Came across this from my studies at RMIT the other day. An interesting little read on the subject of establishing a director's auteur status and what qualifies the term.
Auteurship and Narrative – Week 7 Reading - 8 September 2009
Since the beginning of this course, we have been encouraged to accept the viewpoints of various auteur critics such as Bazin and Sarris as the gospel truth with rarely an alternative provided. That is until this week when we were introduced to Pauline Kael. Not only were Kael’s critical observations of the cinema considered "witty, biting, highly opinionated, and sharply focused", they were also written by a woman, a fact I was most pleased with. For too long I have felt that the cinematic world has been overshadowed by the dominating presence of the masculine empire and here finally, we have been introduced to a woman who is equally ferocious about her opinions about film as her male counterparts. In this weeks reading, Kael criticizes Sarris’ previous observations about what makes a director an auteur, referring specifically to what Sarris calls “the three premises of the film theory”. In the first section of her essay Circles and Squares, Joys and Sarris in her highly acclaimed book I lost it at the movies, Kael explicitly criticizes Sarris’ belief that “a great director has to be at least a good director”. Kael explains that this statement is a rule that cannot be applied to the declaration of a director’s auteur status claiming, “the director MUST be judged on the basis of what HE produces”. This means that in relation to other directors, a director cannot be considered an auteur but, when his works are compared to each other, then and only then can one distinguish whether or not he is “a great director”. This ties in with the idea of the second and third premise which is for a director to further be considered an auteur, his work must reflect a personal style, and that the director’s personality itself is embodied within the film. When comparing say Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, for example, to say Michael Scorsese’s Goodfellas, one can not concretely ascertain that Demy is a better director than Scorsese as both directors choose to work within different genres and approach different topics. However, when we compare Demy’s Parapluies to his other film Lola, we can see the similarities in style and expression which Sarris states are necessary for a director to be deemed an auteur. Therefore, Kael’s observation that an auteur’s status cannot merely be ascertained based on this principle alone is correct. Demy’s status as an auteur can only be proved when we compare his previous films to one another to determine whether or not he has imbedded a particular style and attitude into his work.