What is Auteur Theory? And how much should we rely on these theories?

Andrew Sarris in Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962 he points out the important premise of the theories are “the technical competence of a director as a criterion value” and “the distinguishable personality of the director as a criterion of value”. Basically the first premise states that is a director makes bad movies doesn’t necessarily make him a bad director as long as he has technical competence, because that is what will be criticized. Another criterion value is if we are able to link together the director’s work, because his hand in the film is obvious. I understand his arguments on Auteur theory but I don’t necessarily agree. There are a lot of weaknesses.

Pauline Kael in her article e Circles and Squares rips apart Sarris article and basically discredits it by attacking all of his premises on Auteur Theory. Kael excerpts a paragraph from Sarris articles discussing two films by Raoul Walsh which he was able to see a “crucial link” between Every Night at Eight and High Sierra with thanks to Auteur Theory. Kael describes this “crucial link” as an uninteresting and obvious device, which was used in a worse earlier movie. The debate here is simply just because a director has a certain style or repeats certain devices throughout his film, is that enough to make and an Auteur? Shouldn’t it be the content of his work being judged?

Kael seems to think so; she states “that artists borrow from themselves all the time and how the same devices, techniques and themes reappear within their work…. (but) repetition without development is decline”.  If these repeated devices are not developing in the director’s work, that needs to be recognized as a decline, critics should not congratulate this.

Andre Bazin in his article ‘On the politique des auteurs’ agrees with Kael on this point. He believes in Auteur Theories but this is the one place where he disagrees. This idea of the film-maker and his films being one, therefore even the worst of them will always be in the image of its creator. Bazin states that he disagrees, but does not proceed to bash it the Kael does.

Another important point of Auteur Theory according to Sarris was “the technical competence of a director as a criterion value.” Kael believes “An artist who is not a good technician can indeed create new standards, because standards of technical competence are based on comparisons with work already done” She brings up a director names Coceau and says that his greatness is being able to achieve his own personal expression and style. Coceau states” the only technique worth having is the technique you invent for yourself”. I agree with Kael that directors should be judged on the basis of what he produces. You can’t justify a bad film as good just because a director has technical competence and a distinguishable personality. “It is an insult to an artist to praise his bad work along with his good; it indicates that you are incapable of judging either.” I loved her analogy about buying clothes with the label, just because its Dior means it’s good.

Sarris’ rebuttal in the Film Quarter, The Auteur Theory And The Perils Of Pauline, wasn’t a strong argument. He was not able to bounce back and defend her attacks. He felt the need to justify his arguments by throwing numerous amounts of references to directors and films. He also goes on about the “pyramid fallacy” and “the patent system”. He also goes on to say that silent directors invented forms while sound directors perfected styles, I can see some truth to this, but his following statement about directors oriented to realism being the “Drones of Cinema” I do not agree with.  He goes on to talk to about neo-realism and again more references to directors and films. He clearly did not win the rebuttal and I found it difficult to follow his arguments.

Over all, when it comes to Auteur Theories I think it’s important to understand these theories but you should definitely not follow them blindsided. Take in all elements and judge the film for its content and execution, not on the director’s reputation.

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 11:16 am Comments (9)

The Impact of Digital Technologies on Film Aesthetics

In first reading Michael Allen’s I was wondering when he wrote this because CGI has leap forward in technology that this article is in a way outdated. Then I realized what he was pointing out and I think that is extremely important to look at. I never thought to breakdown and analyze the film aesthetics. The question which is usually brought forth in my mind is if CGI and special effects are in the movie to further the story and proved a deeper meaning in the story or just is it there simply because its innovative technology and we want to stun the spectator.

What Allen does is look at how CGI technology changes the aesthetics of shot length, framing, timing and actual shots of the film (placing the live and the virtual) in the same shot. He brings up specific examples from the films Jurassic Park, Godzilla and The Abyss. The CGI creatures had to be given short, fleeting appearances on screen therefore “the spectator could not settle upon them, could not ‘see through’ them” (Allen; 825) CGI images have lead to “changes in editing patterns and scene construction”. When it comes to framing, due to the technologic limitation it was difficult to mix the CGI with live action.  

