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FILM THINK All auteurists are cinephiles


In a May 2014 post, Godard and Other Reading, Girish flags up Caboose’s publication of an English translation of Godard’s 1978 Montreal Lectures, Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television, quoting translator Timothy Barnard:

In the book, Godard sets out a philosophy of the image—in the process disproving his own thesis that words are prison, for there is nothing more liberating than this book—and outlines a theory and practice of ‘making’ film history through the act of viewing films. The Montreal talks were the forerunner to his video series Histoire(s) du cinéma. While some critics have described the latter as his Finnegan’s Wake, the True History of Cinema is his Arabian Nights: page-turning true stories of the movies whose idiosyncratic views, leavened with Godard’s famous caustic wit, will delight all readers. Never has Godard been as loquacious, lucid and disarmingly frank as he is here, holding forth, in an experience he describes as a form of ‘public self-psychoanalysis’, on his personal and professional relationships, working methods, aesthetic preferences, political beliefs and, on the cusp of 50, his philosophy of life.

A commenter Remy Renault wrote…

Well one thing that concerns me is what appears to be a schism between the “cinephiles” and the “auteurists”, the latter of whom are accused of vulgar auteurism by the “cinephiles”. The cinephiles tend to see ‘foreign art cinema’ of the fifties, sixties, and seventies as the apotheosis of filmmaking and are skeptical of what they perceive as mere entertainment products revered only for their technical merits, the films of Hawks and Ford. I used to be in this camp but now genuinely believe Ford to be among the three or four most important filmmakers of all time. The others are Godard, Renoir, and Vigo perhaps. The auteurists scoff at the cinephiles and then inevitably and perhaps unfairly begin judging Antonioni and Tarkovsky “by their respective audiences”. So should this gap be bridged? And for rhetorical purposes, what makes the “cinephile” attitude reactionary as well as the symptom of a less “advanced” stage of cinephilia? Why does one “grow out of” Tarkovsky but not Ford or Renoir for that matter?

Girish responds:

My take is very different from yours.

— I see no built-in opposition between cinephiles and auteurists (or between cinephilia and auteurism) at all. Cinephilia is the larger category — of all film-lovers who are also (see Antoine de Baecque on this) interested not just in watching films but also reading, writing, talking about them seriously. Auteurists are a subset of cinephiles, and are those who like to view films through the lens of an ‘author’—most often the director. All auteurists are cinephiles but the reverse is not true. There is no hard-and-fast equation of cinephiles with (exclusively) art cinema. See the history of French New Wave cinephilia—Godard, Truffaut, et al. were BOTH cinephiles and auteurists. Some of the most respected cinephiles today (like Jonathan Rosenbaum in the elder generation or Ignatiy Vishnevetsky in the younger) are also ‘selective auteurists’–meaning, they often like to focus on the marks of authorship of the director but this is not exclusively the only lens they bring to analyzing films.

— “Vulgar auteurism” is a very narrow, specific phenomenon (see this post and discussion from last summer)—much smaller than auteurism at large.

— There are several large conversations (and posts) at this blog about auteurism and cinephilia. You may want to do “searches” on these two terms on this blog; there’s a search box at the bottom of the sidebar. I think you’ll enjoy all the reading you’ll turn up.

To which our Remy responds:

Perhaps the terms I employed were problematic, but you do raise the issue I’m referring to, that there are cinephiles who judge filmmakers solely based on what they regard to be their ‘medium specific’ contributions whereas others tend to judge films based on how they stack up as ‘works of art’ in a more ‘cosmic’ sense and on how they contribute to what’s perceived as ‘high culture’. So is taking a traditional ‘high culture’ approach to film appreciation reactionary? Also, is it limiting to dwell with an evangelical fervor on ‘medium specific’ elements at the expense of all else, since it often leads to the devaluing of guys like Bergman and Fellini who contributed to art and culture in more of a cosmic sense?

And Girish finally:

…. I believe this is a false opposition.

