PRACTICAL FILMMAKING vs AUTEUR THEORY

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rich

Postby rich » Wed Apr 04, 2007 9:40 am

Brad Stevens wrote:"But the difference between writing an e mail and writing a novel is as vast as the known universe. The difference between writing a book about a filmmaker and BEING a filmmaker is night and orange."

Spoken like man who has never written a book in his life.


Let me see if I can be a bit clearer than Loftus on this point.

There IS a difference between writing an email and a novel. There is a difference between writing a book about a subject, and actually DOING the subject.

I don't think Josh was disparaging either endeavor, though it may come off that way because of the debate that preceded it, but your flippant remark to his statement does indicate a disregard for the quality in either profession, novelist (book writer) or filmmaker. There IS a world of difference between an email and a book as the degree of difficulty/craft/professionalism that separates the average email from the average book. Sure we could split hairs on how many books were written that probably should've stayed emails, but the point remains: It is different.

Look: You've made some valid points, I think. Josh has, too. But this argument was over after about the 3rd page of this thread (and that's charitable). Both of you guys are beating your heads against brick walls, and though we may appreciate the blood spatter, it's getting kinda goofy. Thus, my previous goofy remarks.

But when you retort as you did, Brad, you're not scoring any points, and not only is your head getting bloodier, but now the onlookers are starting to turn away in disgust.

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Postby Josh Olson » Wed Apr 04, 2007 10:29 am

Barber,

"I would agree with your argument that mastering one art form is not the same as mastering another"

Gah! Don't fall into the hole!

I didn't compare writing a novel to writing a screenplay. I wouldn't, either. I wasn't comparing art to art. I compared art to criticism.

It's an interesting rabbit hole we've fallen into here, though. We often toss out the barb that critics cannot create art - Behan's lovely quote about eunichs at the orgy comes to mind - but it's never occurred to me that I might some day stumble across the critic who think the reverse held equal weight.

"Yes, you might be an accomplished artist, but you only do that because you can't write criticism."

To which my response is..... um. Yeah. Okay. Good one. Ouch. You have slain me.

My jaw remains bruised from hitting the floor. And I was standing on a ladder when I read that....

Rich,

Heh. Last week, I got an offer to option an e mail I wrote.

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Postby Moderator » Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:02 am

Yeow. Now I really am going to step into it.

Josh, writing criticism is an art form. I was referring in my original comment, however, to Brad's mention that you should write a book to understand what his point of view is.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to digress from the original criticism (get it, get it?) of the auteur theory, which is that it doesn't address the communal effort of filmmaking and, in a major way, discounts it. I know what the theory suggests -- that a director's thumbprint can be put on a film, and should be -- but I don't agree that it's a) really the case, and b) required for a really good film.

For one thing (IMHO, and as a non-filmmaker), to be truly effective as a director, that person's "style" ought to be chameleonic -- and not overshadow the story or the characterizations. To me, a director who tries too hard to make a film their own vision (solitary, and unshared) becomes too much a one trick pony.

In his own way, Ed Wood is probably a good example of what we're told an auteur is. But I don't know of many people who would regard his work as "good".

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Postby Brad Stevens » Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:04 am

"It's an interesting rabbit hole we've fallen into here, though. We often toss out the barb that critics cannot create art - Behan's lovely quote about eunichs at the orgy comes to mind"

I prefer D H Lawrence's remark about how there was an obvious continuity between the artist's exploration of experience and the critic's exploration of art. Lawrence's STUDIES IN CLASSIC AMERICAN LITERATURE certainly strikes me as being fully the equal of those novels Lawrence was discussing in it. And much the same could be said about Leslie Fiedler's LOVE AND DEATH IN THE AMERICAN NOVEL.

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Postby Brad Stevens » Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:10 am

"There IS a difference between writing an email and a novel. There is a difference between writing a book about a subject, and actually DOING the subject."

This is precisely the problem I have with the 'Screenwriter is God' brigade. There is an enormous difference between conceiving of a film on paper and actually creating that film. There is an enormous difference between coming up with the idea of the opening shot of TOUCH OF EVIL and actually being able to CREATE that shot. Believing that writing a screenplay requires more skill than directing is like believing that masturbation requires more skill than making love.

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Postby David Loftus » Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:19 am

Brad Stevens wrote:"It's an interesting rabbit hole we've fallen into here, though. We often toss out the barb that critics cannot create art - Behan's lovely quote about eunichs at the orgy comes to mind"

I prefer D H Lawrence's remark about how there was an obvious continuity between the artist's exploration of experience and the critic's exploration of art. Lawrence's STUDIES IN CLASSIC AMERICAN LITERATURE certainly strikes me as being fully the equal of those novels Lawrence was discussing in it. And much the same could be said about Leslie Fiedler's LOVE AND DEATH IN THE AMERICAN NOVEL.