The changes which I found particularly interesting were with camera movement. The early digital effects immobilized the once again. But shortly after this they were able to overcome this objection and they started finding complex way to use the camera around the CGI creature images. When you’re being taught about filmmaking, one of the standards you learn about is the 180 degree and other techniques designed so the audience doesn’t notice the role the camera plays in the film. The camera is the third narrator which allows us to see only what it wants us to see, but it is not supposed to be recognizable nor disrupt our attention. Allen says that the camera’s “extravagance, their overt sweep and style, are intended to be noticed by the spectator. They are in some sense pulled out of the constant and invisible flow of images that go to make up the scene and allowed to stand apart as moments for awed appreciation”. Bringing us back to the whole idea of the spectacle, and the question I posed earlier about if CGI is used to further the narrative or is it simply there as pure spectacle. What worries me here is also how much we are sacrificing the content of the film in order to accommodate for the CGI technologies.

Right now there is a huge outbreak with blueray, HD TV and 3D. People are so focused on special effects; the spectacle is what they want. Some watch films just for the graphic qualities and not the story. The relationship between actor and audience is moving further away because of this technology, which is not something I’m thrilled about. But I do enjoy the beauty in films with the innovation in technology we’ve had.

But what does worry me was last month when I went to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland I saw it on IMAX 3D and I came out of that movie theater in awe. Then when I thought back on it I couldn’t remember if I liked the movie because of the actual film or if I was just so caught up with the visual. When I re-watch this movie on my T.V. screen I guess I’ll be able to objectively decide whether or not I liked the actual film or just the theatrical effects.

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm Comments (5)

The End of Cinema

In Anne Friedberg’s article The End of Cinema: Multimedia and Technological Change she describes all the technological changes and advancements that have been made over the years and its effects on cinema. We have come a long way from when we first started making films in the late 1800’s. “The movie screen, the home television screen, and the computer screen retain their separate locations, yet the types of images you see on each of them are losing their medium-based specificity.” All of us can understand this statement. I think of how we can rent Casablaca on Netflix, have it streamed through the internet to play and watch it on our T.V. screen. When Casablanca was released in 1942 it was a very different movie going experience.

The three things that have transformed televisual viewing is the VCR, Cable and the remote control. With the VCR and the remote, viewers have the ability to edit at their fingertips, they can pause, mute, rewind, fast forward commercials and even change what they are viewing, without even getting off the couch. I don’t know when this article was written but she mentions the DVD will be the new VCR, and that is exactly what has happened. Some people say blueray player will beat DVD. But I think it’s important now to include Tivo and DVR. They are transforming television viewing.

Also we have to take a look at digital cameras and video recorders, and computer programs, or the MAC which makes it easy for anyone to edit a produce mini “productions”.

I don’t believe technological advancements are leading to the death of cinema, I feel it is drastically changing cinema, and making it more difficult for Cinema to independently define itself.

Published in: on May 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm Comments (3)

The Neo-Mammy??

I came across this article which I found interesting claiming that Hollywood is slowing reconstructing the archetype of the Mammy… but its a new age Mammy. Its a short article and breaks down all the mother figures in The Secret Life of Bees labeling each figure into as a different type of mammy. I disagree with her that hollywood is recontructing the mammy, but Its definitly interesting to think and debate about.

Here’s the article http://www.postbourgie.com/2009/01/08/the-neo-mammy/. If anyones interested.

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm Comments (0)


Reading this article gave me another perspective on the power of the gaze. We can always analyze the spectator but now we must look at that spectators history and/or life experiences. Each spectator can or maybe will, have different reactions to the same scene being shown. And this happens all the time everybody has different tastes when it comes to films, but I’m not really talking about whether they will like a film or hate it, I’m talking about a more psychological reaction. (and not castration)
Bell Hooks article talks about the black female gaze. White slave-owners denied slaves their right to gaze, and slaves were punished for looking. She believes this traumatic relationship to the gaze effected black spectatorship. According to Hooks it produced in them “an overwhelming longing to look, a rebellious desire, an oppositional gaze. By courageously looking, we defiantly declared: ‘Not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality’.”


When black people in the US had the opportunity to watch film and TV they did so fully aware that “mass media was a system of knowledge and power reproducing and maintaining white supremacy”. There was no black representation and/or misrepresentation. Black figures were stereotypically degrading and dehumanizing, a famous example is the Amos and Andy show (which were in fact white men doing the voices). The oppositional black gaze responded to these by producing black independent cinema as “a response to the failure of white dominated cinema to represent blackness in a manner that did not reinforce white supremacy”.

    -The Characters     -The Voices

Black female gaze has its own category, for black females went to the cinema never expecting to see compelling representations of black femaleness, “they were acutely aware of this cinematic racism, it’s violent crasure of black womanhood” When female representations were on screen they were merely there to serve, enhance, and maintain white womanhood “as the object of the phallocentric gaze”. Grown black women resented the way screen images like Sapphire from Amos and Andy could assault black womanhood, meanwhile younger black women accepted it as a form of entertainment. They didn’t long to be on screen, but they still laughed at this female character “who was not us”. Thereby black female spectators choose not to identify with films. One women said that “she could only get pleasure from movies as long as I didn’t look too deep”. Another well known character is the Mammy, which I find interesting Hooks discussion of it. To me the Mammy is another extremely racist sterotype but Hooks describes her experience when watching Imitation of Life as a comfortable image. I understand that she related her to a hard-working blacking woman, who loved her daughter so much, she said the mammy figure reminded her of the hardworking, church going big mamas. The Mammy character in this film was definitely different from all the others, the Mammy had more substance, and was an actual character in the film rather then a mere entertainer but she was still happier to be the servant and live downstairs, that’s where she wanted to be. So I wouldn’t refer to her as “the comfortable Mammy”.

There is so much history with black representation in cinema and I think it is important for people to learn and/or be aware of it. I took the 346 course and I felt I learned and understood a lot, but we really didn’t focus on the female spectator and where she stood in all of this. And if I never would have read this article I don’t think I would have ever thought to analyze it.

Published in: on at 9:49 am Comments (3)


“It is said that analyzing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article.”

I’m going to start off saying I had trouble with this reading and I don’t think I fully comprehended her article.

Mulvey says “the function of woman in forming the patriarchal unconscious is twofold, she first symbolizes the castration threat by her real absence of a penis and second thereby raises her child into the symbolic. Once this has been achieved her meaning in the process is at an end.” I am not at all familiar with Freud’s psychoanalysis but I do find this last statement to be a bit absurd, and I can’t bring myself to believe in what its saying.

Another point made in the article is about some of cinemas possible pleasure, one of which is schopophilia. Which refers to the pleasure in looking at oneself, the reversal applies as one, in being looked at. Freud associated schopohilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling curious gaze. Taken to the extreme it can “become fixated into a perversion, producing obsessive voyeurs and Peeping Toms, whose only sexual satisfaction comes from watching, in an active controlling sense, an objectified other.” Mulveys whole argument here I can understand and I see the basis of it.

The cinema develops scopophilia in its narcissistic aspect. I didn’t completely understand here both the explanation of recognition/misrecognition and the ideal ego, this having something to do with being a function of the sexual instincts. And the second narcissistic aspect had to do with ego libido.

Mulvey also talks about women being displayed as a sexual object of erotic spectacle. “…she holds the look, plays to and signifies male desire.” This whole argument I was able to understand and I can see a basis for it. We see it all the time in films; the women leads are almost always gorgeous and flawless.

This leads me into Mary Ann Doane article “Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator” which I also had some trouble with. Doane states that “spectorial desire, in contemporary film theory, is generally delineated as either voyeurism or fetishism, as precisely a pleasure in seeing what is prohibited in relation to the female body”. She goes on to explain how the female role is not written for women, in actuality it is written for the men, for what they want to see women projected as. It is all about the surface, because “the man is destined to inhabit and hence control.”

Doane also points out that when the gaze is reversed, and we have female spectatorship, the dominant system is only reinforced. We then see the “male strip-tease, and the gigolo”. “The structure of the gaze demands sexual division”. She goes on to discuss more about the female spectator.

When watching a film we are subjected to many conscious and unconscious reactions. It’s impossible to just watch a film and not have any reactions to it and I do find this whole psychoanalytical aspect interesting even if I don’t buy into it 100%.

Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 9:36 am Comments (4)

Research Project

So I am deciding between three topics which I find interesting.

1. First I was thinking about doing the Autuer theory and Ingmar Bergman. I would go against the auteur theories and argue that he is indeed and auteur.

2. Second topic would be the Third Cinema theories, since there was so much debate in class about it, I would like to go deeper in defining what makes a revolutionary film and if they are beneficial. I would be using battle of  The Battle of Algiers as my film reference.

3. Third I’m thinking about doing the theories on race, and representation. Using Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and discussing the blaxploitation movement in film.

….. soo I think I am leaning towards blaxploitation

Published in: on March 24, 2010 at 10:18 am Comments (1)

Third Cinema

Che Guevara, La Hora De Los Hornos

In Solanas and Getino’s reading towards a third cinema he discusses how third cinema, also known as Latin American cinema came about. Majority of the article talks about neo-colonialism, and the power of the bourgeois. These oppressed third world countries that are in need of a revolution and he sees that films can be used as a revolutionary tool. The advancement of science, and technical improvements made this possible. The cinema of the revolution is at the same time one of deconstruction and construction: deconstruction of the image of neocolonialism and a construction of a living reality which recaptures the truths.

First Cinema: Is cinema of entertainment or Hollywood Cinema. Solanas describes it as a mechanistic takeover of a cinema, structured, and to be sure to satisfy the commercial interests of the production groups.

Second Cinema: Auteur Cinema, Expression Cinema. The demand of a filmmaker to be free to express himself in a non-standard language and inasmuch as it was an attempt to at cultural decolonization.

Third Cinema: Has 2 requirements “making films that the system cannot assimilate and which are foreign to its needs, or making films that directly and explicitly sat out to fight the system… in a cinema of liberation.”

Solanas and Getino are two Argentinean activist and they directed, wrote and produced an independent documentary call La hora de los hornos. I actually have seen a portion of this and it is very aggressive and in your face. The montage cuts are very tough on the eyes and the images are very explicit. It truly causes you to be an active viewer, and that is one of the goals for this type of film, to get people to stand up and react to it.

Espinosa in his article For an Imperfect Cinema, he is questioning what art is, and what is cinema. The people who mediate it are limiting the artist’s creative freedom. She agrees with Solanas point about the “elite” and that we need to revolutionize. “The revolution is what furnishes all other alternatives, what can supply an entirely new response, what enables us to do away once and for all the elitist concepts and practices in art.”

Perfect cinema is technically and artist fully masterful and is almost always, in some way reactionary cinema, and is structured. An imperfect cinema finds a new audience; those who are struggles and its themes revolve around this. It must show the process which generates these problems, “to submit it to judgment without pronouncing the verdict.” The audience for imperfect cinema believes they can transform the world in a revolutionary way.

Rocha in An esthetic of Hunger, The article compares Brazil and Europe with the case of Cinema Novo. Europeans hunger is for a strange tropical surrealism and Brazils hunger is its national shame. (I do not know what he is talking about her)

Then he moves on to talk about Cinema Novo, stating that it remains marginal to the economic and cultural process of Latin America. Rocha claims that it cannot develop effectively with these limitations. Instead Cinema Novo is a phenomenon of new people everywhere and it depends on the freedom of Latin America. “Cinema Novo is not one film but an evolving complex of films that will ultimately make the public aware of its own misery.”

Published in: on March 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm Comments (0)

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