We have been blessed with all kinds of movies over many decades from the film industries of Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood, and many other ‘woods’ from where have emanated some of the most iconic and memorable movies over time.
Sometimes, what made those movies memorable was not just the storylines or the star power of the leading actors or actresses, it was more as a result of the men (or women) whose visions of what the stories were supposed to be, often transformed what was on the manuscripts into iconic movies or cinematic blockbusters. These special breed of men and women are the Movie Directors.
There are some among this breed of directors whose names evoke as much excitement as the A-list actors or actresses they cast in the leading roles of such movies; if not more. Directors who bestride the cinematic world like Colossus and exert so much influence on the production of such movies that they have literally become synonymous with the movies they produced.
Name them, and the likelihood is that you know their movies as well as you know them. Stephen Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, James Cameron, etc are a few of the names that belong to this eclectic group. These classes of directors are considered ‘Auteurs’.
The Auteur is a type of director that has such a distinct style that you recognize his or her work even if you don't recognize his or her name. They were the ones that came up with the concept for the movie. Everything has the director's stamp on it.
So, are directors still auteurs in 2021?
Early filmmakers demonstrated to the rest of the world that a movie director can also be an artist. However, not every filmmaker is a director. Because knowing how to define auteur a director is an important aspect of auteur theory. Directors were important before auteur theory, but other things were still more essential: Stars, Production companies, Producers.
Because stars ruled the day in the 1930s, people referred to a film as a "Clark Gable movie." In the early 1950s, the auteur theory arrived, and it completely transformed everything. Actors, producers, and studio moguls lost some authority as a result. It shifted power from the executive branch to the board of directors, in the direction of various types of directors. And that eventually resulted in a director's crisis: distinguishing between those who were great directors and those who were auteurs.
According to the auteur hypothesis, the director is more than just a conduit for the script. The project requires more than just a conduit.
Every aspect of the film is shaped by the auteur director. Their imprints may be seen in every detail. Many, if not all, directors are not auteurs; at least, not according to Auteur Theory. A director's status as an auteur is determined by a series of rules.
The genuine artist of a film is the auteur, regarded as its true creator or visionary; the driving force behind the film production process. However, simply being the film's director does not confer a director the appellation of an auteur.
Film critic Andrew Sarris who helped define the auteur theory outlines three basic rules a director must be able to fulfill in order to be regarded as an auteur.
First is ‘Basic Competency’. According to this rule, a great director must be able to consistently make movies that are technically competent.
The second is ‘Signature and Style. To be an auteur, a director must be able to make movies in which they are able to exhibit recurrent characteristics of style that serve as identifying signatures.
And third is ‘Interior Meaning’. One of the few ways to find out is to see what the filmmaker went through in order to have the film completed; are there any specific moments that go beyond a typical artistic flourish? Moments when you feel like you're seeing some reflection of the filmmaker up on the screen.
It is difficult to say whether directors are still auteurs in the modern directorial class; however, what is certain is that there are some whose directorial tentacles reach out strongly to all aspects of their filmmaking process that they cannot be ignored as auteurs in the film industry. For the sake of such unique actors; we will certainly continue to be blessed with films that are industry-defining.
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Aug 08, 2021
by Eguaogie Eghosa