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September 09, 2011


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On the one hand: this article I never heard of before sure sounds like a load of old bollocks!

On the other hand:


Ah, no, I can't read that, but an early snippet of actual falsfiable argument pulled from the early paras:

>> The film current was such that even a levelheaded (if mediocre) critic like New York magazine’s David Edelstein claimed director James Cameron “has an old-fashioned command of composition: strong foregrounds and layers of texture and movement reaching back into the frame and down to the teeniest pixel.” What? That more or less describes any shot taken by a motion-picture camera with a wide depth of field.

Am I misremembering, or did Avatar in fact have notably shallow depth of field, as complained about (incorrectly IMHO) by Jim Emerson? Edelstein is talking about composition and cutting, not focus.

Sam O. Brown

Does Osterwiel even have a clue as to how the auteur theory was defined by the Cahiers critics? David Edelstein as the model of autuerist criticism? Was not Edelstein a protege of Kael; someone who had a less than supportive view of auteurism?


Oof. Dude loses me with the first word of his title, "Towards" instead of "Toward."

Particularly well chosen image there, Glenn.


"I think all pop culture sucks, and isn't worth talking about, and here's a 10,000 (approximate) word essay as to why that is."

And they say irony is dead.

Mr. Milich

Spielberg would agree with the general sentiment.

Back in '92, at Lincoln Center, he clearly expressed that in commercial cinema there's no such thing as an auteur, that movies are collaborations. He felt that if you really wanted to be an auteur, you needed to make movies for $100,000 (though I'm sure he was using that number more to make a point than being literal).

Hollis Lime

An auteur is not someone that has to do everything by himself, it's just the person with the vision to make the thing work aesthetically, structurally, etc. I think people get confused about this. A production of "Baal" requires numerous artists and technicians, but Bertolt Brecht is still the author.

Mr. Milich

Lumet thought the auteur theory was bullshit too. His argument was perfectly rational: Of course there are similarities in Hitchcock's movies -- they were made by the same person.

Glenn Kenny

Come on, kids, it's late; don't make me get out my copy of "The American Cinema" and quote bits that prove, like, you know, Sarris acknowledges that film is a collaborative medium/art form. There's no sensible critic sympathetic to the auteur theory who doesn't understand that. And Lumet might have thought the auteur theory was bullshit, but based on my brief acquaintance with the man, he didn't exactly see himself as just a "manager" either, and when he spoke about a movie like "Daniel" relative to a movie like "Running on Empty" he spoke with respect to what HE wanted to "say" with those pictures. And in any event, the realities of the auteur theory, of auteurist-based criticism, and whatever understandings/misunderstandings of it we're discussing here, have little to do with Osterweil's insistence, which is right up there in my quote: "the director must be considered little more than a manager." Consider that "must," and consider all the evidence he musters to support it.

Mr. Milich

All I know is whoever cooked those crispy shrimp rolls I got on Yonge St. tonight was an auteur.

Glenn Kenny

I understand that there's an auteurist rainbow in Toronto, where the maritimers all go.

Ian W. Hill

"Have they got jobs there, Glenn?"

"Oooh, lots o' jobs fer you an' me. Good film criticizin' jobs!"

Scott Nye

Way too tired to dive into such a long article that becomes annoying so fast (Osterwell's, that is), but isn't that bit about Nolan and Snyder and such saying they're only distinct artists because someone lets them be? Why does that even matter if the end result is distinct art by a definite artistic vision? And it's not like Werner Herzog doesn't rely on someone else's money to make his art. No doubt the Hollywood machine relies on the auteur theory to make guys like Snyder respectable, but just because they don't understand it doesn't mean you have to, too.

warren oates

What Hollis Lime said. I still remember the moment my young brain first understood what an auteur actually was -- before really getting into films, before studying film theory and criticism. There was a particular episode of TWIN PEAKS, a scene with the death of Leland Palmer that struck me as perhaps the most Lynchian moment in the entire series. And yet David Lynch had neither a writing nor directing credit on that episode. Someone with a vision that strong and deeply felt by his collaborators need not even be physically present on set to transmit it. The position of auteur as opposed to workaday director is hardly a mere management slot or one that's interchangeable with dozens of other potential candidates.

Does this Willie guy believe he's single handedly discovered half a century's worth of critical theory? Really, as if we'd never read all that Sarris Glenn cites or pieces like Pauline Kael's "Raising Kane" or any number of Marxist inspired Continental tracts (good, bad and ugly) and Walter Benjamin? We get it: mechanical reproduction, alienated labor. Blah, blah, blah.

The weirdest thing is you wonder if this guy even LIKES any of the ideas or films he's spent so much time analyzing and discussing. I know the type. It's almost like having a kind of ingrown toenail of the intellect. Enjoying ideas, images, art, philosophy is beside the point to guys like this. At least with someone like, say, Zizek, you can tell he loves both the films and the ideas.

Oh and apropos of Le Big Mac, btw, Stephen King once declared his books to be the Big Macs of American literature.

Thomas D.

So, if I understand his thesis correctly, movies funded by corporations automatically suck because money is evil, so we "must" turn all of cinema into one giant class project. Who's gonna fund this exactly?

Also, just because a few film critics might force in the auteur theory to blindly defend big budget Hollywood films ("Sucker Punch" might not be very good, but you can't deny Zach Snyder has a vision!) doesn't mean that all critics need to give it up.

This reads like something Ray Carney might have written as a 22-year-old Marxist.


My hopes are more modest. I'd be happier simply with a New Film Criticism in which food metaphors were off-limits and punishable by death.



Fuck, I yawned at this MONTHS ago. *swats hand wearily* Take it away please.

Mr. Milich

I'm tired and looking at the accompanying photo and wondering whether it's signifying that Welles was an auteur or that Osterweil is a fascist... or both... or maybe this was addressed but I was too tired to read anything...

Ian W. Hill

"Fascist" or "Fat-schist?"

Michael Adams

"I know a cat named wayout Willie."

Dan C.

I may only be repeating what Glenn said in a different way, but I had thought that the rooting interest of Sarris' "The American Cinema" was the somewhat paradoxical recognition of personal style against the background of studio commerce. The book turns into an exquisite top-ten exercise without that context for its central polemic. Ugh. I guess it isn't exactly news that a certain subset of critical theory wonks enjoys nothing more than bursting through open doors.

Eric Lowe

Man, he couldn't even be bothered to come up with an original title. Perhaps I missed the joke, I'm a little light on ironic facial hair.


Free Movies Online

Very good piece of writing! I am a regular visitor to your site, I was tired and looking at pictures, and the related question of whether to say that Welles was the author or Osterweil is a fascist. or both. or maybe it was the solution, but I was too tired to get what it is.

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