6 January 2012

Auteur Theory; Anticipointments

This post consists of two items, both by way of being footnotes to other posts, past and future.

Auteur Theory

My first post about a film, almost a year ago, was titled The King’s Speech. A couple of months later came the next film post, Joanna Hogg’s ‘Archipelago’. And from then on, right up to George Clooney’s ‘The Ides of March’ in November, I’ve always given the name of the director in the possessive before the film title. Belated acknowledgement to Tom Hooper in the original omission.

François Truffaut
Originator of cinéma d'auteur
The Auteur Theory of film “emerged in France about 50 years ago and holds that a director's film reflects the director's personal creative vision, as if they were the primary auteur (Fr author)”, quoting from Wikipedia’s helpful entry. To me the flaws in this are fairly obvious, not least because a film requires craftsmanship and creativity from so many people other than the metteur en scène, for example the screenwriters and the camera men and women. On the other hand, a film is shot by location and the director has to control the assembly along the intended timeline (with flashbacks and other artifices) of those scenes he or she chooses and discards the rest - except the ones selected for resuscitation as Deleted Scenes on the DVD.  Also, there seems to be an increasing awareness among the general film-going public, as opposed to cineastes, of a film’s director, his or her previous and forthcoming films and so on – Allen, Spielberg, Scorsese, Clooney just to give a few current examples.

So for the moment, I will continue putting the director’s name before the film and subscribing to the Auteur Theory - Prétentieux? Moi? Jamais! Next up will probably be The Iron Lady directed by Phyllida Lloyd.


Cash Peters came up with this word during his Radio 5 swansong last month, attributing it to the Hollywood Reporter. But it seems to go back to 1995, and has a musical existence (The Ashton Shuffle, Australian house music? – I’m way out of my depth). Anyway, as a blend of anticipation and disappointment, anticipointment is a useful concept these days when so much is preceded by a massive PR hype which so little could ever live up to. I will try to develop an Anticipointment Index in future posts and promising candidates might be The Iron Lady (see above) and the David Hockney show, A Bigger Picture at the RA.

Hockney has put a note on the poster for his RA show: "All the works here were made by the artist himself, personally" which has been interpreted as a dig at Damien Hirst. Hirst’s works often involve using a large number of assistants. Somehow I don’t think Hockney would be very supportive of Auteur Theory.


David Hockney and the RA have now explained that no criticism of Hirst was implied.

I have done some more thinking about the Anticipointment Index and have come up with the chart below where marks out of 5 are given – the higher the mark, the worse the anticipointment. Moreover, the greater the preceding hype the more difficult it is to obtain the desirable low score.

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