What is auteur?
Questions of Auteurism
A Case Study of Peter Weir
What is auteur?
1 A director who make films which reflect
his/her personal vision and preoccupations.
2 A director who has a distinct style and
consistent themes.
François Truffaut, ‘Une Certaine
tendence du cinéma française’
(A Certain Tendency in the French
Cinema) 1954
What is auteur?
• Though film making is collaborative work
• Directors (auteurs) oversee all narrative, visual and audio
elements of motion pictures.
• “The filmmaker/author writes with his camera
as a writer writes with his pen.”
‘Caméra Stylo’ (camera-pen) Alexander Astruc,
‘Naissance d’une nouvelle avant-garde’, L’Ecran
Français, 30th March, 1948
What is auteur?
• Auteur or metteur-en-scène
• Auteur - a director who expresses his/her
unique preoccupation and holds on to his/her
signature style
• Metteur-en-scène (one who puts it in the scene theatre director) - a (highly) competent film
maker but lacks ‘the consistency that betrayed
the profound involvement of personality’
Who Are Auteurs?
• Directors who have a distinct visual style …
Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Wells … Stanley
Kubrick, Wang Kar-wai
• Directors who have a consistent theme … Jean
Renoir (humanism), Douglas Sirk (melodrama)
… Theo Angelopoulos (modern Greek history),
Ken Loach (socialist conscience)
Auteur Theory (Politique des auteurs)
• Auteur theory - a critical attitude to consider
a film as a product of a single person director - auteur
• Andrew Sarris, ‘Notes on the Auteur Theory’,
Auteur Theory (Politique des auteurs)
To analyse a film as a work of a single author
→ auteurism
To identify the characteristics of a director’s
work which makes him a auteur
→ auteurism
Criticism against auteur theory
• Filmmaking as collaborative and
collective actions.
• Making a film involves many other
creative talents than director.
• Scriptwriter, photographer, editor, art
director, actor, etc.
Criticism against auteur theory
Figures other than cirectors,
who played a prominent
Cesare Zavattini (19021989)
Screenwriter for Vittorio De
Sica and Luchino Visconti
Shoeshines, Bicycle Thieves,
Umberto D, Bellisima, etc.
Criticism against auteur theory
Ruth Prower
Jhabvala (1927 - )
Screenwriter for
James Ivory
Room with a View,
Howard’s End,
Remains of the Day
Criticism against auteur theory
Gordon Wills
Most important
cinematographer in
the 70s and 80s
The Godfather, Annie
Hall, Manhattan, All
the President’s Men
Criticism against auteur theory
• Vittorio Storaro
• Italian cinematographer
who have worked for
first Bernardo
Bertolucci, and then
Carlos Saura and
Francis Ford Coppola
Criticism against auteur theory
• Miyagawa Kazuo (1908-1999)
Greatest Japanese
photographer, operated the
camera and shot for
Mizoguchi Kenji, Kurosawa
Akira, Ichikawa Kon and
Shinoda Masahiro
Rashomon, Ugetsu, Yojinbo,
Tokyo Olympiad, McArthur’s
Criticism against auteur theory
• David Lean (1908-1991)
British film director
Established the classic
editing techniques
Edited for film directors
such as Anthony Asquith
and Michael Powell
Pygmalion, Major
Barbara, 49th Parallel
Criticism against auteur theory
• Alexandre Trauner
French art and
production designer
Le Jour se léve, Les
Enfants du paradis, Le
Portes de la nuit, Kiss
Me Stupid, Don Giovanni,
Round Midnight, Subway
Criticism against auteur theory
• Credit for Round Midnight (1986)
Producer: Irwin Winkler
Director: Bertrand Tavernier
Writer: David Rayfiel, Bertrand Tavernier
Music: Harbie Hancock
Editor: Harmand Psenny
Production Design: Alexandre Trauner
Criticism against auteur theory
• Positif, founded one year after Cahiers du
cinema in 1952
• Firm opposition to author theory
• A signed article naming the most overrated
directors: Fritz Lang, Nicholas Ray, Howard
Hawkes and Alfred Hitchcock
Criticism against Auteur Theory
• Legitimacy of privileging a director - can a
director be more important than his film?
• ‘There are no good or bad films, but there
are only good or bad directors.’ François
In the Case of Peter Weir
• Peter Weir (1944 - )
• Australian born and now
working in Hollywood
• Worked in ATN-7 (a TV
company in Sydney)
• Made documentaries for
In the Case of Peter Weir
• Picnic at Hanging
Rock (1975)
• A tale of privateschool girls who
disappear in the
Australian outback.
In the Case of Peter Weir
• Gallipoli (1981)
Rural Australian boys are caught in the
slaughter of WWI in Turkey.
In the Case of Peter Weir
• The Year of Living Dangerously (1983),
An Australian journalist is assisted by a local
Indonesian cameraman while the third-world
capital collapses.
In the Case of Peter Weir
Witness (1985)
It brings a city detective into the unfamiliar
world of Pennsylvania’s Amish community.
In the Case of Peter Weir
The Mosquito Coast (1986)
An American with his family tries to establish
civilization in a remote jungle and ending in a
In the Case of Peter Weir
• Green Card (1990)
A comedy in which a
Frenchman tries to
obtain a green card on
bogus marriage with
an American woman.
In the Case of Peter Weir
• Truman Show
• A story of one
man’s life not
knowing that he is a
star of a 24 hour
TV series.
Weir as an auteur
Juxtaposition of :
civilization and ‘primitiveness’; the knowable
and the unknowable; culture and nature
‘Clashes’ of civilizations and cultures
Erosion of humanity by civilization

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