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Posts Tagged ‘Ethan Mordden’

I am deeply indebted to my ol’ pal J.W. Hastings for pointing me in the direction of this comment-thread excursion into the (n)ontology of the “auteur theory.” (On Dave Kehr‘s blog.)

Now, this might sound bizarre, coming from a person who plans to write a lot about people like Dieterle, Borzage, Vidor, Capra, Edmund Goulding, Anatole Litvak, Ida Lupino, Sirk, Carl Th. Dreyer, Cassavetes, De Palma, Lynch, Verhoeven, Sofia Coppola, etc. ad infinitum on this site–but of course the auteur theory is a faith-based proposition!! Interpretation itself is a kind of self-delusion–albeit an enjoyable, and, often, very useful one. No one is more delighted than I to discover that Six Hours To Live and Portrait of Jennie were directed by the same person. The license to think of these two works in juxtaposition opens up a lot of opportunities for thought–but it’s still just a license, granted by scholarly custom and liable to be revoked at any time. It has nothing to do with “reality,” whatever that is.

I’m just as excited by Ethan Mordden‘s project of treating the Hollywood Studios as “auteurs,” or by the idea of treating star personae/genres as the primary building blocks of classical Hollywood analysis. It’s all good–as long as no one ever falls into the trap of believing that they’ve uncovered the “key to all filmographies.” (ah Casaubon, your brand of “feeb inquiry” never goes out of style, does it?)

The (intermittent) value of the Kehr thread is that it exposes the ways in which a particular religious culture (why German Romanticism is seen as distinct from Judeo-Christianity, I’ll never know!) has privileged ONE way of linking up the films (through the conveniently Godlike chimera of “the director”) over the others (i.e. “crass, faceless, commmercial” studios and/or genres, “mere” agents of the divine force, etc.)

I’ve always wanted to junk the term “auteur” and replace it with “pseudauteurial node of meaning,” but that’s not nearly as pithy is it?

good afternoon friends!

Dave

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