may ask?  Through Sarris’ analysis of what is considered to be auteurism, we can see Hitchcock films as “entertainment.” 

Sarris’ theory can demonstrate Hitchcock as an auteur through several films.  I will discuss two films in which follow his theory.  First, his movie Psycho has auteurism power for its ability to leave constant suspense. We know the plot from the start of the movie and want certain actions to happen while we are watching.  For example the shower scene and the killer coming to kill her.  The camera places us in her position and we feel scared just like her.  There is also the blonde in which he incorporates in his films who is one of the leading characters.  These characteristics are Hitchcock’s “signature.”  He has the ability to play with imagination.  The 39 steps is similar in technique.  This film has the same chase and escape feel.  There is also the blonde leading character. 

There is no official definition of the term auteur, except for the interpretations of what we see.  Critics may not always be right in their judgment of a film either.  Some may argue that it’s unfair to critique a film on style because not every director has the money to lay out for a film.  Camera and lighting can be different depending on location or even a set.  Auteurism shifts from the storyline to in fact how the story is portrayed on screen.  Hitchcock was an auteur for his time, for his ability to use his techniques in a similar fashion on many films.  When we see his films, we can say “that’s a Hitchcock film.”  Not many directors have that ability and it’s something we notice after long periods of time.  It’s separates from the “good” and “bad” filmmakers.

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