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Auteur theory podcast Slide: Pictures of Astruc, issues of Cathiers du cinema and Saris. Speech: Auteur theory is the theory that film directors like artists have their own style whether that be visual or conceptual or otherwise. They take control of their films and use the camera like a paintbrush, which gives all of their films a recognizable definitive style. If the director intends to do this or not all their films take on this recognizable style. Auteur theory was invented by Alexandra Astruc in 1948. Because he thought filmmaking should be taken more seriously like art and literature. He looked at what Russian and German films were being made and said the filmmaker- writes with his camera as a writer writes with his pen. He believed that the camera is to a filmmaker what a paintbrush is to an artist. Cathiers du cinema an influential French film magazine founded in 1951 openly discussed how restrictive the film industry was at the time. At that time films were only adapted from novels or existing stories or plays and had to be true to the original story. In Cathiers they discussed how they believed the director should have more freedom to follow his own vision and make more intelligent films with more intelligent original storylines. This theory was misinterpreted by an American called Andrew Saris. Saris wanted more for films; he wanted them to be taken seriously. He hated the snobbery of how books were taken more seriously than films. In literature there was a cannon, which is a group of universally excepted classics like dickens. He wanted the same for films. He believed that a director should always have something to say in his films, his films should move along the development of film, directors should include in jokes that people in the industry would get and he believed there was only one way to view a film which was the way the director intended it. It didn’t matter what it meant to the audience. He was inadvertently going against what Cathiers and Astruc stood for and making films more restricted again. His theory is bears less weight with modern film academics as they have gone back to the less judgmental philosophy of what is an auteur. Today I am talking about film director Stanley Kubrick, who has to be the ultimate auteur. He has complete control over his films and is involved in every single aspect of his films so he can express his vision. Slide: Pictures of Stanley Kubrick Speech: Stanley Kubrick is an American director was born in 1928 and died in 1999. Over the 13 feature films he has left the world with some unbelievable masterpieces. He was born to a Jewish family but he wasn’t overly religious. Kubrick never did that well academically at school to this displeasure of his father who was a doctor, which permitted his early interest in photography, which drew Kubrick away from his studies. Kubrick became a freelance photographer and sold a serious to look magazine. He moved to the Greenwich Village in 1948, a place that is famous for it’s creativity. You can definitely see an art-house influence in some of his films like 2001 space oddicy and clockwork orange. Kubrick was always very interested in books, which is probably the reason that a lot of his films were adaptations from books. People have said that he always looked at books from a human point of view. Its affect on his films is something I’ll go into more detail later. His father taught Kubrick chess and he developed a great love of the game. He has said ‘I used to play chess twelve hours a day. You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess


teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it's really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.' The lessons he learned from chess have clearly been applied to his film production methods as he goes into meticulous detail and often takes very long to make a film. He stores thousands of boxes of scripts, location recces and all shorts of things. He is a perfectionist who will take his time developing a project. He was going to and make a film on the holocaust but Steven Spielberg had made edited and released Schindler’s list in the time it took Kubrick to do the research for his film. He was a perfectionist to the extreme. He has rejected many projects like this after he has begun developing them. Slide: Bullet points of signifying features Speech: Stanley Kubrick’s signifying features in most of his are: • His camera work and use of editing • Themes – the way his films are often social criticism of the world we live in • Typical characters and character development – always has an evil dark character who gets more evil as the film goes on. Sometimes has a hero who represents the moral high ground. His characters often change through out the film. • Elaborate cinematography – use of color and amazing mise en scene and particular attention to detail which reflects his own personal attention to detail. As he stores all documents he’s made or received and measures his film adds in almost every country the film is advertised. • Not using recurring cast members – he hasn’t really used the same actor for more than one film except Kirk Douglas who he directed in paths of glory and Spartacus. However Kirk Douglas was part of the film Spartacus before Stanley Kubrick was. • He often sets his stories in very dangerous, mysterious settings. For example wars, the seedy underworld, space. He wouldn’t set his films in a typical suburbia. • He often uses a lot of violence in his narrative. The violence takes on a central role in many of his films and is often a topic for satire. His films have often been bad banned. Kubrick self imposed a ban on clockwork orange for a while fearing it would inspire real life crime. Slide: Pictures of some of his camera work Speech: One of the signifying features I’ve focused on is his camera work. More specifically his very open shot composition through his use of lots of wide shots. He also uses long durationional shots, rather than employing a large shot variation and using rapid movement like some directors like Michael Bay use. He does this to create a tension and keep the audience in anticipation. There also often isn’t often a lot of non diegetic sound so the character’s dialogue has more weight, which is important as the narrative in his film is often subtly conveyed through the characters dialogue. For example in the scenes in doctor Strangelove where the politicians and the army generals sit in the war room and discuss the destruction of the world the dialogue is very important and constantly transitioning between shots would distract an audience and disrupt that mood of tension. As you can see in this clip when general Buck Turgidson is fighting the soviet ambassador Alexei de Sadeski and the president says the subtle joke ‘you can’t fight in here. This is a war room. The creation of this tense mood is necessary to draw


