The Film Artist - Film Theory and Criticism Introductory...

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Film Theory and Criticism Introductory Readings EIGHTH EDITION EDITED BY Leo Braudy University of Southern California Marshall Cohen Universi ty of Southern California New Yor k Oxford Oxford Un iversity Press
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SECTION VI The Film Artist T he infant American film b4siness grew into a multi-million-dollar industry in the first decade of the twentieth century. By the mid-1910s, in the years during a nd just after World War I, that industry organized itself according to what came to be called the Hollywood studio system (although, in fact, the final power of the sys tem resided not in th e Hollywood studios where the films were made but in the New York business offices where they were financed and distributed). Consolidated at the same time as He11ry Ford's automobile assembly plant, the Holl ywood st udio also resembled a factory where goods-motion pic- ture entertainments-were manufactured for a mass audience. The films rolled down the assembly line, like one of Henry Ford's Model A's, through story de- partment s, past department s of scenic and costume design, and onto the set where technicians (scenic and make-up craftsmen, camera and lighting crews) and actors united to help shape the final product. Then it continued down the line to the cutting and release de partm e nt s, until it was shipped to the company's showrooms- whether the s mall-town Bijous or the big-city Movie Palaces. From its beginning s, this industrialized studio system provoked a predictable question: how can a work of art result from such varied intentions and collective labors? For years, most American critics argued (or simply assumed) that, whatever the product of this mec hanized assembly of disparate talents was, it was not art. They considered it to be, instead, mere commercial entertainment that could not be compared to the "art films" ofEurope or the " underground" films of the per- sonal, experimental filmmaker. Ford's assembly line may have made the luxury of automobile ownership possible for a majority of Americans. But when Hollywood similarly brought dram a and comedy into the lives of millions, the result, accord- ing to such critics, was not the expansion of art but its debasement. One early reply to this argument was to deny that a purely aesthetic intention or the vision of a single artist is necessary to create a work of art. The art historian Erwin Panofsky specifically compared the making of a film to the building of a 395
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396 THE FILM ARTIST cathedral, for the cathedral was the result of the collective labor of as many spe- cialists as a Hollywood film. Fran<;:ois Truffaut, beginning in 1954 with his essay, "On a Certain Tendency of the French Cinema," took the opposite tack and argued instead for a theory of film art that drew upon Romantic ideas of solitary aesthetic creation. His "politique d es aute urs" defended the Hollywood studio film by maintaining that, alth ough unappreciated or even unnoticed, the work of an author , an auteur, cou ld be seen in many Hollywood films. This auteur was not the film's scriptwriter, however,
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  • Spring '14
  • CharlesM.Chilcoat
  • Film director, Auteur theory, film artist

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