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Auteurism in relation to cinema directors and the themes and concepts of Schreiber theory that impact on the authenticity of Auteur Theory.

Auteurism in relation to cinema directors and the themes and concepts of Schreiber theory that impact on the authenticity of Auteur Theory.

In this essay the theories published by the critics of the Cahiers du cinema and the later writings of Andrew Sarris will be explored in relation to both modern and classic directors throughout cinema history; discussing the attributes that make certain directors to be considered auteurs. In response to this, challenges, themes and concepts of the 'Schreiber Theory' affecting the scholarship of auteur theory will be analysed and argued. The development of the Auteur Theory holds its historical grounding with writers, film critic sand editors of cinema magazine, 'Cahiers du cinema (founded by Andre Bazin in 1951)'. The young, flamboyant and enthusiastic visions of French journalists, extensively involved in the Ciné-club or film society movement propelled by Henri-Langlois of la cinematheque franchise active in Paris following the liberation (Sarris, 1962). Most notably the works of François Truffaut in the article, 'A certain Tendency in the French cinema published in 1954'focusing on the director's creative input and later adopting the term 'La politique desauteurs' ( Brtiannica, 2018). Both theorists, Truffaut and Jean Luc Godard championed the critical writing and analysis of Alexandre Astruc, with his world famous 1948 essay entitled, 'The Birth of a new Avante-Garde – la Camera Stylo': raising the concept and notion that a film director should wield a camera in the same manner as a traditional literature author would use a pen. 

In addition, Bazin's approach of the rejection of using Montage in favour of using a sense of 'realism' or the inclusion of an ontological approach to cinema through long-takes and artistic shot composition, mise-en-scène and the reconnection to a back catalogue of American produced films previously prohibited under both the German and Vichy Governmental occupations of Paris during WW2 (Sarris,1962) were major influences on the directors and the formation of the Policy of authors, known in modern scholarship, since 1962 as the auteur theory.
Cahiers du cinema writers longed to break these so-called film traditions, referred to by François Truffaut in his essay 'A certain tendency' as 'cinema du papa' (Luzi, 2018) or 'The tradition of quality; (Francois, 1954) a style well established in France through the Poetic-Realism movement of the 1930s; most importantly he films of Jean Renoir (Bordwell & Thompson, 2010). Putting into practice the theories of Bazin and Astruc while contributing to a refreshed cinema of the 'French New Wave' (nouvelle vague of 1959-1964), which later was received by audiences as developing a sense of authorism across the works of the New Wave (De Semlyen, Freer, Wybrew, 2016).These collections of academic articles released by French critics and aspiring filmmakers in the 1950's caught the attention of American writer, Andrew Sarris in the early 1960's who later emerged as a leading proponent of auteurism, involved in the categorisation of directors and the bearing of Auteur theory to the world stage. Sarris's writing's surrounding the Auteur theory were documented in 1962 following an essay entitled, 'Notes on Auteur Theory' in the journal entitled 'Film culture' that outlined a series of required themes for filmmakers to be regarded or considered an Auteur (Griffin, 2017). Sarris stated that for directors to be considered an Auteur their work must follow similar visual styles or'signatures' across the catalogue or their filmography, to be technically competent and in certain cases, "Interior meaning is extrapolated from the tension between a director's personality and his material." With frequent reference to Orson Welle's personality and consistent battle for creative freedom with the studio Mercury Productions and RKO during the production of 'Citizen Kane (1941)'. Moreover, similar to the theory's historical roots, Andrew Sarris admired the cinematic works of Alfred Hitchcock; championing the director; titling him as his "Pantheon" or important person (Kipen, 2006) because of Hitchcock's consistent usage of themes, story arcs and recurrent character tropes, for example the sense of paranoia, mistaken identity and provocative female roles.

In addition, the development of such a theory and categorising structure by Sarris was to establish a 'value system' amongst the works of filmmakers and provide a separation between both the important films and those of a lesser quality or value to cinema at large. Moreover, Andrew Sarris used the concept of auteur to praise directors as the author behind challenging independent arthouse pictures, such as Ingmar Bergman's 'Seventh Seal'and distinguish those from mass produced 'studio-system' films intended for much larger audiences and uphold themes of Uses and Gratification: Diversion theory or escapist tendencies. Holding historical backing to the original body of writing; being used to separate the works of 'French New Wave' directed films from the Hollywood Studio-System directors producing films concurrently.
However, it is noted that film critics, especially that of Jaquettes Rivette and François Truffaut championed a series of talented studio directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks; calling them major auteurs. This is documented within an Essay entitled'The Genius of Howard Hawks' published in 1953 by Rivette stating: "you only have to watch Monkey Business (1953) to know that it is a brilliant film" (Rivette 126)". Monkey Business produced by film studio, 20th Century Fox is regarded as a minor comedic film production nevertheless is highly regarded by the Cahiers Du Cinema author, due to its clever approach to presentation, comedy writing, acting performance achieved by Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Ginger Rodgers and Carry Grant but most importantly in terms of auteur theory, the approach to directing conducted by Hawks seen in the 1953 film.

