Video Essay: What Does It Mean to Be an Auteur?

Video Essay: What Does It Mean to Be an Auteur?

There will come a time when being an auteur filmmaker will be the norm, rather than the exception. But let’s pause for a second on that word "auteur." Have you ever heard that word used and wondered what it meant? Or, more likely, have you ever thought about a director who had carved out his or her own particular style, which you noticed from film to film, and thought there must be a term for directors like that? This roughly-fifteen-minute video essay from Filmmaker IQ gives a resoundingly clear answer to the question "what is an auteur," which should clear up any confusion on the matter. It also offers up a concise history of the term, which is rooted in French film history. The piece looks at the more conservative films being made in France before World War II, the transformations effected by Francois Truffaut and such critic-director colleagues as Jean-Luc Godard, who embraced and examined director Jean Renoir’s term auteur to support an elevation of the filmmaker-as-artist, and the fierce debate between American critics Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael over the significance and relevance of the term itself. This piece is a great watch for anyone hoping to bolster their knowledge of film history or, as the case may be, resolve once and for all what the heck an "auteur" is.

Watch: A Video Essay on How To Be a Cinephile

Watch: A Video Essay on How To Be a Cinephile

Am I a "film nerd," or cinephile? Possibly, or probably. My earliest experiences of film were at a very young age, with Fisher-Price filmstrips you could watch in a small viewer, and which I tended to watch over and over. Fast forward a decade or so, and foreign films entered in: Ingmar Bergman. Federico Fellini. Werner Herzog. And, very importantly, Truffaut. This open-hearted video essay by Shannon Strucci instructs the viewer on how to be a cinephile; this part of what will be a multi-part series focuses largely on the work of Francois Truffaut, starting with his work as a critic for Cahiers du Cinema and moving forward to his immortal film work. I could not be happier about the deference Strucci shows to The 400 Blows, a film I have always found fascinating from beginning to end–and which, if I’m allowed to indulge a cliche, "speaks" to everybody, to universally felt moments of pain and triumph. There are times, after all, when all you can do is run, as Antoine Doinel does–either into the distance or into the ocean of film itself.

All Truffaut Fans Should Watch This French Animated Short About DAY FOR NIGHT

All Truffaut Fans Should Watch This French Animated Short About DAY FOR NIGHT

La nuit américaine d’Angélique, or Angelique’s Day for Night, is, on one level, a story about a young girl’s experience of watching Francois Truffaut’s Day For Night at a young age and fantasizing about being, like Nathalie Baye in the film, a script supervisor. As a child, she romanticized the job, imagining, for instance, how wonderful it would be to place "messages," or revised script pages, under hotel guests’ doors. As she grows up, of course, she realizes that the job is too secondary and would not be nearly as exciting as it might have seemed to her as a child. Adult reflection reveals other things to Angelique that she was not conscious of as a child–most significantly that the act of seeing, when watching a film, is often more important than what you’re seeing. You might watch, as in Day for Night, implied sex on a screen, but the way the sex is represented is more important. Angelique also has significant revelations about the changing nature of her relationship with her father, with whom she saw the movie for the first time, during a period when he was divorcing her mother. As if to highlight the elegance of this small, bittersweet tale, directors Pierre-Emmanuel Lyet and Joris Clerté present it in a simple, cut-out style–in some of the passages that instruct about the nature of film-watching, the short even resembles a puppet show, with heads and other symbols held at the ends of long sticks. Based on a graphic novel by Olivia Rosenthal, this feature, in just over six minutes, manages to impart some hard messages about growing up, albeit ameliorated by snowfall, present from the beginning of the story to the end.