There is, needless to say, much confusion about what "auteurism", or the "auteur theory", means and how its definitions shifted. At the time, the general claim against cinema being True Art was that it was "art by committee" and lacked the individual expression of writers, poets, painters, musicians, and architects to their mediums. The movies that had cultural cachet then were the French version of Oscar Bait — films with prestigious literary pedigree, which the Cahiers critics noted were often flat as cinema, with little creativity in camera and editing technique compared to, say, a film by Alfred Hitchcock which abounded with invention. Advertisement: Truffaut argued in favor of directors like the independent for France, that is Robert Bresson, who were driven by their strong identification with the material and shaped a film in the same way that authors shaped books. He and his friends argued that the director was the chief visionary of the film, and any good or great film was a matter of how the director expressed his style or personality on a film through their choice of camera set-ups, compositions, editing strategy, and direction of actors.
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Often referred to as a founding father of the industry, he brought the idea of providing critical feedback to the public and helped others see the value of such an interpretation. His most influential idea was the auteur theory. Comparing Steven Spielberg to Michelangelo might seem ridiculous to some, but Sarris suggests that art is found in both mediums when there is a certain ambitiousness to the effort.
Even when there is studio influence on a film that is being made, Sarris suggests through auteur theory that the creative voice of a director is still distinct enough to be detected. This theory has led to several important innovations within the cinematic industry.
For example, the auteur is the person who holds the original copyright of a piece. In Europe, auteur theory has influenced the law to the point that a director is treated as an author of the film, even if they were not part of the story development or script-writing process.
That is why a film has a certain voice from a directing standpoint. It is also why film critics focus on the directing and craftsmanship of the film, not just the story or the acting, when offering feedback to the general public.
What the director does is use the eye of each camera to create a visual representation of the story that was composed. In a way, the job of the director is to eliminate the imagination of the person enjoying the film.
Like a writer needs to find their own voice, directors must develop their own eye. Not every writer tries to be unique or follow a distinct vision, which is similar to directors that look to mass-produce cinema to create profits for their studio. Many writers and directors follow formulaic patterns to create products for consumption. There are, however, certain directors that have distinctive works that an audience instantly recognizes. Alfred Hitchcock is often thought of as being the greatest director of this type but Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder, and David Lean are great examples of the validity of auteur theory as well.
Additional directors who are thought of as having distinctive voices include the following. Clint Eastwood.
Andrew Sarris - Notes on the Auteur Theory from 1962
Andrew Sarris Auteur Theory Explained