The term "auteur" comes from French and translates roughly as "author". The idea of a cinematic auteur is based on the theory that the director is the "author" of their films. This idea was first pioneered by French Critics in the 1950's and 1960's, including future filmmakers Francois Truffaut and... a certain other French New Wave director who shall not be named. These critics were watching American films and looking at films produced by major Hollywood directors of the era such as Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Alfred Hitchcock. People like Truffaut and that other guy realized that there were patterns which could be found among their films. For instance there were traits that defined a Howard Hawks movie and which could distinguish it from say... an Alfred Hitchcock film.
Now this is not the only way of looking at things. Technically, similar patterns could be found among... say... different screenplays by the same writer. Just look at a few of my own scripts and you'll quickly notice a few trademarks that keep popping up, such as the prominence of strong female characters (in most cases including the protagonist; so far the only exception has been an adaptation). Similarly, some producers have patterns that emerge in their films. A director is by no means the only "author" of his or her film. That does not make auteurism an invalid theory, however.
It is debatable if the director can truly be considered the "author" of their film, but every director has their own style. There are patterns you can trace simply by looking at any director's body of work. Once these patterns and styles are identified it becomes easier to identify the film of one director from another. For instance, having intensely studied a few auteurs myself I could easily tell a film by David Lynch from a film by John Carpenter or Sergio Leone. Similarly it would not be hard to distinguish a film by Alfred Hitchcock from something directed by Georges Méliès or Kathryn Bigelow. Even the worst scum in the history of film, directors like Ed Wood, Uwe Boll, and Michael Bay, have patterns that characterize their films. After all, anyone with common sense could easily distinguish one of Michael Bay's blockbusters from one of Ed Wood's b-movies.
However, there is something that every major director has in common: they had a beginning. There is always that one film they have at the very start of their filmography which launched their cinematic careers (for better or worse) and set the stage for everything that would follow. For this blogathon, you will be examining one such film in detail.
- Pick one director and identify his or her first feature film. It must be the first feature film (i.e. over one hour runtime) listed in her/his filmography.
- While you will be primarily discussing that one film, you should have an understanding at least some of the director's later films, enough to be able to recognize his or her style.
- Analyze your chosen film in relation to the director's later projects. What elements of his or her style do you see here?
- Keep in mind that this blogathon is based on critical thinking and analysis, not simply on whether you liked the film. Your post should not be so much on the film itself as what it says about the director.
- Repeats (i.e. two people writing about the same director and film) are acceptable, but discouraged. If you do choose a topic someone else is writing about, try to find something different to say on the subject.
- Include a banner and a link back to this post. There are several banners to choose from below, and you are permitted to create your own provided they fit the blogathon's themes.
As long as you follow the above rules, there are no restrictions on which directors you can or cannot choose just so long as you have access to their movies. You could look at an auteur from the beginnings of cinema (provided you can find their first movie) or you could look at someone working today. You could write about a mainstream director who worked in the Studio Era or some obscure foreign director nobody's heard of. In fact, I'm encouraging diversity as much as possible. Obviously, it should come as no surprise that I'd like to see both male and female directors examined this way, but variety in time periods, ethnicities, nationalities, genres, etc. are all very good as well.
Technically it doesn't even have to be a good director you study. You could if you wanted write a whole piece on Michael Bay. However, my advice would be to pick a director you like or would be interested in studying. It should make the experience of watching and analyzing their first feature film more enjoyable. I suspect everyone has their own range of directors they admire so there should be plenty of variety on that front.
Normally I would provide a list of suggestions to help give participants some ideas, but I presume we're not likely to get any interest from non-film bloggers (if by some chance I do, you can e-mail me and I'll try to help you find something to contribute). You people write about movies, I expect that you're familiar with a few directors. Maybe a different assortment of directors from me but still directors nonetheless.
I'm looking at running this toward the end of August, from the 23-29. Hopefully that should give everyone interested enough time to think about their choices, watch their films, and write up their pieces. As is the custom, each day I'll post the links as I get them.
If you have any questions, you can share them in the comments and I will get to you as soon as possible. If you need help, I can't make any promises but I'm happy to try and assist you any way I can. I'm hoping to see some really great stuff here so start thinking about whose first film you'd want to look at and let me know what you decide.
Current ParticipantsDue to the structure of this blogathon, and my discouraging of repeats, I'd like to ask that anyone who is interested in taking part tell me ahead of time what they would like to discuss. There's no hurry so if you'd like to join in but don't know yet who you want to write about yet that is perfectly fine. Once you have your topic, make sure to notify me and I'll add you to the list. This just so we can keep track of what has and has not already been selected.
- Dell on Movies: Spike Lee's She's Got to Have It
- A Fistful of Films: Xavier Dolan's I Killed Your Mother
- Defiant Success: Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave
- Myerla's Movie Reviews: Wes Craven's Last House on the Left
- That Film Girl: Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket
- Two Dollar Cinema: Christopher Nolan's The Following.
- Rebecca Sharp: Pedro Almodóvar's Pepi, Luci, Bom
- Speaks in Movie Lines: David Fincher's Alien 3
I've assembled several banners here for you to use in your posts. Each one contains a still from a different directorial debut, and I've tried to diversify the range as much as possible, but if none of them are to your satisfaction you may create your own banner. Just make sure it contains the title of the blogathon, my blog name, and imagery that fits the themes we're exploring here.