Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
Vol. 5, No. 2, 1992
Film: Matters of Style
Edited by Adrian Martin


William D. Routt

For Jim and Gila

L'evidence est la marque du genie de Hawks: Monkey Business est un film genial et s'impose a l'esprit par l'evidence. Jacques Rivette1


Perhaps the most radical assertion of the shaping power of one individual in popular art is found in la politique des auteurs - that position in film thought from which, presumably, artist and work are viewed as one (Bazin, "Politique", 139). The idea that motion pictures are the products of individual artists just as works of literature and painting are can be construed as bestowing a certain aesthetic legitimacy upon film; and indeed it is possible that the importance of figures like Griffith, Chaplin, Stiller and Sjostrom lies less in any "advances" they may have achieved technically or formally, than in their ability to convince critics and the public that they alone were aesthetically responsible for the films they directed. 2 Auteurism, nearly half a century after, merely extended to other films a recognition which was (and still is) accepted without thinking as an integral part of the understanding of the films we call "art".

Perhaps "merely" is not the best modifier in this case. For the venomous controversy which auteurism for a decade provoked in the English-speaking world suggests that something more was at stake than "merely" enlarging the canon. Consider Dwight Macdonald's sensational withdrawal from contributing to Film Quarterly at the end of 1963 after that mainstream journal had printed an issue devoted to English auteurist Ian Cameron's study of Michelangelo Antonioni and Andrew Sarris' (rather inadequate) defense of the doctrine:

I am not willing to appear under the same rubric as a "critic" who thinks The Birds "finds Hitchcock at the summit of his artistic powers" . . . I don't consider Sarris a critic: a propagandist, a high-priest, even an archivist, but not a critic . . . Sarris, like certain Marxist sectarians I used to know, is a systematic fool. His judgements have nothing to do with criticism, since he merely applies the party line to each movie, as they did to each event . . . ("Films of the Quarter", 55) 3

What is Macdonald seeing here? A re-run of his past is what he directly evokes: the vision of some totalitarian ideologue of the 1930s (just what the Old Left was to see in the New Left a few years later). At first this may seem a strange figure to superimpose upon Andrew Sarris, a person in love with movies and with writing. Yet there are reasons for Macdonald's vision, reasons grounded in his experience of cultural politics in the 1930s and not at all irrelevant to our understanding of auteurism.

Macdonald began to make a noise culturally in 1937 when he, Philip Rahv, William Phillips, Fred Dupee and Mary McCarthy revived The Partisan Review as a left literary journal opposed to the cultural policies of the Popular Front. This editorial group's position was what the Party called "ultra-left": that is to say, they were cultural rightwingers, Trotskyite elitists. They espoused freedom of expression and manifested a strong sympathy for avant garde expression at the expense of strict ideological correctness. Their heroes were alienated intellectuals and artists, not workers and peasants, and their attitudes, less and less dogmatically political as time went on, made that journal a force to be reckoned with for more than thirty years (Gilbert 155ff.).

What Macdonald was reacting against in 1937 was the alliance of Stalinism with populism. To him and to others, this alliance was not fundamentally different from the alliance of fascist states with populism in Germany and Italy, nor even from the alliance of capitalism and populism in the United States. If the state dictated populist cultural styles directly in the Soviet Union, Germany and Italy, the commercial media did so just as efficiently in capitalist economies. The resultant notion, a kind of populist totalitarianism that Macdonald himself was later to christen "Mass Culture", 4 has proven extremely powerful even unto this day.

In Macdonald's resignation notice Sarris is the representative of Mass Culture, which is why he appears as a Stalinist. In the piece that became known as "A Theory of Mass Culture", Macdonald argued that the mechanistic cultural production of today is inherently incapable of producing true culture because culture is human and the masses are not. 5 Sarris incarnates the masses inasmuch as he does not do criticism but "merely applies a party line": he is the machine, the technician, the anti-human.

It is interesting that Macdonald thus politicises Sarris, when today we might be tempted to say that Sarris and the other auteurists had no real politics at all. But whereas the totalitarian danger of auteurism may have been a misperception on Macdonald's part, I think he was quite right to sense the presence of a politics in la politique, a politics which he abhorred. The name of that politics is, of course, populism. 6

In response to its presence, Macdonald reacts as though he has been exposed to a ravening disease, a response wholly in keeping with liberal rhetoric in the high culture/mass culture debate of the 1950s, as Andrew Ross describes it in No Respect (43-47). There can be no half measures with the revolt of the masses, as recent events suggest even now.

What was at issue for Macdonald (and for most other vociferous opponents of auteurism) was not the attribution of creative responsibility in an industrially collectivised medium. This is one reason why the anthologised "theoretical" articles by Bazin, Kael, Sarris, and others on the topic seem so misguided now, and did to some of us even then. What was really at issue was a shift of critical perspective, a new way of looking. Extreme though Macdonald's and others' reactions may have seemed at the time, they are certainly explicable if auteurism is such a re-vision. Cultural power was at stake. Auteurism said that film criticism as it was currently practised was wrong. It said that film critics and reviewers had been deluded and were incapable of seeing what was most worth seeing. After all, which of us wears ideological robes woven so tight that some child may not be able to see what we are trying to hide beneath them? 7

The reader may suspect that I have "misread" Macdonald, and surely this is the case. Perhaps a warning is in order here: the misreading continues. We all know that auteurism was never a systemic doctrine. Far from being a "theory", as the common phrase "auteur theory" declares it to be, I will be claiming that auteurism was a point of view or a critical regard. This surely goes without saying as well. However, it seems to me that the nature of auteurism was determined as much by factors its promulgators ignored or took for granted as by what they consciously set forth as dogma. I believe that "true" auteurism (or at least, something very interesting) is to be found in elements that may at first seem extraneous to la politique, in its intuitive or mystical components, and in implications that are apparent but not directly stated in what has been written on the subject. 8


La politique des auteurs is associated with the journal Cahiers du Cinema, and especially with the first dozen years of its existence (1951-63) during which the position was formulated and extended. Although it is not the case that all Cahiers writing is auteurist, and certainly the idea that a film's director should be considered its auteur does not originate with Cahiers, the magazine's role in shaping and publicising the ideas of auteurism was crucial to the position's later influence. Doubtless that role was the immediate motivation for my focussing attention in what follows on those twelve years of Cahiers as a sort of archetypal auteurism. But it is also the case that a cardinal misreading begins with that decision. A proper critical history would situate Cahiers in relation to its forebearers, siblings and progeny and would not assume the simple links between its policies of the late 1950s and other varieties of auteurism that this piece has apparently already assumed. 9

Defense of American film, and specifically of Hollywood film, has become indelibly linked to the auteur approach, although there is nothing that demands such a linkage in the bare bones of the idea that good films are made only by auteurs. Cahiers' interest in and defense of American cinema is apparent in the first year of its operation. Some 54 articles and reviews on the subject were published in the first 12 issues, including six "Lettres de New York" (from Herman G. Weinberg, no less) - the only series of letters appearing with such frequency. By issue 90, it was a matter of course that Claude Gautier would attack the critics and historians polled at Brussels in 1958 to find the "ten best" films of all time because they had ignored so much of the American cinema (15-18). Meanwhile, issue after issue had featured stills from American films on their covers and articles about American films inside.

For Christmas of 1955 the magazine published an entire issue devoted to American cinema. In it Jacques Rivette who, with Eric Rohmer, was most responsible for the writing that articulated auteurism, dealt with postwar American cinema as a "revolution". He described certain directors as "refusing the dictatorship of the producers" and reenacting "that Wellesian coup d'etat which cracked to its very foundations the whole edifice of Hollywood production", that is, he explicitly extended what he saw as their refusal of "the conventions of classical editing and continuity" into economic and industrial territory. "They are all liberal film-makers, some openly left-wing," he remarked with evident approval ("Notes on a Revolution", 95). Rivette, at least, took his auteurism politically. If his position is taken as typical - and I do not see why it should not be - the politics of American cinema as espoused by the auteurists of Cahiers, was anything but the totalitarianism which so freaked Macdonald. 10

Another tendency became apparent in the early years of Cahiers, one even less called for by the tenets of auteurism in abstracto. This is a looking away from the motion pictures that overtly aspire to be elite art and a looking towards those that do not, that is, towards the popular cinema. As early as the September 1951 Cahiers, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze published what is still one of the few intelligent and sympathetic assessments of the films of Cecil B. DeMille. His defense of DeMille is worth quoting at length because of its relation to what was to become la politique:

Certainly the gentleman has his faults - his aesthetic may be utterly detestable. But it seems to me that his principal quality is almost total stylistic unity throughout an abundant career - a constant fidelity to a point of view [un optique] and a conception of history, which stem from a venerable visual and literary tradition that he did not introduce to the screen (before him were the Italians, Nonguet, Zecca, the "Films d'Art") but of which he is perhaps the most important and most talented populariser . . . In any case, it appears to me evident that if he makes films it is first of all for the pleasure of it. He is one of those for whom the cinema is a respiratory apparatus: without it they are smothered and straitened. Finally, in his way - minor perhaps, elementary some would say, in any case stubborn and sustained by a great unity of vision - he intends to deliver a certain message. (24) 11

Stylistic and thematic unity are invoked as reasons for taking the time to take DeMille seriously, and these are of course the commonplace underpinnings of auteurist criticism. But Doniol-Valcroze also downplays the importance of originality, recognising DeMille as the most talented and "important" (probably in terms of box office) populariser of what we might call an "academy style" of filmmaking. Finally, there is that interesting reference to the cinema as DeMille's breathing apparatus: we should respect the man because his very life is dependent upon the cinema. I will return to this in a later section.

Doniol-Valcroze's sympathy for DeMille was extreme even for Cahiers and that director was never the rallying point for auteurists that others were later to become. 12 But Cahiers made other outrageous excursions into popular cinema in its first year, among them a favourable review of King Solomon's Mines which invoked ideas of adventure, documentary and spectacle to justify, "cinema at times in spite of everything: scenarists, dialoguists, directors, critics . . . cinema virtually in spite of itself" (Richer, 56-57); an article on the western (Rieupeyrout, 4-18); serious reviews of science-fiction films; 13 and an article entitled "Gene Kelly, auteur des films et homme-orchestre" which aggressively attacked film cultists and intellectuals in general for ignoring the musical genre (Myrsine, 34-38).

There seems no intrinsic reason why the position that cinema is the art of the director should lead one to become enmired in popular movies at the expense of those films that are made for a cultured elite. Yet such was the case, and auteurists always seem to have been considered high-falutin' apologists for popular Hollywood movies. As late as 1976 Wilfrid Sheed articulated the relation as succinctly as one could wish, adding a distinctive causal explanation:

Ah, what a difference a few French words can make. Within a few years the French New Wave were pouring over the junk . . . and, unhampered by English, finding gems, masterpieces after the fact. (33)

This interest in Hollywood films and in popular cinema must partly stem from Cahiers' aggressively anti-Establishment stance. In "A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema", a deliberately provocative piece on the situation of French cinema in 1954 which served as auteurism's manifesto, Francois Truffaut contrasted genuine auteurs with the then-contemporary "Tradition de qualite". The implication that the films of auteurs lack what others might call "qualite" is strong; and certainly those film makers whom Truffaut mentions with favour - Renoir, Bresson, Cocteau, Becker, Gance, Ophuls, Tati and Leenhardt - are not noted for high-gloss, traditional, novelistic productions. For an educated Frenchperson, no less than for her Australian counterpart, the advocacy of popular Hollywood movies at that time was very much in the same mode of hurling defiance at accepted traditions of quality as a taste for Celine or Henry Miller. The editorial for the very issue of Cahiers in which Truffaut's article first appeared indicates that defiance of custom was a consciously assumed attitude:

We are already reproched - officiously and officially - for not defending French cinema in Cahiers du Cinema and for promiscuously preferring to its so-called quality work any American B picture. ("Editorial", 1)

This vein of iconoclasm too became attached to auteurism, both as a standard for cinematic achievement and as a public stance vis-a-vis opposing critical attitudes. Bazin deplores his colleagues' penchant for B-pictures no fewer than three times in his article on la politique (249, 255, 256). It was generally the case that auteurist cult favourites were not those directors whose style is markedly serious, like George Stevens, Robert Wise, William Wyler or Fred Zinnemann, but were instead drawn from an inexhaustible pool of rugged (and ragged) individualists - people like Robert Aldrich, Sam Fuller, Stuart Heisler or Edgar G. Ulmer. Cahiers' arch-rival, Positif, became notorious for its championing of the likes of Jerry Lewis and Roger Corman, but MacMahonism kept an embattled iconoclasm alive in the pages of Cahiers itself, at least through Rohmer's tenure as its major editorial influence - to 1963 (Hiller, 302-303).


Among those factors that seem extraneous to auteurism is its espousal of certain specific talents among all of those directors available for critical canonisation. In the early days of the critical position at Cahiers (before, indeed, it had acquired the politique label), Jacques Rivette summed up its biases as "Hitchcock's films ... Howard Hawks' comedies, Renoir's American work, and Rossellini's work" ("L'Art de la Fugue", 49). There is a striking stylistic similarity between the latter three examples. Hawks, Renoir (particularly in the American films) and Rossellini are noted for motion pictures in which bravura visual technique is kept to a minimum: for self-effacing "transparent" cinema. The inclusion of Hitchcock on the list, however, gives the lie to any attempt to tie auteurism to documentary simplicity or "realism" a la Bazin. 14 The films of Alfred Hitchcock are surely notable in part for their visual effects: camera tricks, odd angles, dramatic compositions. Nothing seems further from the literal style of say, Howard Hawks' action comedies, than Hitchcock's excessive treatment of wildly improbable stories of pyschological pressure and criminal perversity.

Yet Hawks and Hitchcock were, together, the "American" pillars of auteurism, litmus tests of membership. At the same time, defense of their merit never carried much conviction with non-initiates, as Macdonald's reaction to Sarris on The Birds illustrates rather pointedly. On one level, the principal reason for this seems to have been that the pre-eminence of these directors was, like the pre-eminence of Griffith and Eisenstein in mainstream critical circles, a matter of intuition. Acceptance of the greatness of Hawks, Hitchcock, Renoir and Rossellini was one of the essential bases upon which auteurism constructed itself. These cineastes were first of all masters by axiom, and explanations of precisely what it was that accounted for their surpassing ability were, consequently, usually couched in dogmatic or mystical terms. It seems to me that there is nothing wrong in this. Indeed, such sweeping intuitive assertions are essential and inevitable in aesthetic judgement.

Rivette's presentation of Hawks' superiority as a fait accompli, which serves as epigraph and excuse for my writing, is well known even today, partly because of its having been quoted with asperity by Bazin ("Politique", 257). Nonetheless, despite its notoriety, the comment is worth more sympathetic and careful discussion. The translation used in Jim Hillier's first Cahiers anthology opts for free and colloquial English but, since I am more interested in the force of Rivette's diction, I have chosen to cite these words in French.