attention to the joke said by the president as it’s quiet a subtle form of word play which might not been noticed as having that double meaning if he’d Kubrick had used quick shot changes. Only two shots used in this scene the long durational tracking mid shot of the soviet ambassador which then also becomes a static two shot of the ambasdor talking with the president which end as up being a wider angle tracking shot of the president and a long shot tracking shot from a reversed angle tracking Buck Turgidson and soviet ambasodor fighting. (Play clip "Gentlemen. You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!"). (play clips that correspond to the narration). Kubrick uses space in his shot composition to make the characters look small and vulnerable as you can see in this clip from an establishing high angle wide shot of the war room in Dr Strangelove. He may also use this open shot composition to suggest that too much power is put on such a small amount of people. This open shot compostion is also used to depict army generals in Kubricks 1954 film Paths of Glory. Kubrick is famously not a people person so he may use this wide shot compostion that mainly show the environment the character’s are in through way of long and wide shots rather than use close ups and mid shots to show the reactions and emotions of the characters. (end clip) He also creates tension through his use of long shot durations. Often he’ll make a scene go on longer than a lot of filmmakers would normally let their scenes go on for. This is best shown in 2001 space oddity. The scenes in which the apes discover the tab the establishing shots of the prehistoric desert like earth goes on for too long considering there is little screen action that takes place. By employing the use of long shot durations it also further creates suspense and tension, as the audience doesn’t know what’s going on in the scene. Again the lack of shot variation and lack of non-diegetic or even diegetic sound further creates this tension and further draws attention to the subtle on screen action that indicates what the narrative of the film is. For example the ape’s reaction to the tab. [Play clip] Again a wide shot composition is used to show the surroundings more than the characters perhaps to also suggest how insignificant man is. He is a famous recluse he is believed to not have liked people all to much so he was anything but a humanist. Slide: Pictures of some film stills and film posters. Speech: Another signifying feature of Stanley Kubrick’s work are the themes of his films. His films are often very dark and deal with very complex serious intellectual issues that are usually in the public consciousness when the film is released. And more often than not he takes a cynical view on the topic he’s is highlighting. This is probably because he’s probably lived around a lot of intellectuals with vary wide ranging interesting opinions especially in Greenwich village and he is famed for listening to everyone’s ideas even giving his scripts to door man for feedback. And I feel the more you are educated on the big issues in the world the more cynical you become. Furthermore he likes to deal with the big political issues and express his own ideology through the films. For example in Clockwork Orange the film deals with the question of weather society prefers an individual to be good because they want him to be good or do they just want them to be good for the benefit of society and will they take away the free will of the individual to this and will this not make this world better infact will make it worse because no one will have their own minds and they’ll just be turned into puppets of a totalitarian government. Kubrick described is as ‘a social satire dealing with the question of whether behavioral psychology and psychological conditioning are dangerous new