Modern scholarship published by Andrew Sarris and academics in this field usually hold prominent focus on the works of independent film directors and the impact of these productions on cinema as an art form. This is juxtaposed when viewing the concept of auteur from the Cahier critics, in its infancy stages Howard Hawks was a major director in discussion when noting authorship of films in the direction of classic 1930's and 1940's comedy films such as Bringing up Baby (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940) (IMDB).
The works mentioned earlier have been influential academic concepts leading onto a wide range of film critics interpreting the theory and describing cinema directors as auteurs for their personal narrative, composition or aesthetic style throughout their career/body of work. This has led onto filmmakers such as, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawara, Stanley Kubrick, Ingmar Bergman and Wong Kai Wai being described as the greatest or most influential auteurs throughout film history (Gilbey, 2018).

According to the work of French New Wave director, Francois Truffaut and American critic,Andrew Sarris the directorial catalogue of 'Tim Burton' would suggest his films to be considered as modern auteur material. Burton's filmography from 'Edward Scissor Hands(1990)', 'Batman Returns (1992)' to later releases such as, 'Corpse Bride (2005) and 'Alice in Wonderland (2010)' possess a similar gothic visual aesthetic Metteur en scène (the scene setting used by a particular director), a film studies term developed by the writings of Bazin and Truffaut (Cahiers du cinema); used coherently with the categorisation of the auteur(Corrigan and White, 2009). 

In addition, the director frequently uses a stand out director'signature' through his casting choices, regular 'borrowing (intertextuality)' from existing films, most importantly that of, 'Robert Weine's, Dr Caligari (1920)' while developing an individual compositional style (Mise en scene) through usage of 'Chiaroscuro' lighting techniques, the effect of contrasted shadows and light (Villarejo, 2006). Heavily inspired by the films of the 1920s Weimar German Expressionist movement such as Dr Caligari (1929)and certain scenes in F W Murnau's, Nosferatu (1922) (sjfilmhistory, 2015), which is a major indication that Tim Burton holds primary creative focus and therefore is the auteur or author behind the films he directs. This style of creative filmmaking expands its scope amongst other modern filmmakers such as Wes Anderson and Quantin Tarantino who inspire; using intertextuality from others alongside film related references (examples include: Akira Kurosiwa's Seven Samurai in Wes Anderson's, 'Isle of Dogs' (internet,Bramesco Charles, 2018) and inspirations taken from the cinema of Jean Luc Godard, especially À bout de soufflé or Breathless (1960) reflected in the works of Tarantino, with reference to Pulp Fiction in its narrative structure and camera techniques (StrucciMovies,2015). These characteristics seen in the following directors are examples of modern auterism in cinema: film authors who create a consistent image and style across their creations.

Breathless (1960) - Image: BFI.

As discussed previously, the scholarship of the auteur theory is a major driving force for debate amongst film critics and a films authorship holds prime position in academic research to this day. However, challenges to auteur and debates opposing the theory's authenticity are highly acknowledged as pieces of academic research and writing.Most famously, in contradiction to Andrew Sarris and the cahiers du cinema journalists: a body of writing produced in the style of a comedic 'spin off' or parody to the original French essays in 2006 by the American journalist, David Kipen as 'The Schreiber Theory: a radical rewrite of American Film History' documents the various theories and standing points both academics and critics have when viewing auteur theory while demonstrating the sense of competition and debate surrounding the area of academia and research.At the books release in 2006, Kipen's work came as a direct attack on existing scholarly articles, raising a counter argument to the earlier essays, especially that of Sarris's book entitled, 'The American Cinema' published in 1968, at the time nearly 40 years previous to David Kipen's addition to the theory's arguments (Austerlitz, 2006). Named after the Yiddish word for writer and regarded as Kipen's 'manifesto' – the writing takes the focus of a films author being that of its story writer, screenwriter or those responsible for the adaptation of novels for the big screen. As opposed to the previous academic accounts of the primary creative vision being held by the film's director.
Kipen believed the screenwriter to be the greater influence on the quality of a finished cinematic piece and mentioned knowing the writer of a film is 'the surest predictor' of its overall quality and "how good it will be". 

