Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Cinematic rock-paper-scissors

I've had a bit of a bad morning really, and because I'm all on my own in the house and I won't have a chance to speak to anyone who understands for another day at least, and I probably won't say anything anyway, and because it's vaguely film related...well, skip the next paragraph if you don't care.

This morning I started a new script. That was just after getting miserable that, being female and bad at scrips, I'd never get anywhere in The Industry (bad scripts = can't get in the indie route; female = can't get in the studio route) I started trying to write something personal, and the bits I've done are very good. Like most authors/directors/whatever, there are story quirks I always return to - usually, the theme of paradise lost, a perfect time which fades away. It's totally subconscious, honestly, but normally it's just hinted at or skirted around. Anyway, the subject matter of this latest tale was precicely that, and hence the writing process was really moping by another name...and finally, if all that wasn't bad enough, though I knew the script was about totally fictional characters, I somehow think my friends would have read a whole lot more into it.

Now I've got that out of my system, I want to share some personal thoughts on the auteur theory below. Now I've heard two definitions of it, and in reality it's a bit of both. I agree on one half and not the other.

"The auteur theory holds that a film, or an entire body of work, by a director (or, less commonly, a producer) reflects the personal vision and preoccupations of that director, as if she or he were the work's primary "author" (auteur)."
From Wikipedia, pinched pas de permis.

Hmm, mostly agree. As I've already said, we all return to the same themes. But hang about, surely only the indiest of indie can possibly be truly like this - one of those films which you write, direct, shoot, act in and score yourself. Only in the imagination can any story truly be yours - in any other medium it's open to interpretation by either other people involved, or the people watching/reading.

"Truffaut's theory maintains that all good directors (and many bad ones) have such a distinctive style or consistent theme that their influence is unmistakable in the body of their work."
Well that seems to make a certain amount of sense. This is why people can have favourite directors.

Next half of the theory:

"In his 1954 essay Une certaine tendance du cinéma français ("a certain tendency in the French cinema"), François Truffaut coined the phrase "la politique des auteurs", and asserted that the worst of Jean Renoir's movies would always be more interesting than the best of Jean Delannoy's. "Politique" might very well be translated as "policy," "polemic" or "program"; it involves a conscious decision to look at movies and to value them in a certain way. Truffaut provocatively said, "There are no good and bad movies, only good and bad directors."
Thanks once again Wikipedia, please don't sue

This is the part which makes me angry, and not just because the best of my films would always come second in an auteur-fight. I don't like fame, because it affects everyone including me, and I wish it didn't. I quite liked Intolerable Cruelty. I was great in places, but overall it didn't really hit for me. Until I found out who directed it. It went up a notch or two in my estimation at that point. Would I have liked Brother's Grimm half as much if I hadn't known Terry Gilliam was involved? How much would I have disliked Vertigo if the fact it involved Hitchcock had not made me attempt to find a few good things.
I'm well aware I do it, we probably all do but that's hardly an excuse to create a theory excusing it! In a perfect world, books and films would be shipped without titles, packaging or credits with merely a synopsis on the back. Then each film could be judged on its own merits. Unless you really can spot Hitchcock at 400 paces (and I bet a fair few of us could...)

Final question - who decides? If the entire movie-making world can be reduced to metaphorical rock-paper-scissors, when did someone develop a grudge against Delannoy that he gets shunted to second best?

So here's the question. Tim Burton, as far as I can see, must be an auteur. Pastel colours, oddball loners, gothic humour and darkly-light hearted movies. According to a list on Wikipedia, Terry Gilliam isn't. This means that Planet of the Apes crushes Monty Python and the Holy Grail every time. That's TB's worst and TG's best picked approximately from imdb ratings.

In fact, lets shout a bit louder in case you haven't got that. PLANET OF THE APES faaaaaaar better than MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL! (Apologies to those of you who actually do prefer the former) Under the auteur theory some directors are WITHOUT FAIL better than others, and if someone decided that TB was the metaphorical Mew over TG's Pikachu, well that's what you'd get...

...though to be honest, I think TG probably does count as an auteur- madly comic, bad taste, random, quirky, dark films. At a certain level he deals with the same subject matter as TB - childrens nightmares, in a creepy-clown, demon-musical-box way. They'd be equal contenders for remaking Alice in Wonderland, and I think Terry Gilliam's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would be ace...(PS, as an auteur TG is soley responsible for Holy Grail being fantastic. Of course...that was sarcasm, in case you missed it...)

Ridley Scott isn't an auteur, according to the list. Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator - all walloped by Jabberwocky. Neither is George Lucas, which leaves Star Wars to be beaten by A.I. and Hook.

Not that I have any particular love or grudge for any of the films cited here, but you can see why the theory gets me mad. I don't approve of any system which claims something is definitely good. At the end of the day, we're never going to agree on what makes a good film - and it's not helped by blatant cinematic snobbery such as this!

Mind you, it's inspired a pretty zatty idea. Top trumps cards - movie ones. I mean, hell yeah! I could start wth the imdb top 250 (or, the top 100 at least) and have things like oscars won etc. It'd be a cool thing to do...

Final word:
Great thanks C4 for letting Big Brother overrun the evening I was recording Harvey. This means I only saw the first half, which I had been enjoying exceedingly, before the video flickered and cut off, leaving me with some awful 1D TV trash about a doctor who may have murdered a Mafia don.

And even greater thanks to friend-with-Sky-TV who recorded this for me.


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