The Auteur Theory &The French New Wave Film Theory Chinese International School IB Film Studies 2011-2012
Task - Storyboard / Shot list thefollowing scene: Michel steals a car to drive to Paris. However, two policemen on motorcycles chase him. Michel runs into engine trouble. He turns off the road and attempts to fix his car, but is followed by one of the policemen. Michel shoots the policeman and runs off.
“The Director is both the least necessary and the most important component of film- making.”- Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema,p.37
Recap: What is the AuteurTheory? A theory that proposes that a director is the author of the film. The term ‘author’ implies that the director is the primary creative source and, The director’s films express their own distinctive vision of the world.
Recap: What do Auteur criticsstudy? The style and themes of a director’s films and assign to them the title of Art if they show consistency.
Manifesto of Auteur Theory Francois Truffaut’s 1954 essay ‘A Certain Tendency of French Cinema’
Manifesto of French New Wave Jean Luc Godard’s 1960 film, ‘A Bout de Souffle’ (‘Breathless’)
Francois Truffaut & Cahiers duCinema Auteur theory emerged from a group of critics in 1950s France, who went on to become filmmakers of the French New Wave of the 1960s. Truffaut criticizes the dominant tendency in French cinema: Tradition of Quality. Projects bourgeois image of good taste and high culture.
‘Tradition of Quality’ Films Image of Frenchness tied to good taste and high culture achieved through:3) High production values;4) Reliance on stars;5) Genre conventions;6) Privileging the script.
‘Tradition of Quality’ Films Mechanically transferring scripts to screen. Success or failure depends entirely on quality of script. Jean Aurenche & Pierre Bost “Aurenche and Bost are essentially literary men and I reproach them here for being contemptuous of the cinema by underestimating it” – A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema, p. 229
‘Tradition of Quality’ Films Privileging of script deflected attention away from filmmaking process and director. Cahiers critics and the French New Wave filmmakers defined themselves AGAINST the literary script and PROMOTED filmmaking. Tradition of Quality: Best technique is one that is not seen; French New Wave: Style draws deliberate attention to itself.
Hollywood Era Auteurs Cahiers critics respected work of Hollywood directors who worked against the scripts imposed upon them: Alfred Hitchcock Howard Hawks Orson Welles Fritz Lang John Ford Douglas Sirk
Hollywood Era Auteurs “When you talk about Minnelli, the first thing you do is talk about the screenplay, because he always subordinates his talent to something else. Whereas when you talk about Fritz Lang, the first thing is to talk about Fritz Lang, then about the screenplay”. - Jacques Rivette, Cahiers du Cinema: the 1960s, p.3
How do Hollywood directorsimpose own vision? Mise en Scene Cinematography “The director’s most significant area of control is over what happens within the image. His control over the action, in detail, organization and emphasis, enables him to produce a personal treatment of the script situation. On occasion the treatment can be so personal as to constitute a reversal of attitudes contained in the script.” - Victor Perkins, Film as Film, p. 74
The French New Wave The script merely served as the pretext to the activity of filmmaking. A filmmaking practice that rejects classical Hollywood cinema’s dominance by producers in favour of a mode of production that favours the director. Supported the idea of filming unimportant stories.
The French New Wave1) FNW: One of the major movements of European Art Cinema.2) Features of EAC:3) A slower editing and narrative pace4) A strong ‘authorial voice’5) An investment in realism and ambiguity6) The desire to provoke thought and sometimes shock7) A taste for unhappy endings.
Jean Luc Godard & ‘A Bout deSouffle’1) Created most of these aesthetic features using the following techniques (innovative at the time):2) Location shooting3) Hand held camera4) Natural lighting5) Subversion of rules of classical editing.
Jean Luc Godard & ‘A Bout deSouffle’ All these techniques turn the films into spontaneous and improvised performances rather than a mere recreation of the script.
Jean Luc Godard & ‘A Bout deSouffle’ Michel steals a car to drive to Paris. However, two policemen on motorcycles chase him. Michel runs into engine trouble. He turns off the road and attempts to fix his car, but is followed by one of the policemen. Michel shoots the policeman and runs off.
Jean Luc Godard & ‘A Bout deSouffle’All production techniques mentioned above are used in this sequence: Shot on location (highway) Camera is mobile and shaky (Pans in shots 3 & 4 are quick, blurred) Lighting is natural (Shot 7 sun shines directly onto lens) Casual, improvised acting style Subverts continuity editing (jump cut from shots 3-4; shot 5 car left to right, shot 6 right to left)
Jean Luc Godard & ‘A Bout deSouffle’ Sequence does not aim to show sequence clearly but the VISION of the auteur.
Jean Luc Godard & ‘A Bout deSouffle’ Stylistic choices also determined by economics Identified low production costs with artistic freedom. Hollywood auteurs transcended high production values.
Jean Luc Godard & ‘A Bout deSouffle’ Social Seriousness “Uniqueness of personality, brash individuality, persistence of obsession and originality were given an evaluative power over stylistic smoothness or social seriousness.” – John Caughie, Theories of Authorship, pp. 11-12 Auteurs criticized for lack of social commitment. Argued in favour of a more personalized experience of cinema.
Jean Luc Godard & ‘A Bout deSouffle’ Social Seriousness From 1960s Godard’s filmmaking became politicized, both in terms of style and content. Style: Jolted spectators and made them notice the film making process. Content: Political subject matter e.g. ‘La Chinoise’, ‘Tout va bien’ Made films politically about politics. Began to downplay romantic idea of the film director as an auteur, used Dziga Vertov Group.
Task Watch ‘Bande a Part’ (‘Band of Outsiders’) Create a 5-minute short film that includes a reinterpretation of one of the following scenes from the film: 1) The Minute of Silence; 2) The Café dance scene; or 3) The Louvre scene.