Moreover, David Kipen is quoted as saying, "A film goer seeking out pictures written by say, Eric Roth or Charlie Kaufman won't always see a masterpiece, but he'll see fewer clunkers then he would following even a brilliant director like John Boorman or an intelligent actor like Jeff Goldblum" (Revolvy, 2018). Which further illustrates the author's position and opinion with the auteur theory while highlighting Kipen's personal advancements in the development of 'Schreiber theory'. As mentioned in the 2006 publication, Kipen's theory to protect the work of novelists, writers and screenplay artists throughout cinema history was a major advancement in film criticism:however, wasn't a completely original academic concept. Previous publications produced by film critics such as, Pauline Kael in 1971 through her book 'Raising Kane' openly challenged the writings of Andrew Sarris and instead of pioneering the twenty-five-year-old director, Orsen Welles. The author championed the screenwriting works of Herman Jacob Mankiewicz who alongside Welles developed the screenplay for the 1941 film (Keal, 2019). According to Kipen in his book, 'The Schreiber Theory': only two major contradictions to the auteur have existed in major academic Journals, Kael's work in 1971 and Richard Corliss's 1975 publication through the book 'Talking Pictures' (Kipen, 2006)which shun a light on the idea of screenwriters being the prominent figure in the production of films over the previously accounted director's vision.
Furthermore, the book opens a range of unanswered questions in the earlier publications and addresses the fundamental issues surrounding the core elements of an auteur. For example, the book raises rhetorical questions to the reader such as, 'who's responsible for Hollywood's best movies? Combining his academic publication with small biographies and interviews focusing on screenwriter's past and present: discussing major points such as'who wrote Casablanca (1942)? Or who was responsible for writing Twelve Monkey's(1995)? Shifting the predominate focus from the famous film directors: Michael Curtiz andTerry Gilliam, replacing the creative vision with the films screenwriters, Julius J. and Phillip G Epstein being the screenplay for Casablanca (IMDB) and Chris marker (IMDB), the writer and director known for his short 28 minute 1962 drama film entitled, 'La Jetée' documented as the inspiration for Terry Gilliam's cinematic masterpiece, 'Twelve Monkeys (1995) (internet, covert, 2012). In addition, Twelve Monkeys was assisted by a further two screenwriters responsible for developing the character dialogue and adaptations from the original short film. The married American screenwriters, David Webb Peoples and Janet Peoples were credited as writers working alongside the director on the screenplay. David Kipen's publication works at praising individuals for their work, previously disregarded by the original scholarly articles produced by Francois Truffaut, Godard and Andrew Sarris while raising further questions; highlighting a selection of other issues relating to the authenticity of the auteur theory.

Auteur vs Schreiber theory is a major factor for examination, according to an article entitled'Tales from the script' reflecting on a 2009 documentary of the same name mentions that the medium in which the content is played dictates the prominent focus of those involved inits production. Put crudely, television shows produced for television are often 'writer-focused' whereas on the whole feature films produced for theatrical release in cinemas are often 'director' focused. The author of the article, Dustin Rowles also goes onto suggest that generally for a writer to hold significant creative 'weight' when involved in the production of films: he or she must also direct the feature (making links to directors such as Quintin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson in the article) or often establish a relationship with a previously established cinema director to collaborate as a screenwriter ( Rowles,2010).

The debate further develops areas of consideration for film fanatics, critics and research academics in the field: widening the horizon of possibilities in finding the true author of the piece being considered (in terms of auteurs being linked to screen writers, actors, studios and even in a films visual aesthetic through a cinematographer's personal style). For example, modern cult films such as 'Being John Malkovich (1999)' and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)' open up discussion for the discovery of the auteur. The quirky an individualist style of Charlie Kaufman's screenwriting is apparent when viewing both features which in relation to David Kipen's, 'Schreiber theory' the creative author of these films could be argued as being, Charlie Kaufman as opposed to their directors, Spike Jonze(John Malkovich, 1999) and Michel Gondry for Eternal Sunshine, 2004. Both directors have distinctive styles and recurring visual themes throughout their body of work: with Eternal Sunshine presenting similar visual aesthetic to Gondry's, 'Science of Sleep' (this time written and directed by Gondry himself) released in 2007 and Spike Jonze films having frequent 'lost in life' characters.

However, the leading noticeable characteristics of both films mentioned earlier could be contended as the screenwriter's creation, therefore being the work and creative credit ofCharlie Kaufman. Other screenwriters for supporting the 'Schreiber theory' could include Paul Laverty with his heartfelt and sometimes comedic writing seen in films such as 'Looking for Eric (2009)', 'I Daniel Blake (2016)' and 'Jimmy's Hall (2014)', these films being collaborations with the director Ken Loach and sharing similar themes in writing, narrative structure and the use of character spoken dialogue. Eric Roth mentioned by Kipen as part of his manifesto for his screenwriting in Forest Gump (1994), later after the publication of 'The Schreiber Theory', 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)' and recently involved inthe screenwriting for Bradley Cooper's, 'A Star is Born (2018)'. Calder Willingham's screenplay and contributions to the adaptation of 'The Graduate (1967)' and Ronald Harwood's writing for director, Roman Polanski in 'The Pianist (2001)' (IMDB). This can suggest in terms of the Schreiber theory that the true auteur and authorship of these

