Film Theory: Auteurism–Criticism of the Perspective

Though prevalent and influential, auteurism as a perspective and theory, was subject to several lines of criticism:

Critics claim that, undoubtedly, a film by a great auteur director (Hitchcock, Ford) would get greater attention and would benefit from being repeatedly seen, since the films the auteur had directed subsequently shed light on any and every of his films.

The French critic Andre Bazin has suggested that in order to evaluate a film properly, all the multiple strands that are woven into the making of the film, and into the film experience itself, should be taken into account.  For Bazin, the auteur is a primary factor among several others, the knot of technology, film language, genre, and cultural tradition.

Among the pitfalls of the auteur theory are:

First, the tendency to downplay and underplay collaboration between the director and actor, director and writer, director and cinematographer

Second, the tendency to emphasize intentionality at the expense  of the socio-political and economic contexts in which films are made.

Thus, auteurists discuss Jewish émigré directors as a group, and gay American directors as a category.

Third, tendency toward subjectivist and canonizing inclinations.

Fourth, tendency towards ahistorical idealism.

Fifth, fostering interpretations that are derived from the personal concerns and values of the creators (in film, it’s the director) at the expense of socio-political considerations.

In general, auteurism’s assumption was that understanding the film’s director, his vision, perspective and output would provide a key to interpreting his individual films.

Thus, Howard Hawks became for the auteurist “Hakwsian,” a filmic structure  designated by the name appearing on the director’s credit.

In revising auteurism, critics claimed that a film’s meaning arises from the conjunction of various  discursive codes which are at work in the film’s text, of which the directorial code was only one of them, but not the only one or even the most important one.