Friday, June 15, 2012
A Post Delayed - Part One
This blog was composed for publication in the Summer of 2011.
Since we last convened:
I completed...actually I conceived, designed and executed 7 short films. 3 of which are brilliant, 2 are a bit odd and 2 desperately need a film festival with no other entries. Those are not my views, but those of the few but faithful who have watched them...attentively. It is no surprise to me that some of my friends are literate enough in the language of film, (extreme close up, opening up a scene, POV, etc.), to have made some quite insightful remarks, the most pleasurable being their surprise that it was truly I who made them.
And it was I who made them. I can say that and be taken seriously by my audience primarily because of the remarkable perspective on cinema that was developed and reached full fruition in the writings of the late French filmmaker and critc, Francois Truffaut. While creating a handful of memorable classic cinema moments in such films as "The 400 Blows", "Jules and Jim" and "Day for Night" he will most likely be remembered for the impact of his remarkably successful arguments championing the "autuer" theory of film....at the time a revolutionary concept: that the director is the "author" of the film and his or her vision is what makes the film succeed or fail, the vision of the completed film informs every scene dictating camera angles, lighting, POV, texture and sound...and most importantly the acting.
The "auteur" theory doesn't completely disavow the importance of Movie Stars. Truffaut acknowledged that audiences then, much like today, believed Stars to be the main attraction of any film--(most stars continue to believe this). Truffuat had no trouble with our fascination with those faces on the screen: so glamorous, so handsome, so earthy, so divine...so star-like. He just believed that it was the director who created the "environment" in which those stars could shine most memorably.
Truffaut chose Alfred Hitchcock to use as his prima facie case in chief. While diligently acknowledging the many amazing performances given in his over 50 films, Truffaut doggedly continues to point out, often scene by scene, Hitchcock's somewhat astonishing ability to "storyboard" his films...to plan each scene and to plan how each scene would intertwine with other scenes, is the evidence that he actually "authored" these films.
Many of the cinema's brightest stars wanted nothing more than a chance to work with The Master. They knew, even if we didn't, that the stellar quality of their celebrity would only increase in luster when directed by Hitchcock. Clearly, he had his favorites and some would have preferred not to have worked with a director who once said "All actors should be treated like cattle." By and large, however, almost all the actors and actresses (as the female actors were then known) gave some of their best performances in Hitchcock films, very often playing against the image of themselves developed in other films.
Truffaut couldn't have made a better choice. Not only were Hitch's films almost always financial and popular successess, but by the late 50's when Truffaut was beginning what would become the series of articles in Les Cahiers de Cinema" (Notebooks about Film) Hitchcock had the rare distinction of also being a darling of the critics and of that new breed of somewhat unsure but unswerving audience: the cinema lover. people who loved movies because they were movies. Not so much because of the plot or the stars or even the director, but because these were modern pieces of entertainment that also succeeded as Art. No one votes for Citizen Kane as The Greatest Movie Ever Made because of the shocking secret of Rosebud, or the indelible performances of Welles and his Mercury chums...not even Greg Tolland's photography which made the rooms and anterooms of Xanadu so ominous in their size and emptiness....it IS all of those things, (plus the script and the music and..well, it was the whole damn thing together.) The sheer bravura of making such a risky roman a clef and still having it walk talk and act exactly like what it was: Exhubernt Art.
Why all of this about autuer and Welles, Hitchcok and the allure of celebrities?
In Part Two of this blog, I'll gossip ruthlessly about the 2 stars of one of my films and how it was due to me, as the director, that they gave the best performances of their careers.