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Film Auterism

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Jared Goodwin

Auter is defined as a French term for the film director who places a personal style on his or her films. It was first coined by Francois Truffaut to describe the mark of a film director on his films. A director can be considered an auteur if about five of his films depict a certain style that is definitely his own. In other words, much like one can look at a painting and tell if it is a Monet, a Renoir, or a Degas, if a film director is an auteur, one can look at his film and tell by style and recurring themes that it was made by a certain director. In auteur films, the director is many times what brings an audience to the theater, instead of the actors or storyline. Often famous directors are more highly billed in advertisements than the actors that the film stars. To further prove the importance of director’s styles on films three directors and their films will be analyzed. Three such auteurs are Frederico Fellini, Satyajit Ray, and Alfred Hitchcock, and it will be effective to discuss these particular directors work.

The “Master of Suspense,” Hitchcock, blends the traditional thriller with comedy and a dreamlike aspect. Nearly all of Hitchcock’s movies contain several themes and aspects which enrich the viewer’s enjoyment of the film. It appears that emotion is the most important feeling he is trying to get across. His mise-en-scene is perhaps the most recognizable of his contemporaries. They all include a very tense feeling throughout most of the film which is strengthened through his camera angles, zooms, and the soundtrack. Take for example the dream sequence in Vertigo. The colors and music during his dream keep the audience on the edge of their seat and it finally culminates in a long close up of a very frightened Scotty played by Jimmy Stewart. The score is deathly haunting, the type of music perfect for a Hitchcock thriller. Most of his films also include terror inflicted upon the unknowing, and sometimes innocent victim, guilt, both real and the appearance of it; and fear and redemption. A major theme in many movies is a feeling of sympathy for the main character. Finally, one can not discuss Alfred Hitchcock’s recurring themes without mentioning his numerous cameos in his movies. Hitchcock’s narrative style also normally has a theme. It usually adheres to a constant ascending/descending, uphill/downhill motif, which is, of course, suitably lifelike. Hitchcock was not afraid at all to experiment. In fact, his first films were silent, and while he was making another silent film he discovered that sound was being introduced. He quickly re-shot many shots to add sound. Stylistically, Rear Window was one of Hitchcock’s famous experiments. Almost the entire movie is shot in the main character’s apartment and out of his apartment window. In North by Northwest as with many of his others including Vertigo and Rear Window, Hitchcock sets up his hero as being the only one who knows the truth. This again creates audience sympathy for this character. Also very Hitchcockian is that the main character becomes the detective. Stylistically, the audience stays with the main character, only knowing as much as he does.

After watching Fellini’s films La Dolce Vita, 8-1/2, Juliet of the Spirits, La Strada, and City of Women certain characteristics are noticeable. In all of these films, imagery was very important, which he is probably most noted for. However, a recurring set of character archetypes was also apparent. These archetypes are the sex object, the wife, and the typical man.

The Sex object is first found in 8-1/2. The young boy and his friends encounter the prostitute. With this encounter, we see that a mixed batch of emotions including: delight, cruelty, wonder, fright, and guilt. The whore’s sexuality and the boy’s responses to it are shown with crosscuts between her suggestive motions and their shock and ultimate joy. When she invites the boy to come closer, he has mixed feelings, but is ultimately pressured by his friends. This is a perfect example of sexual awakening. In City of Women, a similar experience is portrayed. This time it is with a loving maternal figure. The young boy is confused when returning her affections. He has a mix of sexual excitement and shameless affection. The camera angle is that of a child’s view, and he looks at her exposed cleavage and her open skirt crossed with cuts of her strong arms and her continuing maternal household duties and her embrace. In La Dolce Vita, the sexual object is in a more complex relationship with the man. She is not only an object of desire, and sexual partner, but she is also a friend and confidant of the main character.

The second character type that important to Fellini

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