Kevin Cournoyer On The Auteur Theory

Why do you reject the idea of film director as an Auteur?

 When you see credits like “a so and so film” or “a film by so and so”, you’re seeing an ego on parade. Nothing more. To belabour the obvious, filmmaking is a collaborative enterprise. There’s absolutely no rational basis for the possessory credit on any film in the history of cinema. It’s amusing that this illusory precept – director as auteur – is derived, in large part, from a group of film critics at Cahiers du Cinema who aspired to be directors. Here were film lovers who dreamed of being filmmakers. You could view La Politique des Auteurs as a form of wish fulfilment. An American critic, Andrew Sarris, simply reified this grand delusion by affixing the word “theory” after it. No one filmmaker solely “authors” a film like a writer “authors” a novel. Filmmaking is not the pure, organic process of fiction writing. (1)


(1). M, Pramaggiore & T, Wallis. (ed), Film A Critical Introduction, London: Laurence King Publishing, (2007), pp. 402.

Published by

A.R. Duckworth

South Yorkshire England

2 thoughts on “Kevin Cournoyer On The Auteur Theory”

  1. Clearly this is only correct for films of a certain type. It is not a general rule of filmmaking.

    I have made my own documentaries using basic digital technology which are totally my own conception: filmed with a prior idea in mind, edited solely by me and with sophisticate soundtracks – is this not auteur?

    Anyone can see that auteur ‘theory’ is just a way for people who do not make films, who do not learn by doing, to wax indefinitely for money in texts and debates about whether or not there is such a thinga as an auteur. Film-makers should and sy=urely will not be interested in this – unless they are pretentious French intellectuals who turn to film-making and are unable to leave the theorising behind them!

    Those who have an overriding desire to understand film, to delimit its limits and potentialities – by practical film-making – will not be willy-worrying about whether a single person can be said to be responsible for a film, or claim a film as his own.

    That big films can’t be the work of one person is axiomatic. But if a director writes the treatment, script, creates the decoupage and guides the montage, he can be said to be is in control of a film in a way the producer, actors, ciematographers and other technicans are not.

    It is not beyond the wit of man to create a flow chart for every film conceived and executed ,which shows the various levels of control and influence, which would be a much clearer way of saying whether a film is essentially the creation of one man or woman.

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