weapons for a totalitarian government to use to impose vast controls on its citizens and turn them into little more than robots’. This is shown in the scene when the aversion therapy is being demonstrated, that works by deterring Alex from committing violence by playing a film of a girl getting raped to the music of Beethoven, which he loves. The prison Chaplin then critics this aversion therapy because as he states ‘there's no morality without choice’ to which the prison governor states they are not interests in questions of morality they are only interested in ‘the means to prevent violence’. Furthermore Kubrick also expresses the themes of people in society just being pawns in a game that politicians move for their own political ends. As in seen in this clip at the end of the film in which the minister of the interior who had subjected Alex to this torture tries to win him on side by offering him an important government job which the minister of the interior turns into a photo opportunity when loads of reporters come in to the room and take photos of him shaking Alex’s hand in the two shot while Beethoven is playing. (Play clip A Clockwork Orange (1971) His films are often satires on topics in people’s consciousness at the current time like Dr Strangelove a film about the nuclear destruction of the world that was released in 1964 at the height of the nuclear missile crisis and 2001: A space odyssey a film which deals with the dangers of space exploration was released in 1968 a time when the words first mission to the moon was being heavily discusses in the media. His films are often very relevant to what’s going on at that current moment. Matthew Modine who played joker in full metal jacket said that Stanley Kubrick ‘holds a mirror up to society’. He may choose to do this as these maybe the films that interest him at the time he’s making the films also. Slide: the use of narrative in his films Speech: Stanley Kubrick’s films don’t often follow the classical Hollywood narrative as his films don’t often have a happy ending that establishes a new equilibrium, often his endings aren’t even close narratives. For example at the end of 2001 a space odyssey Dave the old man lays in his bed staring at the monolith, then an embryonic creature who is believed by some to be Dave’s reincarnated self appears floating next to the earth to Alex North’s famous film score. This ending is still highly disputed as to its actual meaning and no new equilibrium is established and I believe the story of man’s evolution in my opinion isn’t concluded by this ending either. It’s very much open for interpretation, which Kubrick likes to do. Dr Strangelove also doesn’t employ this classical Hollywood of an equal narrative of having a status quo, which is then challenged by some kind of dilemma, the start of the quest, the delay of the resolution then the resolution. As in Dr Strangelove the status quo is disrupted very early on as the nuclear attack on the USSR is introduced when Jack D. Ripper informs Lionel of the nuclear strike. When the president and his war cabinet meet to find a solution the quest starts. The resolution however is never delayed as the characters establish the fact the bomb will hit USSR, which will spark world destruction, and it proceeds to happen in the resolution as a high angle brids eye view shot shows nuclear missles going off all around the world. The resolution isn’t delayed it’s introduced. I think he does this because he hates the classical Hollywood narrative that always has to show an event in a positive light as he has stated in a discussion with Terry Gilliam that the holocaust was a terrible tragedy and Spielberg presented it as a success, as he concentrated on Oscar Schindler’s


good actions amongst a sea of destruction. In Dr Strangelove no new equilibrium is established at the end unless you count nothingness as equilibrium. [Maybe play clip]. This is one of the things I most admire about Kubrick. He’s dedication to exposing the reality of a situation even if a theoretical situation such as the destruction of the world inspire of pressure to conform to the typical Hollywood narrative. I feel this is missing amongst most mainstream directors, as they like Spielberg have to try and put a positive spin to their films. Slide: pictures of well-known characters from his films Speech: The usual characteristic of the main characters in Kubrick’s films often recur and the same dynamic is often recreated between these characters the across many films. Often in his films there is an evil villain, an authoritative character that holds all the power and control and a powerless outspoken hero, who acts as the protagonist who witnesses the consequences of the evil authority figure’s actions. In paths of glory Col. Dax played by Kirk Douglass takes on the role of the hero who oversees the military execution of three men accused of cowardice during a suicidal mission to sieze the well defended antihill. He acts as defense in the farce court martial that was just a PR stunt to raise moral ordered by General Mireau who the plays role of the evil authoritative villain character who has all the power and came up with the idea of committing these men to death and only decided to take on the suicidal mission of an attack on the ant hill because he would get a promotion. The audience’s anguish and their observation of the absurdity of the situation is embodied and expressed in Col. Dax. This is a testament to Kubricks directing skills and the actors acting skills of the actors. As you can see in this clip from the court marshal scene as Col. Dax paces up and down the court room slowly in a long tracking shot to which Kirk Douglas only takes up half of the frame stating the unfairness of this court marshal saying ‘to find these guilty would be a crime’ in a long angle shot among other memorable quotes while General Mireau sits in his lavish chair comfortably with his gloves of making sarcastic comments and not showing any compassion for committing this men to death shot from low angle medium close up shots . He instead shows boredom. The passion to which Col. Dax speaks indicated his despair and helpless of the situation he is in due to this hierarchy created in the French army. (Play Kirk Douglas: Paths of Glory ("Show Mercy") Monologue). (maybe not include) Presentation: character development Presenter: Another common feature of Stanley Kubrick’s work is the character development through his films. His characters often develop through time in the narrative. Often the heroes become more disgusted with the situation they are in like joker in full metal jacket or Col. Dax in Paths of Glory and the evil villain becomes more evil and dangerous as the film wears on like the computer in space oddity, or the general Mireau in paths of glory or Jack Torrance in the shinning. Although the shinning is commonly viewed as almost a parody of horror films, Jack Torrance’s decadency into madness is said to reflect Stanley Kubrick’s inner madness. He is famous for his lack of empathy and consideration for people made even worse by the duration of the production which can make the expirence of working with Kubrick very frustrating. Another example of Kubrick’s lack of empathy could be when Malcolm MacDowell who played