* sigh * Yet more isolated examples -- exceptions to the rule -- which distract from substantive discussion of what many of us regard as a rule; in this case, that it's usually easier for artists to do criticism than for critics to do art.

Perhaps the "obvious continuity" Lawrence was alluding to is better illustrated by the fact that there is a lot more bad art out there than good, and correspondingly scads of bad criticism that far outnumbers Lawrence or Fiedler . . . but the latter wasn't an artist, really, was he? I'll substitute T.S. Eliot.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me a lot rarer that plastic artists (painters and sculptors) also practice criticism. If that's true, why might that be? Certainly, there are plenty of musicians who have written intelligently on their art form. . . .
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Moderator » Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:36 am

Brad Stevens wrote:"There IS a difference between writing an email and a novel. There is a difference between writing a book about a subject, and actually DOING the subject."

This is precisely the problem I have with the 'Screenwriter is God' brigade. There is an enormous difference between conceiving of a film on paper and actually creating that film. There is an enormous difference between coming up with the idea of the opening shot of TOUCH OF EVIL and actually being able to CREATE that shot. Believing that writing a screenplay requires more skill than directing is like believing that masturbation requires more skill than making love.


In this, I would agree with you completely -- but where is the "screenwriter is God" contingent of which you speak?

Everyone opposed to the auteur theory here has espoused that criticism because film is a communal endeavor -- one in which the screenwriter creates the story while the director directs and the actors act. The screenwriter is not God, nor are the actors, nor is the director -- but auteurism would have us believe the latter IS God, at the expense of the former two and everyone else on the picture.

If anyone is "God" on a film, it's the executive producer(s) -- and even THEY aren't in COMPLETE control. (Just ask the accountants.)
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Postby Josh Olson » Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:54 am

Barber,

"Josh, writing criticism is an art form. I was referring in my original comment, however, to Brad's mention that you should write a book to understand what his point of view is. "

Yeah, but he was mangling what I said, which was that there's a universe of difference between being a filmmaker and writing about filmmakers.

"Josh, writing criticism is an art form. "

A minor one, at best. A subsidiary art form, if you will. At its best, it exists as a supplement to actual art. Artists can exist without critics. The opposite cannot be said to be true.

Equating a film critic with a filmmaker is ludicrous and wildly insulting. Even having to humor the comparison is ridiculous.
----

Brad,

" There is an enormous difference between conceiving of a film on paper and actually creating that film. "

You simply would not know.

"There is an enormous difference between coming up with the idea of the opening shot of TOUCH OF EVIL and actually being able to CREATE that shot."

What you mean is that it's different to conceive the shot and another to implement it. And you're right.

Welles conceived the shot. Whether it was in the script or not is irrelevant (Especially since he wrote it), but the end result is the same. Either on the page, or verbally, he described the shot to his cinematographer, his actors, his first AD, his stunt co-ordinator, his gaffer, and the extras wrangler. They, in turn, went on to CREATE the shot.

So if we're crediting the shot to whoever actually MADE it, the credit must go to all those worthies. If we're going to credit it to whoever conceived it, then that credit should go to Welles, but now you're giving creative authorship to the person who conceived the thing, and that sort of kills your whole ridiculous theory dead, now, doesn't it?

"Believing that writing a screenplay requires more skill than directing is like believing that masturbation requires more skill than making love."

While I have no doubt you're qualified to expound on the subject of masturbation, you are not at all qualified to make that statement.

I remain endlessly fascinated by your capacity to have every single solitary argument you make shot down in flames and still come back, clinging to your arrant nonsense.

"But wait!" says Brad. "I can name a director who operated his own camera, wrangled his own extras, and starred in his own movies!"

It's become high comedy....

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Postby Brad Stevens » Wed Apr 04, 2007 12:05 pm

I'm starting to find that destroying Josh's arguments is taking up far too much of my time. Fortunately, his arguments have become so silly that I've discovered I merely have to move a few of his statements around, and let his arguments destroy themselves:

Josh says "there's a universe of difference between being a filmmaker and writing about filmmakers."

And I use Josh's words to respond: "You simply would not know."

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Postby Moderator » Wed Apr 04, 2007 12:40 pm

Okay. So you're both arguing that the other doesn't know what you know and so therefore their argument is specious.

_________________________________


And Josh: "Equating a film critic with a filmmaker is ludicrous and wildly insulting. Even having to humor the comparison is ridiculous."

Why? They're radically different skills and radically different approaches. Not sure why you'd be insulted by the simple reference that criticism is an art form.

(BTW - I'm not equating them, they are different things and need to be judged independently of each other -- but I do respect what critics do if they have a responsible approach. )

Is it filmmaking, no. Of course not. It's not supposed to be. Harlan once made a very decent living as a film critic, and has a much better sense of what it takes to make movies than do mosty critics. But I can't out of hand, dismiss all critics because they're not filmmakers.