‘Medium specificity’ has to do with making use of the unique powers of cinema–i.e. doing something in cinema that is not translatable to other forms (like literature or theatre) without great loss.

The good practitioners of what you refer to as ‘high culture’ or ‘art cinema’ are VERY much aware of the specific, unique powers of cinema–and they are venturesome in making use of them.

Ford’s films contribute as much to the larger world (‘in a cosmic sense’, as you say) as Bergman or Fellini. Think of someone like Jean-Marie Straub (among the most exalted of ‘art cinema’ filmmakers) for whom Ford is one of the supreme filmmakers.

All of the above mentioned filmmakers are deeply aware of–and make great, imaginative use of–medium specificity.


[1] wiki:Cinephilia

[2] wiki:Vulgar auteurism

A definition: “a critical movement committed to assessing the ‘unserious’ artistry of popcorn cinema with absolute seriousness.” Discuss.

Ref list including [4]

[4] What the Insular Debate on ‘Vulgar Auteurism’ Says About Contemporary Movie Criticism and Cinephilia

[5] Vulgar Auteurism

6 June 2013 post by Girish

He points out he’s posted variously on auteur theory and cinephila – searches for these posts bringing up e.g.
On Auteurism. In this one, Girish quotes from Dana Polen’s Auteur Desire – a 14 page downloadable file.

I also found the term ‘master of enunciation’ in Aesthetics of Film. Pages 234-5 are the key sections though enoncé/énonciation is introduced earlier in the book [p.82-83]. Having the hard-copy is nice but a GoogleBook is available with quite a few relevant pages including 82-83 under heading Narrative, Narration and Diegesis:

Two paras at p.233 give some help:

Since the 1960s and its valorization of auteur theory [..], we have seen more and more filmmakers asserting themselves by a personal enunciation and also signing, as it were, their films with some more or less flamboyant marks of their own characteristic enunciation.

E.g.s such as Bergman’s Persona, Antonioni’s Eclipse, Godard’s Contempt, Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

At the beginning of the 1970s, a large theoretical debate surrounded ideology as conveyed by the classical cinema and, in particular, its transparency and effacement of the marks of enunciation. Several filmmakers, in keeping with their political or ideological concerns, believed it best to inscribe the work of enunciation [which is to say the production process] clearly within their films.

e.g. Godard/Gorin’s Tout Va Bien

This section beginning p. 233 is sub-headed, Identification and Enunciation. It’s worth going back to the beginning of the section to get identification/enunciation clear.

It says finally:

ABSTRACT FILM Aesthetics of Film [p 235]

[6] Auteurist backsliding

Dan Sallitt, 22 April 2010 [Dan Sallitt’s Homepage]

[7] Auteurist v. Cinephile (Dan Sallitt)

Screenville, 23 April 2010

Harry Tuttle in part tackles the confusions over the terminology, auteurist, auteurism, cinephile, by reference to Sillett’s post [6].

[8] Authorship & Auteur Theory

in RioDrome – my header Wordle came from here.

Girish points out two from FSFF:

[9] On Auteurism and Film Authorship Theoriespacked with refs from Film Studies for Free

[10] C is for Cinephilia Studies (plus some telephilia, too)

– Well, no, I’ve not read refs in [9] & [10] but I know where to look for them. A quick perusal of titles makes me think this might be a step too far for me.

September 18, 2014 Posted by | auteur theory, auteurist, Cahiers du cinéma, cinephile, Godard | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FILM Film as an act of Love {by Sukhdev Sanhu}


Film as an act of Love

by Sukhdev Sandhu

Fifty years ago, François Truffaut’s Quatre cents coups
heralded a revolution in cinema. Sukhdev Sandhu salutes
a modern classic

NewStatesman 2 April 2009

April 15, 2009 Posted by | Antoine Doinel, Cahiers du cinéma, criticism, culture, film analysis, film directors, film editing, film narrative, film theory, film [its techniques], Truffaut | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment