Auteur-Anatasies of Truffaut Essays

Submitted By tessamae
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The Auteur-antasies of Truffaut and Sarris French Cinema went through a dark and grim period during World War II. The country managed to lose some of its brightest filmmakers and critics, like Jean Renoir and Rene Clair, to America, and for those who did stay in Europe, they continued to write in a rather politically-perturbed and muffled state. This foggy period rests on the collaborative efforts between the French film industry and the Nazi regime. Despite this, the occupational period produced and showed a handful of films in picture houses across France and they served as a whimsical escape to the shaky and anxious populace. Moreover, it should be noted that the Nazi leaders, whose censorship role within in the industry could be compared to that of Hollywood producers, made sure the films neither illuminated the crumbling state of Europe nor produced any positive American sentiments. They also implemented a ban on all American and British films in the occupied regions. It can definitely be said that these French directors had their voices stifled, leading to their New Wave’s unyielding loyalty to freedom of expression and truth despite the post-war climbing rate of films drenched in the reveries of résistancialisme [Rousso, 68].
The war eventually ends and French film critics started to delve into this idolized notion of the auteur right after the Blum-Byrnes agreement of 1946, which guaranteed the influx of all the American films that the French populace had missed during the Occupation. It was by viewing all these films in quick succession, eager like a starving man at a grand feast, that the French critics spotted dominant stylistic and thematic patterns in relation to a particular director. It is important to note that film criticism prior to this ‘revelation’ incorporated the work of most of the cast and crew on set, it can be said that these Cahiers critics were trying to associate a piece of art with a sole artist. Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks were amongst the favorites of these critics, specifically, André Bazin and François Truffaut, who, despite an acute awareness of Hollywood’s industrial processes and its perception of cinema as a commercial trade, felt that these specific directors had managed to order a certain perception with the premise of aesthetic value. Truffaut elaborated on this conception by exiling directors from his auteur club because they merely followed traditional story-telling techniques, and explained that these directors were not artists since they lacked stylistic vision and hastily made films to keep the Hollywood machine running. However, Truffaut was unambiguously attacking French cinema, and he managed to inspire an array of cineastes to follow the auteur-ship tendency which made way for the New Wave period. "I do not believe in the peaceful co-existence of the "Tradition of Quality" and an "auteur's cinema" [Truffaut, 231] Truffaut specifically denounces an ironed out and pressed type of diegetic reality drenched in a kind of poetic or literary realism, he refers to this brand of director as a metteur-en-scène. Truffaut follows this by defining the auteur as one who has total control of the mise-en-scène. An avid fan of Hitchcock, Truffaut praises the auteur’s creative molding of psychological aesthesis by commanding cast and crew through production and editing. If one places the film “Vertigo” (dir: Hitchcock, 1958) alongside Truffaut’s defining blueprints of a metteur-en-scène and an auteur, it should be noted that the screenplay is an adaption of the French novel “D’entre les morts” by screenwriter Samuel A. Taylor. This is an initial strike on the auteur scoreboard, due to the lack of creative input on Hitchcock’s part, even though it can be argued that he selected these elements, like a painter opts for the color green instead of red. It is easy to envision Alfred Hitchcock as an auteur because he created this persona of the ‘master of suspense’, his…