Auteurism in Film-Making
Many directors prefer to demonstrate their styles and approaches in the production of the chosen work. Such attempts lead to positive results, and creators are defined as auteurs within a large system. The term auteurism was frequently used in the 1960-the 70s to underline the uniqueness of the style or the peculiar features of directors’ techniques. Cahiers du Cinema, which debuted with success in 1951, is one of the most influential and highly recognized international film journals in France. Its staff praises for the admiration of the Hollywood film culture and creates a certain opposition to the French commercial film culture—against what was coined as, “tradition of quality.” One of the examples of such praise was focused on the French New Wave era of auteurs – simply, authors in French – but more complexly, it can be classified as a distinct era of directors that went beyond the script, creating their own visual and thematic signature film after film. Regardless of the work of screenwriters, cinematographers, and producers, the director prefers to stay as a foremost creative participant. The input of personal style on the film and the intentions to introduce a new approach make such directors true auteurs.
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Sarris offered the auteur theory modestly and experimentally (26). It is wrong to consider auteurism as a theory that helps to reveal directors’ beliefs and break the standards. Auteurism is “an attitude, a table of values that converts film history into directorial autobiography” (Sarris 30). It was frequently criticized. However, the purpose of such critics was to uncover the contrasts and recondite motifs and guide people on how to distinguish different bodies of work (Nowell-Smith 12). According to the writers of Cahiers du Cinema, an auteur is a concept that identifies the result that can be observed in a streamlined system of identifying the personal styles of the directors. There are many examples of auteurs in the modern film industry, and the works by Richard Lester should be included in this discussion. His film A Hard Day’s Night may stand as one of the best and evident examples of how a personal visual style can particularly be developed through the use of mise en scene.
The chosen film is known not only for its star actors but also for its avant-garde style, the recognition of attributing pop-culture and glorifying the musical and artistic revolutions. The subject of the movie is The Beatles, one of the most recognized boys’ bands. It was important for the director to create a heavy stylistic touch and introduce a visually unique approach to the film. It was a combination of a new wave film linked to a new cultural style and a personal filmmaking style characterized by handheld cameras and quick shots that underlined the importance of the reality and speed of human life. Though the success of the movie can be explained by the presence of the stars, it may also be explained by Lester’s powerful work and the belief that the movie could become a turning point due to certain innovative cinematographic techniques used in the film (James 142).
In addition to the contributions of the writers of Cahiers du Cinema in regards to auteurism in the film industry, these writers also applied the term mise en scene to film. It was borrowed from French theater and used to refer to anything that appeared on the screen and everything that the camera could catch, including settings, light, people, costumes, and makeup. One of the main thematic elements that can be identified in the movie is a movement. There are no calm scenes in the film. Even when The Beatles travel by train at the beginning of the movie, each actor constantly moved to vivify the scene and show that the life of The Beatles was in constant movement (Lester).
In general, Lester, as an auteur, showed how to create a unique movie about unique people. It is interesting and educative to observe the role of each character in the movie and enjoy the show where movements, change, and passion plays a crucial role in developing a new idea of how a movie should look like. Regarding the works by James, Sarris, and Nowell-Smith, the commercial and personal satisfaction of directors from auteurism may be observed and understood to prove the fact that the film industry is the place where people can always stay who they want to be in case they are ready and have enough knowledge and material to achieve the required goal.
Peculiarities of Art Films
The French New Wave is not only a movement with the help of which certain changes in the movie industry occurred, and new movie styles were created to support the idea of opposition and differentiation as the way to win the viewer. It was a period when film-making was re-considered. Art films were introduced. This type of movie proved the importance of new narrative strategies and made them legible to people. However, in most cases, art films were defined as highly philosophical and ambiguous pieces of work that could provoke people and make them concerned about something. The approach developed by Bordwell was different. In his discussions, the author tried to position art cinema somewhere between modern cinema and Hollywood cinema where characters were identified but lacked clear goals and wishes, the episodic structure was appropriate, and real problems and locations were discussed. According to Bordwell, the supporters of the art film industry believed that it was possible to use specific narrative and stylistic strategies and help people make their conclusions and enjoy shows such as Breathless by Godard and Pather Panchali by Ray.
The art cinema is the style that “defines itself explicitly against the classical narrative mode, and especially against the cause-effect linkage of events” (Bordwell 56). This style can motivate people and their narratives to make use of realism and expressivity. It is not enough for a person to be on-screen and perform a role. It is necessary to introduce a situation and make the viewer think about the events, causes, and outcomes. Psychological causation is the key in art films (Bordwell 57). At the same time, the choice of real events and the denial of causation do not confuse people but promote the involvement and the intentions to use personal imagination and strategies. In Breathless and Pather Panchali, the directors demonstrate how different narrative strategies and neorealism may be combined.
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Breathless remains to be one of the most influential projects during the French New Way due to the chosen bold visual style and several evident jump cuts. On the one hand, such an approach was defined as a violation of the norms of classical editing with the help of which continuous space and time were possible. On the other hand, such jump cuts attracted the attention of many viewers and determined the nature of the film considerably. Breathless is a movie with a lot of cause-effect nonlinear narrative strategies which can change the emotional aspect of the movie and make the viewer think about the moments that are hidden and the reasons for why the director decided to hide the moments such as those introduced in the car scene or the flat scene with both characters smoking in the room (Godard). The episodic narrative was the feature of Godard that was used to underline the realism of the events demonstrated in the movie and the unpredictable character’s personality. Breathless established new norms and a new film culture where every moment could have a reason and an explanation.
Pather Panchali is another powerful movie where narrative strategies and broad generalizations occurred. In his movie, Ray decided to experiment with the techniques and use neorealism and the importance of cultural ideas as the main element of modernism in cinematography. Pather Panchali is a strong combination of visual and audio elements and the language of silence. Besides, the style was based on some innovations such as the decision to make a movie using outdoor locations and hire non-professional actors, who were able to play as real as possible and introduce complex characters with several ambitions. Natural light underlined the charms of the chosen location. These are the best examples of neorealism techniques chosen by Ray in Pather Panchali.
In general, art films are unique and deserve the offered portion of attention as the best contribution of the French New Wave. It is not an easy task to impress the viewer and never break the rules and standards. Ray and Godard proved the possibility to change the style and use personal approaches to create strong movies. Their Pather Panchali and Breathless are two impressive examples of art cinema with the help of which the viewer got a chance to face reality, ambitions, unexplainable changes, jump cuts, and natural locations. Art films created new strategies, and Godard, as well as Ray, introduced the guides with the help of which new stories were offered in the middle of the 20th century.
Bordwell, David. “Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice.” Film Criticism, vol. 4, no. 1, 1979, pp. 56-64.
Godard, Jean-Luc, director. Breathless. UGC, 1960.
James, David. Rock’N’Film: Cinema’s Dance with Popular Music. Oxford University Press, 2016.
Lester, Richard, director. A Hard Day’s Night. Walter Schenson Films, 1964.
Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. Luchino Visconti. Doubleday, 1968.
Ray, Satyajit, director. Pather Panchali. Aurora Film Corporation, 1955.
Sarris, Andrew. The American Cinema. E.P. Dutton & Co, 1968.