L'evidence est la marque du genie de Hawks: Monkey Business est un film genial et s'impose a l'esprit par l'evidence. Certains cependant s'y refusent, refusent encore de se satisfaire d'affirmations. La meconnaissance n'a peut-etre point d'autres causes. ("Genie", 16)

[The evidence on the screen is the proof of Hawks's genius: you only have to watch Monkey Business to know that it is a brilliant film. Some people refuse to admit this, however; they refuse to be satisfied by proof. There can't be any other reason why they don't recognize it]

Bazin misconstrued the implications of Rivette's position. He said that it signalled "an aesthetic personality cult", and quoted the lines above as testimony to auteurism's inability to come up with a "corpus of its theory" ("Politique", 257). But, Rivette's is an aesthetic cult of style if it is a cult of anything - and his intuitive elevation of Hawks, while hardly contributing to critical theory, does suggest the outlines of a valid critical approach. It is interesting that Bazin, of all people, would have got the motivating relationship between criticism and theory backwards, making theory determine criticism instead of the other way around. 15

The style in question must be one shared between Hawks (and Renoir and Rossellini) and Hitchcock. It must be neither an obvious visual style nor yet a common "world view", because at those levels the two share almost nothing. Thus we are seeking a bond that is far more general, far more abstract than these. I think that a passage from Rohmer and Chabrol's Hitchcock suggests the linkage:

As we have often pointed out, it is in the form that we must look for the depth of the work and that form is heavy with a latent metaphysic. It is therefore important to consider Hitchcock's work in the same way we would that of an esoteric painter or poet. The fact that the key to the system is not always in the lock, that the doors themselves are skillfully camouflaged, is no reason to insist that there is nothing inside. (107)

At first, surely, Rohmer and Chabrol's assertions must have given readers pause in the same manner that Rivette on Hawks did, if for almost opposite reasons. After all, Hitchcock's treatment of suspense, like Hawks' of action, is nothing if not superficially straightforward. Indeed, the critical perception of Hitchcock as a simple, easy-to-read film maker was the ground from which most of the attacks on auteurism's excesses in the matter of this director were launched, including Bazin's "Hitchcock versus Hitchcock". By the same token, although Hitchcock's visual style calls attention to itself and Hawks' does not, it is not a complex style in the sense that Eisenstein's or Antonioni's is. Rather, it is "excessively obvious" very much in the way in which David Bordwell applies those modifiers to the whole of "classical Hollywood cinema" ("Classical Hollywood", 3-11).

Yet Rohmer and Chabrol are arguing that Hitchcock's work demands the exercise of a certain perception for its full worth to be experienced. Hitchcock's artistry, then, like Hawks', is concealed to the uninitiated. Hawks' greatness lies behind his transparency whereas Hitchcock's is behind his extravagance; yet the mode of apprehending their respective geniuses is the same, and this is the same means by which we apprehend the genius of an esoteric painter or poet. This cannot be other than an act of intuition, resulting from an application of intense and meticulous critical attention. Only with such quasi-shamanistic techniques can the true worth of the films be recognised, a worth that is nowhere otherwise accessible - not to analyses, not to theories.

By contrast to the simplicity and obviousness of Hawks, Hitchcock, Renoir and Rossellini, directors like John Huston, who are not Cahiers' favourites, made films whose complexity was as much, or more, a matter of surface than of depth. The experience of Huston's The Maltese Falcon is one of complexity and dimension, whereas Hawks manages to make even the complicated and inexplicable events of The Big Sleep appear simple and straightforward in his telling of them. (The comparison is perhaps more telling when the films are compared to the novels upon which they are based: somehow exactly the "wrong" directors were assigned to these projects).

Hawks' unabashedly direct and functional resolution of a complex moral dilemma from Huston's script for Sergeant York is a felicitous case in point. Critics have complained that Alvin York's conversion from roisterer to pious farmer is hard enough to swallow, managed as it is by a literal bolt from the blue, but that his subsequent switch from pacificism to militance is impossible to accept. The point is well taken. However, an auteurist argument based on the conflicting concerns of director and screenwriter can be constructed to explain these apparent lapses, if not, perhaps, to justify them wholly.

The Hustonian problems which the film deals with so inadequately are, on one level at least, problems of how to act in a world of contradiction, the morality of ambiguity in the life of a simple man. These problems appear on the skin of the film promising a deeper complexity that is never delivered. But it is only when the film ducks away from surface complexity by laconically resolving York's doubts about fighting that the possibility of another structure, another set of concerns is realised.

In Hawks' movies heroic commitment is complete, achieved without reservation. Thus for Hawks to represent Alvin York as a genuine hero he must ascribe to him unquestioning and full commitment to whatever he sets out to do. For York, or for us, to have had any of the doubts that Huston's screenplay implies, or for him to have prolonged the time of mulling over conflicting loyalties would have sullied his heroic stature. Another structure within the story of Alvin York suggests that he progresses, through intuition and action, from immaturity to maturity, from hedonistic selfishness to the acceptance of responsibility for the well-being of others - that is, that he becomes a hero in Hawks' terms. These questions of maturity, responsibility, intuition and action may be taken as a Hawksian core for Sergeant York, since they recur in others of the directors' films, but perhaps they will only appear in this one if we are prompted by the "mistake" of York's conversion to seek other, less complicated and less superficially apparent, motivations for what goes on in the film than those that Huston's screenplay offers. In this case Hawks' simplicity has been veiled, muddied up by Huston's complexity, and auteurism provides a means of seeing through the surface imbroglio and contradiction to what the film "is really about", to a coherent and interesting thematic structure.

We may call the quality that brings Hitchcock into the same company as Hawks l'evidence, wilfully misconstruing Rivette's "le style est l'evidence" to refer to something other than what was apparently intended. Hitchcock's and Hawks' cinemas combine clarity and conspicuousness. They are cinemas of no decoration and no waste. Rivette says of Hawks' work, "each shot has a functional beauty, like a neck or an ankle" ("Genius", 128-129); and Rohmer assures us that

Hitchcock's style belongs to that kind which ages least - a remarkable thing in a specialist of the effect - but which all the time accords more with the brutal power of the thing it shows than with the artifices by which it incites us to betray the idea, the sentiment, the symbol with which it had first been clothed. ("Soupcon", 63)

In this context it is interesting that Rohmer used "the two words efficacy and elegance" to describe "the American style of cinema" as a whole in 1955 ("Rediscovering America", 89). Those ideas seem to control a great deal of the semantic field associated with Cahiers' auteurism.

Although the policy of exalting l'evidence was softened in later years, it continued to exercise an influence on auteurism. In 1964, 24 Cahiers critics were asked to name the ten best American sound films. When the results are tabulated for director rather than film, the ranking goes:

Hitchcock (24 mentions)

Hawks (23)

Lang (21)

Ford (15)

Welles (13)

Ray (12)

Mankiewicz (11)

Preminger (10)

And on to another 33 names, each with nine or less citations (Renoir's American films were mentioned only five times; not at all by Rivette, and Rohmer has no list in the poll: "Meilleurs films americains", 248-252). Of the top eight directors on this list, only Orson Welles might be presumed to be outside the category of le style evident in the eyes of Cahiers auteurism. John Ford - surely the most baroque and stylistically wasteful of those remaining - had been praised in Cahiers 86 by Louis Marcorelles for his "simple, straightforward nature and the great sincerity of [his] work . . . only Ford gives us that feeling of complete euphoria created by the perfect matching of the thing to be expressed and its expression" - efficacy and elegance personified (Marcorelles, 69).

The taste for le style evident marks out what Cahiers was about. There was, and is, general, tacit acceptance of the notion that the director is the person most likely to be creatively responsible for a film (whether or not this leads to intepreting a film as representing its director's intentions). The most significant thing that Cahiers added to this commonplace notion and what, I would say, in fact sets auteurism apart as something new and different, was the recognition and promotion of a certain style found in the films of certain directors. Because of the nature of this style, la politique was not just a policy of "favoring particular directors", as Bordwell characterises it in an enlightening discussion (Making Meaning, 47). For le style evident is one that effaces the usual markers of directorial personality.

Although Bordwell, and others like Dugald Williamson in his recent Authorship and Criticism, ally auteurism with humanist and Romantic ideas of individual expression, the auteurist taste for the simple, obvious style evident suggests, rather, a diminution of such concerns almost to the point of their disappearance. The auteurs chosen as exemplars seem the antitheses of artists anxious to express themselves, and reading them in such a manner surely is as intriguing an instance of misreading as we are likely to come by in film criticism for a long while yet. Implicitly, auteurs are, from the beginning, a textual phenomenon of transparency, avatars of the civil code or of furniture music.


But Rivette did not mean that Hawks' style was un style evident (or everyone knows that he did not mean that). Rather, he meant that Hawks' style was the evidence, all the evidence needed, of his genius. And here we are back again with the axiomatic nature of the mastery evidenced by the four pillars of auteurism. For Rivette to claim genius for Hawks on the supposition that genius is unarguably apparent quite obviously asserts the primacy of aesthetic experience over intellectual argument (Bazin's "corpus of its theory") and suggests further ramifications of Cahiers' auteur position.

The first of these is the recognition that such a rhetorical technique of argument represents the radical assertion of new vision common to many contemporary critical postures. Those with eyes to see need no arguments to convince them, and those who cannot see are not worth convincing, which is very much what Rivette says. Like other such assertions, Rivette's flat statement of Hawks' genius also acts as a reminder that virtually all critical evaluations stem from just such intuitive reactions as this one - reactions legitimised with rational argument only after the fact. And it is at the same time a statement of the primacy of the totalising vision of the critical gaze of auteurism: a clearcut declaration that auteurism was, indeed, a way of looking rather than a theory of any kind.

Moreover, in raising the experience of the cinema above theories about the cinema, Rivette is committing himself to vision on a literal as well as on a figurative scale. One can see Hawks' genius or one cannot. "L'evidence est la marque".

Hitchcock and Hawks, Renoir and Rossellini, are directors whose work demands a certain way of looking, un certain regard, first of all. That critical gaze discovers idea and image in myriad dialectical relations, as Jean-Luc Godard did in Cahiers 92 among auteurs of the western:

With Ford it is primarily the images which conjure the ideas, whereas with Lang it is rather the opposite, and with Anthony Mann one moves from idea to image to return - as Eisenstein wanted - to the idea. (117)

An auteurist "reads" what a camera-style has "written" - and here I am using quotation marks to suggest the new way of looking that is at stake, a new way, moreover, much more clearly recognised and exploited among the trendy litterateurs manques at Cahiers than among, say, the voyants who were running Positif at around the same time. What is "visual" in le style evident is not what strikes the eye: what is beautiful, for instance. It is, rather, what strikes the mind through the eye, what is turned on its head by the eye. Not the image, but what the image produces and, in that sense, what it means. 16

It seems to me that only in such a context can one begin to make sense of another of the "extraneous" features of early auteurism: the search for directorial "touches" or identifying marks appearing, like the Biograph logo, as material evidence of authority. The discovery of such auteurprints first of all validates the peculiar intensity of this critical gaze; their existence provides quasi-scientific "proof" of the presence of an active, communicating "person" beneath the delusively straightforward surface of just another Hollywood movie. As such, directorial touches may be taken as signs of whole personalities. This means that they are not to be read as clues, which are signs of a crime whose configuration does not become visible until all clues are found and their structural relation discerned, but as signatures (as some auteurists have called them), which announce the onetime activities of signers: particular individuals limned in particular forms.

Yet the implied parallel with painting should not be taken as exhausting what can be produced in the deployment of a mere stylistic device such as this. Consider the usage of the "X" sign-expression in two films directed by Howard Hawks. The first X occurs in Scarface, The Shame of a Nation (1931-32), where it even serves as background to the credit titles. It signifies negation here: death or the approach of death. The title character bears an X-shaped scar on his left cheek; in one scene his sister and his bodyguard are shown flirting through an X-shaped grill (none of these three survives the film); the X pattern of a fan's blades is highlighted in the background of a murder scene, and so forth. Hawks was conscious of the X sign in Scarface, as should be apparent from its use under the credits, and he has claimed the motif occurs in "fifteen or twenty scenes" of that film (Becker et al., 192). Among other things, this sign disposed in this way surely suggests a reading as the enunciator of artifice, a reminder that what is unfolding should not be confused with a record of real life.

Although the X is almost too insistently present in Scarface, many viewers do not notice it until it is pointed out. To recognise it, collect its appearances and comprehend its signification, then, argues for the value of one's regard over and above that of other viewers. To recognise and comprehend the X sign in the 1938 Bringing Up Baby, however, takes us a step further. In this film the X occurs only in the last sequence. The heroine, a catalyst of calamity, has climbed a tall ladder to talk with the paleontologist she loves just as he is finishing his life's work, the construction of a giant dinosaur skeleton. A shot just before the collapse of the skeleton shows the heroine's head and shoulders against a background of black X's, formed by the shadows behind her. The dramatic lighting of this background, which does not occur before this shot, leaves no doubt that the pattern of X's is deliberate. What is of interest about the sign here, however, is not its mere presence, but its presence in this context. The X here is more abstract. Instead of signifying negation in terms of death, it signifies impending destruction in general. But it has also reversed itself: for the destruction of the skeleton will, we know, lead to the couple's erotic fulfillment, not to their deaths. That is, the sign here has positive connotations, whereas in Scarface the connotations were negative. And what makes the reversal of the moral value of the sign particularly elegant is that it corresponds so neatly to the difference in genre of the two films. Scarface is, with Jacobean deliberateness, a tragedy in which destruction connotes evil and suffering; Bringing Up Baby is a comedy in which destruction connotes goodness and pleasure. Moreover, his facile manipulation of the X in these two contexts suggests a certain care, intelligence and detachment on Hawks' part, not to mention a way with a gag.

But I have not done with the implications of this sign yet. If the X's in Scarface constitute some kind of signature, those in Bringing Up Baby are certainly something other, something more. Yet it is even premature to speak of Hawks' "signature" in the first instance, which is only the signature of artifice itself (and thus, if you will, of human consciousness). Retrospectively, after seeing the X's in Bringing Up Baby, one might tentatively assign the sign to the category of Hawks' signature, for Hawks was the one personality to carry over through both films. 17 The use of the sign-expression in the new context is of particular interest, however, because it is not telegraphed, as was the X in Scarface. One cannot imagine that very many people at all who see Bringing Up Baby recognise the X shadows as a sign or comprehend their significance. Their presence in Bringing Up Baby seems a personal matter - perhaps a private joke. But even that cannot be the case, for I have here been able to make the joke a public one, through the employment of nothing more arcane than a certain regard borrowed from auteurism. Thus, to dismiss the X's in this film as mere private frivolity would be to avoid their existence as a sign and, consequently, as a public matter. The very fact that the sign - in plain sight like Poe's purloined letter - is likely to go unnoticed by the general public argues for its significance as a means of communicating with those whose attention has been close enough to catch it. The X sign in Bringing Up Baby might be said to serve as a means of bringing the hidden, private, personality of the director into the public arena; but at the same time a certain way of looking is required to appreciate that interchange between private and public. The auteurist must adopt an active relation with films. Close observation is required, and an "open" looking that endeavours to "see everything", but also a way of looking that maintains the sensibility of director and of spectator simultaneously. It seems a very pluralistic activity.

A clue to the nature of this looking may be found in the auteurists' notorious championing of senility. In his attack on auteurism, Bazin quoted Rohmer from the eighth issue of Cahiers to the effect that only in the cinema is age considered a diminution of true genius ("Politique", 254); but Rohmer said more than that, and what he said can help to understand auteurism's way of looking more fully. The article is about Renoir's American films, and in it Rohmer argues that the history of art:

offers us no example of an authentic genius who, at the end of his career, had a period of real decline. Rather, beneath the seemingly unrefined or meager appearance of the aforementioned films, we are prompted to seek evidence of the desire for simplicity that characterized the final work of a Titian, a Rembrandt, a Beethoven or, closer to us, a Bonnard, a Matisse, or a Stravinsky. Having mentioned these great names, I would now like to propose a critical approach that will focus neither on "beauties" nor on "faults" but that its roots in the internal reasoning of an evolution whose path evaded us. This critical approach will help us discover the virtues beneath these pseudofaults, which the poorly trained eye has been unable to appreciate. Such an idea reverses certain commonly admitted values, but I believe our times are better prepared to recognize that the nature of a masterpiece is to suggest a new definition of beauty. ("American Renoir", 174-175)

The type of criticism Rohmer is proposing rejects a priori standards and attempts instead to find the source of a film's art in the experience one has watching it. This suggests subordination of one's self - or at least of certain of the presuppositions one tends to bring to bear upon aesthetic experience - to a field of vision, a world, present in the film. We are not to look at the screen, but through the camera eye.

But what is in the frame - seen by the camera - constitutes what the auteur has seen as well. And it is also what has been, literally, "put in the scene". Mise en scene in the theatre literally describes a certain activity by which the director deploys signs on a stage. In French film criticism mise en scene has always involved a way of seeing as well as a way of disposing objects and people. The idea of cinematic mise en scene assumes a camera eye at a distance from whatever has been put before it for filming, although what appears on the screen - which seems to be what was before the camera - is the very evidence from which we construct an absent auteur, gazing upon the scene. At this level - the level of the screen or of the experience of the film - auteurism maintains a nebulous distinction between film and profilmic material that subsequent, linguistically-based approaches abandoned, for all that they have bequeathed us the very word "profilmic". The distinction is crucial to auteurism, for it permits the understanding of the auteur as, specifically, a way of seeing at the same time that it locates this or that film's "art" in that way of seeing rather than any particular work. Thus, when Rohmer prefaces a later defense of aging genius with the remark "as for me, I give more credit to the man than to the work" ("Howard Hawks", 128), he is doing more than evoking an aphorism of Giraudoux's often cited in the Cahiers office ("there are no works, there are only auteurs"; "Politique", 250) - he is encunciating the focal principle of auteurism.

Now, auteurism's way of looking and the specific experience of specific films triangulate the auteur's way of seeing. And it is here that the critical regard absorbs the auteur's camera eye, entering upon and completing the creative activity, the art-making. It is no accident, then, and in no way extraneous to auteurism, that so many of Cahiers' critics themselves became directors, auteurs, either. Cahiers auteurism is not merely director-oriented criticism, it is criticism oriented through a director's way of seeing. Rivette made exactly this point in his defiant 1953 review of Hitchcock's I Confess:

Hitchcock's films throw a professional secret into relief. There can be no doubt that they do not belong to the critics, who have always shown themselves fundamentally incapable of taking account of them. Only the director [metteur en scene], I mean that person who poses to herself the real problems of her art, can have an inkling of their beauty. Along with these films, Howard Hawks' comedies, Renoir's American work, and Rossellini's work, there has appeared the first indication of a modern cinema the understanding of which will be reserved to cineastes, just as painters have for a hundred years taken possession of the jealous empire of painting. ("L'Art de la Fugue", 49)

If auteurism looks with a film maker's eye, it does not, however, advocate "technical criticism". 18 On the contrary, the emphasis on the auteur's way of seeing suggests that technical matters are no more valid as a priori critical criteria than any others: only the conviction of the auteur's vision can determine a film's success or failure. But the auteur, who exists only as a way of seeing, is not finally so much a personality as an activity. A cineaste's sensibility in the gaze of auteurism fuses with this auteur-activity when an auteurist looks at a film, and the activity of the critical regard becomes during that time the same thing as the - creative - activity of seeing presented in the film. The auteurist critic ("the person who poses to herself the real problems of her art") is required to (re)make the auteur film that she sees.


Because one's experience of a film is a linear one, and one in which we are not used to recognising the artifice necessary to create it, the idea of criticism as a kind of quasi-creative participation may not at first seem to raise some of the tricky questions that it does. However, where there may be some direct foundation for an illusion of co-creative participation by the audience of a live performance, there seems to be much less of that kind of foundation for such an illusion in one's experience of the mass communications media. A motion picture, as it appears on the screen, is the result of a great many decisions, very few of which are likely to be in evidence in the final work.

The illusion of co-creation implicit in the auteurist way of looking, however, is not derived from a single work, but from a way of seeing common to many works and given the name of their auteur. So the experience of any individual film will not be the experience of the circumstances of its production, but the experience of its making in a mind. The work as it appears manifests all of the evidence relevant to this experience; and the auteurist critic, armed with the point of view of the auteur, triangulates the film in a dialectical relation between that (imaginary) point of view and the (real) artwork in which it is assumed to be active. The experience of something that at the least restates or reenacts a making of the film seems a perfectly valid one, even though (or perhaps because) the creative activity in question can be observed only on, or through, the screen. The perfect auteurist critic would enter into the presented and represented activity on the screen, observing closely and questioning each gesture, each shot, each cut, each sequence, discovering patterns both familiar and unfamiliar. The experience would not be too far removed from the experience of beginning described by Rossellini in 1948: "one thing is certain, that when I undertake a new film, I start from an idea without knowing where it will lead me" (qtd. in Verdone, 99).

>From time to time auteurist critics have commented favourably on the ways in which the work of their preferred directors evoked a sense of participation. Rohmer and Chabrol even made the illusion of co-creation the foundation of the "art" of Alfred Hitchcock:

Hitchcock's art . . . is to make us participate - by means of the fascination exercised over each of us by a figure that is almost geometrically refined - in the vertigo of the characters; and beyond this vertigo we discover the essence of the moral idea. (110-112)

Jose Luis Guarner, writing much later, linked the illusion of participation to elements of documentary treatment in Rossellini's film:

We see facts, each containing a world of ideas, which somehow summarize in a flash the spirit of the whole film, but straight away we go on to something else, and that's that. Participation by the audience is greatly increased in this way, since we have to fill in the gaps and understand that other things exist beyond what we can see. (Guarner, 20)

The critical activity in both these examples is based upon looking and discovery, upon fascination and what is intuitively apparent in an instant. The image then provokes a reaction to its content (its moral idea, its summary of the spirit of the film), a reaction that is itself action (participation, filling in the gaps), not merely a state of being. Moreover, this action parallels, reproduces, the linear action of the film. One way in which this occurs is succinctly put by Truffaut in what has become another cliche of auteurism:

All of Fritz Lang's films, even when signed by different scenarists and made for the most diverse companies, palpably tell the same story. ("Aimer Fritz Lang", 54) 19

The common story of Lang's films will provide a pathway from beginning to end of each film, and discerning that path beneath the variegated camouflage each has used to hide it is an activity that will necessarily engage the critic deeply and "creatively" in the film as it unfolds. Jean-Louis Comolli describes the process in terms worthy of Schleiermacher himself as "a criticism that penetrates the work and recreates it as the auteur has conceived it at the level of her poetic imagination and her formal dreams" (58).

There is another dimension to the idea of participation, one which relates to the populist tinge of auteurism. If participation is solicited in the films themselves - if it is not, in other words, merely a matter of critical will - then auteurists cannot be the only ones being solicited to participate. Anyone in the audience has the opportunity to share in the work's creation. As it happens, popular artworks are usually characterised by structures of participation. The genres and conventions of popular art, the emptiness and simplicity often commented on in its works, urge amplification and completion by those who experience them. Cahiers' auteurism as a critical doctrine is not overtly concerned with this aspect of popular film and does not devote itself to speculations on the question of audience as artist (indeed, there was more than a whiff of elitism in Cahiers even in its most engage phase); yet insofar as the concept of participation became a part of auteurism's critical standards, it seems likely that it did so partly as an historical result of the policy's preoccupation with popular cinema, where such structures are common, as well as of certain notions of active aesthetic reception whose origins are doubtless more rarified.

Whatever the generation of the concepts involved, however, it seems that auteurism, by elevating the individual artist to supremacy in film making, paradoxically raised the viewer to a position of creative power. The critic-viewer became the auteur's collaborator and double, semblable, frere. More than that of course, some critics, acting as critics have done in all the arts of the twentieth century, at the same time moved between the work and its viewer, assuming the position of translaters or augurers. Auteurist critics were able to add to the commonplace critical claim of embodying the perfect spectator the rather more drastic claim of speaking as "the cineaste", the perfected artist (the person who knew better than the artist what the work meant). When, as sometimes happened, directors in interviews seemed taken aback by this or that critical insight, 20 their reactions only enhanced auteurism's claims of a privileged vision on the same grounds as the psychologist claims a better knowledge of our motives than we have ourselves.

If the auteurist speaks about a film as its auteur through its spectator, the resultant critical text would seem to consist of the work doubly, or even triply, framed. Yet there is also in this process an implicit refusal to analyse or dissect the work. Framing is an activity that displays, admires, embellishes the borders, but leaves the work in the middle, intact. The idea of such a critical activity is in some form to reproduce the artwork, nothing less than to make it again ("recreate it"): to create, make art. The auteur has made it once, now the auteurist makes it over, the same but different, different only as a variation is different. This is not criticism, or at least it is not criticism as Dwight Macdonald understood it. It is something at once more modest and self-effacing as well as more hegemonic, not to say meglomaniacal, than that. (In this context I am pleased to note that the chapter of Making Meaning in which David Bordwell first discussses auteurism is entitled "Interpretation as Explication".)

The absurd pretenses of auteurism are easy to see, and to reject, as all sober folk of good intentions have rejected and continue to reject them. What is more interesting is how these pretenses are mixed up with a radical, because levelling, abdication of critical power at another level. Although auteurism begins with axiomatic masters - a "pantheon", if you will - the very qualities that evidence mastery, as well as the regard created/sustained in the recognition of their mastery, act like termites on the pantheon, nibbling it up from the sides and underneath until it has been all gnawed away and hollowed out and it crumbles into dust.

For le style evident exalts what is obvious and commonplace. These "old masters" are great because of the direct, uncomplicated nature of their work. They have achieved the highest places because they never evinced any ambition, they have been proclaimed the most wise because only they knew all along that they were not wise at all. There is a transvaluation of all values here which plays a crucial role in the iconoclasm of the auteurist position. Auteurism puts things on their feet again. It inverts the retinal image that is represented as real by the investigations of criticism practiced seriously, as science: we had thought that what appeared complex was complex, but we learn now that this is not so. What appears complex is merely complicated, needlessly elaborated like a doodle. True complexity is what calls to us from simple things, mundane details: a gesture, a face, a glance. 21

Comolli again:

The difficulty for any critical approach and the astonishing particularity of Hawks' art lies in its clarity and its simplicity. Everything has been already assimilated, felt and understood to such a degree; everything is said without mystery and without symbols, without cinematographic expression serving any other end than telling a story, without any possibility of dissociating mise en scene and scenario, everything is shown to us so immediately that no formal or thematic problems remain to get hold of, virtually no way into the film: it escapes us even as we understand it. This is the measure of Hawks. (56) 22


And what recognises such complexity is a way of looking without preconceptions (but perhaps with prejudice) that is at the same time actively engaged with its object, not in order to judge it but to describe, display, explicate it: to make it clear. This sympathetic cineaste's gaze soon loses all claim to discrimination: if such an understanding is the goal of criticism, little place seems to be left for the exercise of refined or cultivated preference.

This gaze is, we recognise now, the look of love. Cahiers itself began to revise "l'amour du cinema" into "cinephilia" as early as 1977 (Narboni; Skorecki; and see Rohmer's remarks on the subject in his 1983 interview with Jean Narboni in A Taste for Beauty, 16-17), but despite the attempt to defuse its power by branding it pathologically (Narboni referred, a bit hysterically perhaps, to "the fundamentally homosexual essence of this passion", 30), loving the cinema is not at all the same thing as desiring it, and cannot at all be explained by psychosexual theories of desire, just as love itself defies explanation in those terms.

And, make no mistake, the auteurists were not suffering a psychotic reaction, they were in love (as Adrian Martin understands in "No Flowers for the Cinephile"). I know no more amorous writing than that with which Henri Agel describes his experience of the American cinema after the Second World War. This too must be quoted in French.

C'est aux cours de ces nuits, scintillant de tous les feux du music hall, a travers le grouillement des fetes foraines dignes des premiers Rouault, dans les salles enfumees et suintantes de tous les effluves de Pigalle, que l'enchantement americain est ne pour quelques-uns. Magie impure sans doute et par moments plus proche de l'intoxication du drogue, magie trop melee aux seductions clinquantes et grossieres du Boulevard pour ne pas etre equivoque. Et pourtant, dans la course qui nous menait du Palace refroidi au dernier metro vers l'Etoile, tout commencait a se decanter, a se regrouper selon certaines lignes de force qui dessinaient au cours des semaines une image plus precise et plus dense de Hollywood, non plus celui que nos professeurs prononcaient du bout des levres, mais un creuset en perpetuelle ebullition et dont les ingredients etaient la peur, le rire, l'erotisme, la violence, la tendresse. Bien sur, nous melangions alors le meilleur et le pire. (Agel, 12-13) [My attempt at translation may be taken as typical of what I have done in this way earlier.]

[It was in the course of these nights, glistening with all the fires of the music hall, through swarming carnivals worthy of the early Rouault, in smoke-filled halls oozing with all the effluvia of Pigalle, that for some an American enchantment was born. A magic, doubtless impure and at times closer to a junkie's high, a magic too tied up with the tinsel and vulgarity of the Boulevard not to be ambiguous. And even so, in the trip from the icy Palace to the last metro for Etoile, everything began to decant, to regroup along certain lines of force that in the course of those weeks etched a more precise and more dense image of Hollywood, no longer the one that our professors pronounced with their lips pursed, but a crucible perpetually on the boil in which was blended fear and laughter and eroticism and violence and tenderness. Surely we were mixing thus the best and the worst.]

This lyrical, loving regard mixes everything together, sees everything the same. It is the gaze of populism (turned inward; turned outward populism sees only enemies), it is the mad look of schizophrenia that knows all discrimination is arbitrary and contingent. All these films are family.

And love is a state common to both auteurist and auteur. It may even be what makes them both cineastes. Doniol-Valcroze had found reason for admiring DeMille because the latter took pleasure in making films like the pleasure one takes in breathing: the cinema was the love of his life. Here again two gazes cross one another, two eyes recognise a third dimension, in the way that the donor and the recipient of a gift both recognise "something else" about the object, something missing in accepted accounts of its existence.

And so it is that in the writings of auteurism matters of evaluation are only excuses for polemic. This circumstance is not the result of an absence (a lack) of theory, nor of a loss of nerve, nor is it an evasion of critical responsibility. It is the predictable, reasonable outcome of a relation suffused by love. One may say how one loves, one may describe what one loves, one may make lists of what one loves (and hates), but there are no reasons why, or at least there are none with the force of law, with the power of recreating that passion in another's breast.

For a lover loves precisely what cannot be said of another, the otherness itself. Where desire is (apparently) concerned to destroy its object or be destroyed by it, love requires the maintenance of an interval: the mystery, the difference. A lover looks - but sees another only. And if, as I think must be the case, love is peculiar to human beings, then it is not surprising that she who loves the cinema sees on the movie screen the lineaments of another person, a face, the physiognomy of style.

I do not want to think this, but it is surely the case that here we are in the place where understanding must part from love. Auteurism, in these terms, substitutes the latter for the former. It betrays its object by loving it too well, by seeing it too quickly, seeing through it, betrays it by the impatience of seeing at all, instead of just looking, being content to look, staring into thin air. Love is certain, knows its own worth. Love is the best there is or can be. 23 And understanding? Thin, shivery understanding, full of self-loathing, knowing only ignorance, tentativeness, hope. Strike a match for understanding so that she may warm her hands once more and see where love is, and see where she so wants to be. Strike it quickly, for love, cold love, is kissing her face.


1. Much of this paper was originally conceived and written in 1976. During its long life as a manuscript, this piece has had the benefit of comment by James Leahy, Adrian Martin, Jeff Peck and, as always and especially, Diane. Anna Dzenis and Tom O'Regan provided help, sight unseen. None of its misreadings, stupidities, errors or infelicities can, however, be attributed to those people.

2. That the critical world was primed and waiting for such a development is clear in Riccioto Canudo's 1911 call for "a man of genius . . . [who] will find the ways . . . of an art which will appear for yet a long time marvelous and grotesque" (59) and Louis Reeves Harrison's 1914 references to "the critical instinct of a true artist" and to "genius" (73), among others.

3. This issue (Fall 1963) also contained the Movie editorial board's long and intermittently funny reply to Pauline Kael's "Circles and Squares" attack on auteurism. Both efforts prompted paragraphs of paternalistic scolding from Ernest Callenbach, who also placed a letter from himself ticking off Sarris in the "Correspondence & Controversy" section of the journal. After this issue the feature "Films of the Quarter" in which Macdonald's resignation notice had appeared was dropped, and nothing more was published on the matter.

4. Or so he claimed (Ross 43).

5. "I take it as axiomatic that culture can only be produced by and for human beings. But in so far as people are organized (more strictly, disorganized) as masses, they lose their human identity and quality." ("Mass Culture", 69). Rereading this seminal polemic in tandem with Baudrillard's In The Shadow of the Silent Majorities is a fruitful exercise.

6. In 1978 Sarris published a book called Politics and Cinema in which he acknowledged that, unbeknownst to him, all along "my aesthetics have been my politics" (8) and characterised those politics as "rabidly centrist, liberal, populist, more Christian than Marxist, libertarian to the point of licentiousness" (9-10).

7. This awkwardly arch sentence is partly intended to evoke Robert Benayoun's "The King is Naked" from Positif 46, 1962.

8. Another misreading of auteurism should be mentioned here: John Hess' two part article for Jump Cut in 1974. Hess' misreading selectively distorts what was written by the auteurists in order to describe influences he thinks at work beneath the texts. In spite (or because?) of this, it is an interesting piece. I am not so scientifically motivated as Hess, but I hope I have been more faithful to the texts.

9. See, for example, David Bordwell's admirable capsule summary, complete with a swell critical discovery (that Bazin's taste in 1946 matches early Cahiers' taste) in Making Meaning (43-48). Richard Abel credits Louis Delluc with making the distinction between auteurs and metteurs-en-scene in an article published on 17 August 1918 (284; 575). Of course I am aware of the significance of Positif's brand of auteurism - in many ways more fun, if less reliable. However, no case need be made for classing what Positif did during these years as a critical regard, since everything was accomplished under the sign of a politicised surrealism the aim of which was precisely to show us the world and its films anew. By the same token, I would call what Positif was about "a way of seeing" rather than "a way of looking".

10. See also Jean Domarchi's 1956 piece on American cinema and Marxian criticism, translated as "A Knife in the Wound" in Hillier's Cahiers du Cinema: The 1950s.

11. Where English translations are not available, as in this instance, I have had to do my own. These have been rough and ready, and I apologise for their inaccuracy, crudeness and insensitivity.

12. An exception should perhaps be made for Michel Mourlet and the Presence du Cinema school, whose predilection for mise en scene (and le cinema flegmatique) led them to DeMille, among others. However, Mourlet was only a sojourner in Cahiers and the whole group's inability to say anything productive about the admirable things they admired is very frustrating (see esp, "Sur un Art Ignore", 23-37).

13. One of these (unfavourable) appeared in Cahiers No. 10. It was of The Thing, a film later credited to director Howard Hawks. Hawks is mentioned in the review warmly, but not passionately, only as the man who made "le film le plus intelligent sans doute que l'on a fait sur l'aviation" - Only Angels Have Wings (Mayoux).

14. One cannot do justice to Bazin's complex influence on auteurism in a footnote. The extraordinary coincidence of his 1946 list and the directors who were later to become auteurist favourites has already been mentioned in a previous footnote. Latterly, he did praise Renoir, Rossellini and the American cinema, including some of Howard Hawks' work, and the motivation for his praise is undoubtedly the idea of unedited photographic realism for which he is so well known these days. However, Bazin's taste is primarily defined by his conception of mise en scene (derived from photographic realism) and he favours a style of direction in which conflict occurs within the frame rather than between shots. Thus he praises Wyler and is suspicious of Hitchcock (in, for example, "Hitchcock versus Hitchcock"). Rivette's criteria in the "Art of the Fugue" piece are more limited, a kind of branching subset of Bazinianism, as witness the brevity of his list of favourites.

15. It is also interesting that in this respect Bazin's refutation of auteurism is the opposite of Kael's in her heavily-anthologised article, "Circles and Squares".

16. I am in no doubt whatever that the Cahiers critics were in some measure "influenced" by the rising interest in Saussurean linguistics during this period. Yet at the same time there was some overt resistance to this influence, as evidenced in such remarks as "mise en scene will never be a `language' for Hitchcock" ("L'Art de la Fugue", 51).

17. I do not believe that the X is a consistent Hawks auteurprint. It certainly does not occur in such later films as Airforce, To Have And Have Not and Rio Bravo. However, the point of this pleasant exercise is not to demonstrate directorial consistency (which means very little, as auteurism's critics have pointed out), but to investigate meaning.

18. Here, as in so much else, Truffaut is the exception. The reader will have gathered by this time that I can find little in Truffaut's scrappier, more intuitive, writing to support my case. This is because the man hardly ever wrote anything which was not centred on a specific problem or a specific film. His generalities were all of the polemical variety, all strictly political or poetic, all lies, all himself.

19. The English translation of this piece published in Braudy and Dickstein's Great Film Directors as "Loving Fritz Lang" does not contain any line which corresponds very well with this one.

20. As happens, for example, in a notorious exchange between Vincente Minnelli and the anonymous interviewers of the English auteurist journal, Movie, of which the opening extract is typical:

You seem to love this way of opening a scene . . . You do it all the time. Any particular reason?

I don't know why. Here it seemed right. (Movie Editors, 21)

21. The later history of auteurism - or, rather, of the recognition of the American cinema that auteurism set in train - is one that Dwight Macdonald might have relished, had he deigned to take account of it. For after May 1968, as politics takes command in Cahiers, The New Left Review, Screen, the populist strain within auteurism is simply ignored while Trotskyite criteria are everywhere implicitly accepted as axiomatic. This still seems the dominant paradigm today.

22. This is such a fine piece that I feel it deserves a footnote. In it Comolli first misreads Sergeant York in order to attribute to it a latent politics that he finds congenial, then launches into a wonderfully nuanced discussion of what I have been calling the auteurist way of looking, from which the foregoing quotations have been taken.

23. This is pretty good, don't get me wrong. It is just not what I want here. "Orpheus' gaze is Orpheus' ultimate gift to the work, a gift in which he rejects the work, in which he sacrifices it by moving towards its origin in the boundless impulse of desire, and in which he unknowingly still moves towards the work, towards the origin of the work" (Blanchot, 102-103).

Works cited

Abel, Richard, French Cinema: the First Wave, 1915-1929 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).

Agel, Henri, Romance Americaine, 7e Art 35 (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1963).

Bazin, Andre, "On the Politique Des Auteurs" , trans. Peter Graham 1957, in Jim Hillier ed., Cahiers Du Cinema: The 1950s (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1968), pp.148-259.

--- "Hitchcock Versus Hitchcock," Cahiers du Cinema in English 2 (1966).

Becker, Jacques, Jacques Rivette, and Francois Truffaut, "Howard Hawks". [Interview], 1956, in Andrew Sarris ed., Interviews with Film Directors (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967), 187-96.

Benayoun, Robert, "The King is Naked", 1962, trans. Peter Graham, in Peter Graham ed., The New Wave (New York: Doubleday, 1968), 157-180.

Blanchot, Maurice, "The Gaze of Orpheus," 1955, trans. Lydia Davis, Barrytown, in P. Adams Sitney ed., The Gaze of Orpheus and Other Literary Essays (New York: Station Hill Press, 1981), 99-104.

Bordwell, David, Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1989).

--- "The Classical Hollywood Style, 1917-60." in David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson eds., The Classical Hollywood Cinema (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985), 1-84.

Cahiers Editors, "Editorial," Cahiers du Cinema 31 (Jan. 1954): 1.

--- "Les Meilleurs Films Americains Du Parlant," Cahiers du Cinema 150-151 (Dec. 1963 - Jan. 1964): 248-52.

Canudo, Ricardo, "The Birth of a Sixth Art," 1911, in Richard Abel ed., French Film Theory and Criticism, v. 1. (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1988), 58-66.

Comolli, Jean-Louis, "La Grandeur Du Simple", [Review of Sergeant York], Cahiers du Cinema 135 (Sept. 1962): 54-58.

Domarchi, Jean, "A Knife in the Wound," 1956, in Jim Hillier ed., Cahiers Du Cinema: The 1950s, 235-247.

Doniol-Valcroze, Jacques, "Samson, Cecil et Delila," Cahiers du Cinema 5 (Aug.-Sept. 1951): 19-31.

Gautier, Claude, "[Report on Brussels 1958]," Cahiers du Cinema 90 (Christmas 1958): 15-18.

Gilbert, James Burkhart, Writers and Partisans: A History of Literary Radicalism in America (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1968).

Godard, Jean-Luc, "Supermann", trans. Tom Milne [Review of Man of the West 1959] in Tom Milne ed., Godard on Godard (New York: The Viking Press, 1972), 116-20.

Guarner, Jose Luis, Roberto Rossellini, Praeger Film Library (New York: Praeger, 1970).

Harrison, Louis Reeves, "The Art of Criticism," 1914, in Stanley Kauffman and Bruce Henstell eds., American Film Criticism (New York: Liveright, 1972), 72-74.

Hess, John, "La Politique Des Auteurs," Jump Cut (May and Aug. 1974): 19-22 and 20-22.

Hillier, Jim, ed. Cahiers Du Cinema: The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1985).

Kael, Pauline, "Circles and Squares," Film Quarterly 16:3 (Spring 1963): 12-26.

Macdonald, Dwight. "Films of the Quarter," Film Quarterly 17:1 (Fall 1963): 54-55.

--- "A Theory of Mass Culture." 1953 in B. Rosenberg, and White D.M. Glencoe eds., Mass Culture (New York: The Free Press, 1957), 59-73.

Marcorelles, Louis, "Ford of the Movies," trans. John Caughie, 1958 in John Caughie ed., Theories of Authorship (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981), 69-74.

Martin, Adrian, "No Flowers for the Cinephile," in Paul Foss ed., Island in the Stream (Sydney: Pluto Press 1988), pp.117-138.

Mayoux, Michel, "Venue d'un Autre Monde," [Review of The Thing] Cahiers du Cinema 10 (Mar. 1952): 65.

Mourlet, Michel, "Sur un Art Ignore," Cahiers du Cinema 98 (August 1959): 23-37.

Movie Editors, "Method: Vincente Minnelli", [Interview], Movie 1 (June 1962): 20-24.

Myrsine, Jean, "Gene Kelly, Auteur de Films et Homme-orchestre." Cahiers du Cinema 14 (July - Aug. 1952): 34-38.

Narboni, Jean, "Traquenards", [Review of The American Friend], Cahiers du Cinema 282 (Nov. 1977): 28-32.

Richer, Jean-Jose, "Africacolor", [Review of King Solomon's Mines], Cahiers du Cinema 7 (Dec. 1951): 56-57.

Rieupeyrout, Jean-Louis, "Un Genre Historique: Le Western," Cahiers du Cinema 9 (Feb. 1952): 4-18.

Rivette, Jacques, "L'Art de la Fugue", [Review of I Confess], Cahiers du Cinema 26 (Aug. - Sept. 1953): 49-52.

--- "Genie de Howard Hawks," Cahiers du Cinema 23 (May 1953): 16-23.

--- "The Genius of Howard Hawks," trans. Adrian Brine, Russell Campbell and Marvin Pister, 1953; in Jim Hillier ed., Cahiers Du Cinema: The 1950s, 126-31.

--- "Notes on a Revolution," trans. Liz Heron, 1955, in Jim Hillier ed., Cahiers Du Cinema: The 1950s, 94-97.

Rohmer, Eric, and Claude Chabrol. Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films trans. Stanley Hochman 1957 (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1979).

--- "The American Renoir," 1952, The Taste for Beauty trans. Carol Volk (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989), 173-81.

--- "Howard Hawks: The Big Sky" [Review] 1953, The Taste for Beauty. trans. Carol Volk, (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989), 128-31.

--- "Of Three Films and a Certain School," 1953 trans. Carol Volk in The Taste for Beauty, 58-67.

--- "Rediscovering America," trans. Liz Heron, 1955, in Jim Hillier ed., Cahiers Du Cinema: The 1950s, 88-93.

--- "Le Soupcon" [Review of The Lady Vanishes], Cahiers du Cinema 12 (May 1952): 63-66.

Ross, Andrew, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 1989).

Sarris, Andrew, Politics and Cinema (New York: Columbia UP, 1978).

Sheed, Wilfred. "Milking the Elk," The New York Review of Books 15 April 1976.

Skorecki, Louis, "Contre la Nouvelle Cinephile," Cahiers du Cinema 293 (Oct. 1978): 31-52.

Truffaut, Francois, "Aimer Fritz Lang," [Review of The Big Heat], Cahiers du Cinema 31 (Jan. 1954): 54.

--- "A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema," 1954, Cahiers du Cinema in English 1 (1966).

Verdone, Mario. Roberto Rossellini , trans. J.-P Deporte, and J. Dagnant (Cinema D'Aujourd'hui 15, Paris: Editions Seghers, 1963).

Williamson, Dugald, Authorship and Criticism (Sydney: Local Consumption Publications, 1989).

New: 27 November, 1995 | Withdrawn: 22 November 2001 | Now: 19 March, 2015