the role of Alex in Clockwork Orange went blind in the scene where his eye lids were held open for the aversion therapy scene in Clockwork Orange. Kubrick showed little empathy and considered in doing another take even after MacDowell was in serious pain. He is famous for creating an unpleasant environment for actors and that could also be a reason for the villain characters more cynical depression, despair and madness as the film goes on. This is said to be what unlocked jack Nicolson’s performance as jack torrent in the shinning. Stanley Kubrick holds the record for the longest consistent production of a film, which is 400 days for eyes wide shut. Often this progression is shown subtly through the character’s dialogue. Here is jack torrents transformation from a normal family man to a mad axe wilding maniac. [Play clip] Slide: pictures of Stanley Kubrick’s film Speech: Auteur theory does to some extent relate to Stanley Kubrick in the way his films take on a very definable style and have many signifying features which ties almost all of his films together. His films definitely have their own definitive style with their dark narratives, characters that represent the audience in the atmosphere of chaos that he creates through his use of camerawork editing and lack of non-diegetic or even diegetic sound. And Kubrick certainly more than almost if not any director maintains control over his films, often involved in every aspect of the film making process for example he often writes the screen play, directs the films, involved in sound, cinematography, research. So he definitely has control of his work like an artist would and expresses himself like an artist would. Some of saris auteur theory applies, because he has been very innovate and advanced film a lot. For example he’s pioneering use of the steady cam in the scenes where Jack Torrents son Danny is riding in his tricycle in the shinning. For which he recruited Garret Brown the person who introduced the steadicam into mainstream cinema in rocky 4 years prior. So there are strengths to the aueture theory but there is also weaknesses as not all of saris theory is substantial to Kubrick as he leaves his films very open for interruption and although he may have an opinion on what the films about he’s reluctant to share it with his audience. For example he would never pay with his credit card in case someone noticed asked him what 2001: A space Odyssey was about. Auteurs of course can never really have full control over a large scale Hollywood film as you’ll run into finical problems and organizational problems like actors not giving the performance you want on a day when every one else is working well or a negative audience response which impacts on the production of a film. For example Kubrick pulled A clockwork orange from theatres until over 25 years later due to the belief it inspired people to commit violent criminal acts such as rape. As a filmmaker you have to compromise. Woody Allen said ‘after an idea is in your head it’s up to you to see how much you can ruin it.’ You’ll never be able to perfectly recreate what you visualize in your head completely. So auteur theory is limited because you can’t fully control a films production like a painter controls a canvas. Furthermore all of Kubrick’s films don’t stick to his style such as 1960’s Spartacus which features rapid camera movement, lots of diegetic sound and no political subtext. This also does to external problems of joining the project three months in after all the main decisions were made. The film making process is to complicated for the auteur theory to work exclusively. So even Cathie’s and


Austruct’s interpretation of auteur theory aren’t completely correct. But Kubrick definitely got as close to a director controlling a film like a painter controlling painting. I think there is a lot of logic to auteur theory as even just subconsciously most of most director’s films will stick to a certain style as Kubrick’s films do.

The Last Autuer theory script  

The Last Auteur theory script.