Lars' Dogmas

Dogma 95 is nothing if not enigmatic. Among its contradictory elements are Dogma 95’s simultaneous rejection and embodiment of auteurism and its inconsistent and confusing attitude towards democracy and the public.

On the one hand, Dogma 95’s manifesto is an explicit challenge to New Wave and auteurism: “The anti-bourgeois cinema itself became bourgeois, because of the foundations upon which its theories were based was the bourgeois perception of art. The auteur concept was bourgeois romanticism from the very start and thereby . . . false! To DOGME 95 cinema is not individual!” This philosophy found its way into the Dogma Vow of Chastity’s tenth and final rule, which announced that “The director must not be credited.” In other words, Dogma films would renounce the possessory credit by banishing the director’s name from the credits.

The Simpsons Movie? How About The Simpsons Cinema!

"For the average consumers such as ourselves, television is virtually an anonymous medium."

Rosalind Coward

If there is a medium that fully realizes the ideas of postmodernism – the deconstruction of authorship, the dismantling of fixed meaning, the collapsing of high and low forms of culture into a completely undifferentiated vacuum of Mass Art, and the championing of irony – it must be television. For some of these very reasons, television is only of partial interest to me. It is not the medium that I love, but it is a medium from which, I believe, cinema can learn.

The Simpsons has become the longest-running situation comedy in television history, and for good reason. Like many television series, The Simpsons has created its own universe that seems to exist, whether we are watching or not. Jeffrey Sconce confirms this with the concept of the “haunted TV,” the unique electronic presence of which suggests “that even after a program is over and the receiver [is] turned off, the television set itself still loom[s] as a gateway to oblivion simply by sitting inert and watchful in the living room.” Though this characteristic is most acutely realized with serialized television, it was also true of classic Hollywood movies. Read on...

Harvey Scissorhands

If there has been one ego to overshadow those of recent American film directors it is that of Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein’s legacy will be his almost obsessive penchant to interfere in his director’s projects, most notoriously and emblematically re-cutting the pet-opus of America’s most prominent auteur, Martin Scorsese. Scorsese was the one New Hollywood filmmaker who had escaped the bloated ambition and consequential downfall that befell his contemporaries. Cimino, Coppola, Altman, Polanski, Beatty, Bogdanovich, Spielberg and Friedkin had all made their epic flop by the mid-1980s. Scorsese had already conceived of his by 1977, but he did not get around to making it until 2002. It was Gangs of New York. Read on...

The New Middle

The “auteur” is a filmmaker who is generally expected to make personal cinema. Auteur-films tend to be celebrated for how well they relate unique experience – in terms of theme, Bergman’s preoccupation with death or Truffaut’s with youth; in terms of style, Hitchcock’s use of suspense or Rossellini’s minimalism; in terms of location, Scorsese’s Little Italy or Paul Thomas Anderson’s Valley or Malick’s countryside. The specificity of the auteur’s experience is met by a specific audience. In other words, a limited one.

One way to gnaw away at the dominance of auteurism in today’s movie culture is to dismantle the notion that a film’s quality is proportional to how much it can alienate mass audiences. 1930s French cinema and classic Hollywood cinema both managed to produce movies that could unite disparate audiences without sacrificing quality. Even Hollywood cinema in the 1970s, so often lauded for its auteurs, could be argued to have produced good movies more as a result of its knack for finding a wide audience. In fact, it was the pomposity of auteurism that ultimately ruined the cycle of great ‘70s cinema: Michael Cimino made sure of that by demanding an outrageous sum of money to realize his all-important “vision," Heaven’s Gate. The commercial and critical failure of Heaven’s Gate signaled the end of that great era. But the ‘70s paradigm emerged once more in a movement that is often referred to as “Indiewood,” or the “New Middle.” Read on...

De-Throning the Auteur!

Since the “auteur theory” was conceived in the 1950s by a group of cinephilic Frenchmen who rarely saw the sun, it has come to dominate the way people make and perceive movies. Over the course of the last half-century, the academy has torn the “auteur theory” a new asshole several times over: with structuralism, Marxist theory of ideology, post-structuralism, postmodernism, and, most importantly, by simply pointing out that movies are collaborative.

Nevertheless, the industry continues to use director name-branding in its marketing campaigns, critics continue to review movies in the context of the directors’ preceding oeuvres, and I continue to maintain my DVD collection so that it’s organized by director.

Furthermore, auteurism seems to have trickled down into mainstream consciousness through the proliferation of “Director’s Cut” DVDs. Though the mainstream public still cares more about J. Lo than J. Demme, an increasing portion of the population, which I would like to title the “IMDB generation,” has come under the spell of the auteur theory. As Eric Hobsbawm points out, “For every culture-lover who [can] fit two plays to the names of even five living playwrights, there [are] fifty who [can] reel off all the leading movies of a dozen or more film-directors." Read on...

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