Secondly, is criticsm useful? It can be if (as noted above) approached properly. Telling a filmmaker what you didn't like is not the same as telling them how to do it better.

But artistically, I'm sure you'd agree that a photographer is not on the same level as a cinematographer. They use similar skills, but in a dramatically different way. Likewise a critic writes, but uses a completely different skillset than does a screenwriter.
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Postby Josh Olson » Wed Apr 04, 2007 12:48 pm

Well, yeah, Brad. I would. Like anyone who works in a particular field, I studied mine first. Part of that led me to film school for a period, where, believe it or not, I had to write thoughtful analyses and criticisms. As I mentioned, I was even at the forefront of the critical movement that eventually led to people like you writing hagiographic wank fests about Abel Ferrara. When I was promoting him as a contender, it was not already a given.

So even if we lived in a universe where your notion that being a critic was the artistic equivalent of being an artist was anything but laughable, I could STILL say I know more about what we're discussing here than you do. And, for the record - no artist needs to prove himself a worthy critic to be an artist. Hell, no artist has to put up with the insane and insulting bullshit you're slinging here, frankly. When this started, I knew you weren't qualified to discuss the process of making movies. I'm now convinced you're not even qualified to be a critic.

You have deluded yourself into thinking that you are something more than a remora to the people who create the work that gives your professional life meaning. It's a serious, massive delusion, and it leads you to make statements that are insanely insulting to those of us who actually have the chops to do this for a living.

As you said, you wanted to make movies for a living, but realized you couldn't. I feel your pain. Had I come to such a realization, I'm not sure how I would have coped with it. I'm reasonably certain, however, that wouldn't end up telling artists that I understood their art better than they did.

You have devolved to a state of "I'm rubber, you're glue." I am not kind enough to leave it alone, so really, your best bet is to just stop, man.

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Postby David Loftus » Wed Apr 04, 2007 12:50 pm

Barber wrote:Secondly, is criticsm useful? It can be if (as noted above) approached properly. Telling a filmmaker what you didn't like is not the same as telling them how to do it better.


I find it amusing that anyone would argue that's a critic's job. As a critic, I never presume to tell an author, a scuptor or painter, or film director anything. I don't see them as my audience.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Josh Olson » Wed Apr 04, 2007 12:55 pm

Barber,

Jesus. No. A critic can bring art and craft to his work, but criticism is not an art form in itself. It is a handmaid to art. It is a refuge for people who cannot create, or for creators who are not, at the moment, engaged in the act of creation. Not knocking it at all. Just clarifying what it is.

I love Harlan's reviews, but I'll happily tell you I know what his answer will be when I ask if he thinks his review of Outland is on par with Jefty is Five.

One creates. One comments on that creation.

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Postby Jim Davis » Wed Apr 04, 2007 1:19 pm

Josh Olson wrote:Jesus. No. A critic can bring art and craft to his work, but criticism is not an art form in itself. It is a handmaid to art. It is a refuge for people who cannot create, or for creators who are not, at the moment, engaged in the act of creation. Not knocking it at all. Just clarifying what it is.

One creates. One comments on that creation.


Roll over, Beethoven, and tell Clive James, John Simon, Stanley Crouch, Susan Sontag, Leslie Fiedler, Gary Giddins, Pauline Kael, Roland Barthes, Lester Bangs, Robert Hughes, William Benjamin, Jacques Barzun, Lionel Trilling, Harold Bloom, Robert Christgau, Manny Farber, and Greil Marcus the news! They didn't create anything! (What a relief to know their books aren't actually taking up space on my shelves.)
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"His plan therefore was not to refuse admission to the idea, but to keep it at bay until his mind was ready to receive it. Then let it in and pulverise it. Obliterate the bastard."--Samuel Beckett

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Postby Brad Stevens » Wed Apr 04, 2007 1:25 pm

"I was even at the forefront of the critical movement that eventually led to people like you writing hagiographic wank fests about Abel Ferrara"

I'm actually quite flatterered to learn that you bothered to read my Abel Ferrara book, even if you did conclude that it was a hagiographic wank fest.

Or is it that you are venturing an opinion on a book you haven't read? No, that can't be it it. At this point, I don't really have a great deal of respect for your intelligence, but I can't believe you could possibly be that mind-bogglingly stupid.

"As you said, you wanted to make movies for a living, but realized you couldn't"

Actually, I never wanted to make films: I knew perfectly well that I could never approach the achievements of the directors I admired. That's not quite the same thing.

"Jesus. No. A critic can bring art and craft to his work, but criticism is not an art form in itself. It is a handmaid to art. It is a refuge for people who cannot create"

You might as well say that art is a refuge for people who are afraid of real life.


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