The auteur, then …
No longer the hegemonic audiovisual spectacle it once was, cinema has had to face many changes and challenges in the twenty-first century (not least its entanglement with capitalist globalization and post-medium digitization) in order to retain its value as a commercial form of entertainment. Yet as an art form, a status it still partly retains, it has also had to respond to a world full of new phenomena, all the while undergoing a set of deep transitions and crises. With this as our background, we look back on a motif and concern perennial since the early days of cinema: the auteur. It has evolved through the decades, has been put to rest by some schools, only to staunchly re-emerge time and again. The goal of the present volume is to propose the latest reassessment of the film auteur as “global” auteur because, if auteurism has validity in this global age, it may express itself in the way film directors, old and new, capture the zeitgeist in a multi-layered and faceted world, overtly or covertly. The work of these cinematic auteurs, even unconsciously, signals various positions that film art takes regarding reality. We see here a twenty-first century version of la politique des auteurs— not a certain policy or politics of auteurs anymore so much as “the political” immanent to cinematic authorship. Our collection thus includes a variety of chapters by established and emerging scholars alike, which shed a timely light on the current situation, identifying some of the most important cinematic voices of the last fifteen years, recognizing recurrent trends and motifs, and defining what constitutes the newness of auteurism in this young twenty-first century…. (Jeong)
Auteur Workshop Description
The Auteur Workshop is a project in process as part of my MFA studies at American University, fall semester 2017. In Professor Middents‘ “Lit-646: Auteur Study: Alfonso Cuarón,” students are to develop a research project on a second, student-selected director. I’m not sure who my selection will be, and I’m sure it will change repeatedly through the semester as Professor Middents introduces us to new directors, but I’m so intrigued by the project (maybe I am a cinephile) that I’m driven to begin collecting artifacts and research. My focal criticisms will likely be feminism, postmodernism and neoformalism.
One consistency I seem to find in my cursory search of auteurs, is the limited pool of female accredited auteurs, as if, as it seems to be in most things, auteurism is the realm of men. Equally interesting is that Alfonso Cuarón, the main subject of our course is the director of Gravity and Children of Men, one of my favorite films. Children of men. Film of men. So, I will be choosing a female director as my main focus for this research project.
The director that most comes to mind at this point is Kathryn Bigelow. I simply fell in love with The Weight of Water. Hurt Locker, too, has the gritty realism and stylistic play that Bigelow does so well. Obviously.
I’m also intrigued by the place of female directors within the “darker” aesthetics of filmmaking. I will admit to being a longtime fan of Quentin Tarantino, though, his treatments of violence and women can grow tedious. Ironically, my favorite of his films is Reservoir Dogs, pretty much devoid of women. Still, I would like nothing else than to find my female Tarantino, or rather, my female of dark film, and I think I might have done it. The French director, Julia Ducournau, is exciting. I will spend some time with her work, presently I’ve chosen Raw. So far, I like her willingness to delve into content unflinchingly. I also like her moments of restraint. Something I’ve often wanted a bit more in Tarantino’s scenes, though, I will admit to having a twisted sort adoration for Tarantino’s Death Proof. Perhaps, a study of Raw and Death Proof, and their directors, and how they juxtapose to Bigelow’s and Cuarón’s films would be an intriguing focus. I also love the Davids: Lynch and Cronenberg. Let’s not forget the extraordinary TV series afoot on cable networks.
The more I read and view, the more I want to explore. There is so much to learn. Looking forward to it.
Auteur Workshop Terminology
As part of my research, I intend to build a digital glossary of film terms resourcing the below listed print texts as well as the Columbia, NYU and Penn State glossary databases. These terms will be added to this site’s cumulative literary terms and critical theories glossary, coded so that the terms will be linked within each course and lesson and accessible easily with a pop up definition as the reader progresses. Such terms will include “auteur,” “mis-en-scène” and so on. Click here for a full list of literary terms and critical theories to be updated daily.
Auteur Workshop Materials
- Bigelow, Kathryn. The Weight of Water. Film. 2002.
- Caughie, John. Theories of Authorship. 1981.
- Chadwick, Whitney. Women, Art and Society: Fifth Edition. Thames & Hudson. 2012.
- Cronenberg, David. Dead Ringers. 1988.
- Cronenberg, David. M. Butterfly. 1993.
- Cronenberg, David. Naked Lunch. 1991.
- Cuarón, Alfonso. Children of Men. Film. 2007.
- Cuarón, Alfonso. Gravity. Film. 2013.
- Cuarón, Alfonso. Y Tu Mamá También. Film. 2011.
- Dash, Julie. Daughters of the Dust. Film. 1991.
- Ducournau, Julia. Raw. 2017.
- Goldberg, Evan and Seth Rogan. Preacher: On the Road. AMC. 2017.
- Grant, Barry Keith. Auteurs & Authorship: Film Reader. 2008.
- Hitchcock, Alfred. Marnie. Film. 1964.
- Jeong, Seung-hoon and Jeremy Szaniawski. The Global Auteur: The Politics of Authorship in 21st Century Cinema. Bloomsbury Publishing. 2016.
- Kandel, Eric. The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present.
- Lynch, David. Alphabet. 1968.
- Martin, Darnell. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Film. 2005.
- Matsoukas, Melina, et al. Lemonade. “Hold Up.” “Formation.” “Sorry.” Short Film/Music Video. 2016.
- Sellors, C. Film Authorship: Auteurs & Other Myths. Film. 2011.
- Tarantino, Quentin. Reservoir Dogs. Film. 1992.
- Tarantino, Quentin. Death Proof. Film. 2007.
- Truffaut, François. The 400 Blows. Film. 1959.
- Verbruggen, Jakob. The Fall: Dark Descent. 2013.
Focus studies, which we will call lessons, are coming soon. I will add them as I progress through my research. I find the best way for me to solidify my own learning is to imagine and then organize how I might then share the material with others. Perhaps there will be other cinephiles out there who will find the included resources helpful. I am opening comments for this workshop. If you have any suggestions or would like to discuss auteurism, please join me.