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Kael_circles and Squares

Kael_circles and Squares

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Published by Robbie Bruens

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Published by: Robbie Bruens on May 05, 2013
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12/29/2013

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12
PAULINEAEL
Circles
and
Squares
In1957,in the Parismonthly"CahiersduCinema,"FrangoisTruffautproposed forthemagazinea"politiquedesauteurs"--apolicyoffocussingcriticismprimarilyupondirectors,andspecifically uponcertain chosendirectorswhoseindividuality of stylequalifiedthem,intheeyesoftheCahiers"team,"as"auteurs"'--creatorsin thepersonalsense weacceptforotherarts. Thisdoctrinegalvanizedthe "Cahiers"polemicists,and lent someoftheimpetuswhichhelpedTruffaut,Godard,andmanyotheryoungmenbreakthroughasfilm-makers(andaspiring"auteurs").In theyearssincethen,thedoctrinehasgainedadherents inEngland,chieflyaroundthemagazine"Movie,"andtosomeextentinthe UnitedStates,throughthe"New YorkFilmBulletin"and"FilmCulture."Initshomelandthepolitiquehas ledtomanypeculiar judgments,especiallyofAmericanfilm-makers:it is SamuelFuller,NicholasRay,andOttoPremingerwhofigureas thegodsofthis newpantheon.Theresultsuponexportareturningout tobe evenmorepeculiaronoccasion.Thetimeseemsripe,therefore,fora directexaminationoftheAnglo-Saxonversionofthe"politiquedesauteurs."Isit,infact,anew andstimulatingapproachtofilms,whichoughttodisplacethe traditionofcriticismdevelopedbythe"Sequence"and"Sight&Sound"writers?Pauline Kaeloffersaresounding negativeview;andweanticipatein ournextissuearejoinderbyAndrewSarris,inwhosewritingsthepolitiquehashad its mostextendedandthoughtfulAmericanpresentation.JOYSANDSARRIS
"....
the firstpremiseofthe auteurtheoryisthetechnicalcompetenceof a director as acriterionofvalue....Thesecondpremiseof theauteurtheoryisthedistinguishablepersonalityofthedirector as acriterion of value....The thirdandultimatepremiseof theauteurtheoryisconcernedwithinteriormeaning,theultimategloryof thecinema as an art.Interiormeaningisextrapolatedfrom thetensionbetweenadirector'spersonalityand his material."-AndrewSarris,"Notes on theAuteurTheoryin1962,"FilmCulture,Winter62/3
"Sometimesagreatdealofcornmustbehuskedtoyielda fewkernelsofinternalmeaning.IrecentlysawEveryNightatEight,oneofthemanymaddeninglyrou-tine filmsRaoulWalshhasdirected inhislongcareer.This1935effortfeaturedGeorgeRaft,AliceFaye,FrancesLangfordandPatsyKellyin oneofthosefamiliarplotsaboutradioshowsoftheperiod.ThefilmkeepsmovingalonginthepleasantlyunpretentiousmanneronewouldexpectofWalshuntiloneincongruouslyintensescenewithGeorgeRaftthrashingabout inhis
 
CIRCLESNDSQUARES 13:
sleep, revealinghis innerfears inmumblingdreamtalk. Thegirlheloves comesintothe room in themidst ofhisunconsciousavowals offeeling,and listenssympatheti-cally.Thisunusualscenewaslaterampli-fied inHighSierra withHumphreyBogartand IdaLupino.Thepointis thatone ofthescreen'smost viriledirectorsemployedanessentiallyfemininenarrative devicetodramatize theemotionalvulnerabilityofhisheroes.IfIhad not beenaware ofWalshinEveryNightatEight,thecruciallinktoHighSierrawould havepassedun-noticed.Suchare thejoys oftheauteurtheory."Sarris,bid.Perhapsalittlemore cornshould behusked;perhaps,forexample,we canhuskawaytheword"internal"(is"internalmeaning"anydifferentfrom"meaning"?).Wemightaskwhythelink is"crucial"?Isitbecause thedevice was"incongruouslyintense" inEveryNightatEightandsodemonstratedatryforsomething deeperonWalsh'spart?But ifhismerit ishis"pleasantlyunpretentiousmanner"(whichistosay,Isuppose,that,recognizingthelimitations ofthescript,hewasn'ttryingtodomuch)thentheincongruousdevice wasprobablyamisconceivedattemptthat dis-turbed themanner-like a badplaywrightin-terruptingacomedyscenebecausehe cannotresist theopportunitytotugatyourheart-strings.Wemightalso askwhythisnarrativedevice is"essentiallyfeminine":is itmore fem-ininethanmasculine to beasleep,orto talkinone'ssleep,ortorevealfeelings?Or,pos-sibly,doesSarrisregardthedevice asfemininebecause thelisteningwomanbecomesasym-patheticfigureandemotionalunderstandingis,inthis"virile"context,assumed tobe essen-tiallyfeminine?Perhaps onlyifoneacceptsthenarrownotions ofvirilitysocommon inouractionfilmscanthissequencebeseenas"essentially feminine,"anditisamusingthatacriticcanbothsupporttheseclich6s ofthemaleworldandbesohappywhentheyareviolated.Thisis howwemightquibblewithadiffer-entkind ofcriticbutwewouldnevergetany-wherewithSarris ifwe triedto examinewhathe issayingsentencebysentence.Soletusask,whatis themeaningofthepassage?Sarris has noticedthatinHighSierra(notavery goodmovie)RaoulWalshrepeatedanuninterestingand obviousdevicethathehadearlier usedin a worsemovie.Andforsomeinexplicable reason,Sarrisconcludesthathewouldnot have hadthisjoyofdiscoverywithouttheauteurtheory.Butineveryartform,criticstraditionallynoticeandpointout thewaytheartistsbor-row fromthemselves(aswellasfromothers)andhowthe samedevices,techniques,andthemesreappearin theirwork.This isobviousinlisteningtomusic,seeingplays,readingnovels,watchingactors,etc.;we takeitforgrantedthatthis is howweperceivethedevel-opmentor thedeclineof anartist(anditmaybenecessarytopointout toauteur criticsthatrepetitionwithoutdevelopmentisdecline).Whenyousee Hitchock'sSaboteur thereisnodoubtthat hedrewheavilyandclumsilyfromThe39Steps,and whenyousee NorthbyNorthwestyoucan seethat he isonceagaintoyingwith theingredientsof The39Steps-andapparentlyhavingagoodtimewiththem.WouldSarrisnot noticetherepetitionintheWalshfilmswithout theauteurtheory?Orshallwe take themorecynicalviewthatwith-out somecommitmentto Walshas anauteur,heprobablywouldn'tbespendinghistimelookingat thesemovies?If wemaybepermittedaliteraryanalogy,wecan visualizeSarrisresearchinginthearchives ofTheSaturdayEveningPost,tracingthedevelopmentofClarenceBudingtonKel-land,who,bytheapplicationofsomethingliketheauteurtheory,wouldemergeasamuchmoreimportantwriter thanDostoyevsky;forinKelland'scaseSarris' threecircles,thethreepremisesoftheauteurtheory,havebeencon-sistentlycongruent.Kellandistechnicallycom-petent(everl"pleasantlyunpretentious"),nowriterhas amore"distinguishablepersonality,"and if"interiormeaning"iswhat canbeextrap-olatedfrom,sayHatari!orAdviseand Con-sentor WhatEverHappenedtoBabyJane?

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