In addition to this, the concept of the film's writer could be applied to a broader range of those involved in the production: such as the films cinematographer. When viewing films with apparent artistic direction, aesthetic appeal and applied mis en scene such as, Amélie(2001), Citizen Kane (1941) or in recent years looking at the filmmaking catalogue of Wes Anderson through the, 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)' and later, 'The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)'. The work of Robert D. Yeoman (IMDB) as the cinematographer responsible for achieving Wes Anderson's intriguing and 'trend setting'visual environments in the majority of his commercial films: (wide angles, vivid camera movements and intense usage of colour) are often disregarded and unknown by the average cinema goer; crediting the film's director as 'A Wes Anderson' film. Gregg Toland's pioneering use of 'deep focus' (keeping all of the set-in focus) camera techniques in 'CitizenKane', famously known as the master of the deep depth of field (Internet, Wilson, 2018)and Bruno Delbonnel's (IMDB) ravishing camera work in the 2001 French drama film, Amelie Which In terms of David Kipen's 2006 radical rewrite questioning the audience on the true meaning of auteurism; raising statements such as "What about the camerawork? How about the actors? If we're lucky, the director marshals the filmmaking process"(Internet, Garrett, 2006), you could adopt authorship of these films as creations developed by their cinematographer or Director of Photography (DP) as opposed to their directors, therefore championing them as auteurs of the screen.Both theories discussing the authorship of a film are well established within the film an academic communities, with the Auteur theory (determining the film's director to stand as the most important creative weight of a production), established by the Cahiers du cinema writers and upheld by Andrew Sarris in the 1960's, to this day holds greater respect: with the director often taking ownership of a film in terms of its release, marketing and creative credit. However, the concept of David Kipen's 2006 book-length essay entitled, 'The Schreiber Theory' is a prominent topic of discussion and a considerable turning point in the authorship debate. The points raised by the theory and the development for argument are consolidated within the publication and stands to question: Who gets to decide the filmic canon, the Auteur or come to name the most important figure responsible for the production? The theories hold considerable flaws; raising further un-answered questions tot he audience; with both publications greater highlighting the issues surrounding ownership when comparing the collaborative nature of film as opposed to other more individual art forms such as Fine Art or Photography.

Auteurism in relation to cinema directors and the themes and concepts of Schreiber theory that impact on the authenticity of Auteur Theory - All Rights Reserved, Cameron L Savage.


Luzi, Evan, The French New Wave: A Cinematic Revolution, 2018,, History of Motion Picture: The war years and post-World War II trends, 2018, #ref508199"The-war-years-and-post-World-War-II-trends"Thompson, Kristin, Bordwell, David. (2010) Film History: An Introduction, Third Edition, New York,NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies. p. 265-268Truffaut, Francois, A Certain Tendency of The French Cinema, originally published in 'Cahiers ducinema, 1954', De Phil, Freer Ian, Wybrew Ally, Movie movements that defined cinema: the French NewWave,, 2016Griffin, Jacqui, A quick guide to Auteur Theory,,2017Villarejo, Amy, Chapter 2 - Film Language (p. 32), Film Studies the Basics, 2006Dundee, Groggy, The Director as Artist: Rivette, Sarris and the Auteur Theory,, 2009Bazin, Andre. "On the politique des auteurs." Cahiers du cinéma, the 1950s : neo-realism,Hollywood, new wave / edited by Jim Hillier. Harvard UP, 1985. 248-59Rivette, Jacques. "The Genius of Howard Hawks". Cahiers du cinema, the 1950s: neo-realism,Hollywood, new wave / edited by Jim Hillier. Harvard UP, 1985. 126-31Sarris, Andrew. "Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962". Film Theory and Criticism: Seventh Edition /edited by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. Oxford UP, 2009. 451-4Gillbey, Ryan, The end of the auteur?,, 2018Ranker Films, The Greatest Auteurs in Film History,, 2018Sjfilmhistory, Film Analysis of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari,,2015Bramesco, Charles, Unpacking the Akira Kurosawa References in Isle of Dogs,,2018Covert, Adrien, La Jetée: The Inspiration for 12 Monkeys (and Probably The Terminator),,2012Rowles, Dustin, Auteur vs Schreiber Theory, Tales From the Script, and the Filmmaking process,,2010Kipen, David, The Schreiber Theory, A Radical Rewrite of American Film History, 2006Interview with Tarrantino on Godard (3:14 - 3:40 mins) and White, The Film Experience, 2009Revolvy, Schreiber Theory,, 2018IMDB articles:


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