Confessions of an Auteurist

Sorry for the tease post headline, but I couldn't resist. No I'm not becoming an out-and-out auteurist, but for the intro class I've been rereading (first time in years) Andrew Sarris's The American Cinema. Even if one doesn't ascribe to his grand methodological pronouncements (I don't), the books still is impressive with the subtlety of argument lurking beneath the polemicism. A lot of people either misrepresent Sarris or treat him as straw man. I can think of no worse way to spend an afternoon than to peruse Sarris for his almost castaway insights that are worthy of full-fledged scholarly inquiry....

on Dreyer: "The late Robert Warshow treated Carl Dreyer as a solitary artist and Leo McCarey as a social agent, but we know now that there were cultural influences in Denmark operating on Dreyer. Day of Wrath is superior by any standard to My Son John, but Dreyer is not that much freer an artist than McCarey. His chains are merely less visible from our vantage point..." (36)

on Ford: "The Left has always been puritanical, but never more so than in the thirties when Hollywood's boy-girl theology threatened to paralyze the class stuggle. In such an epoch, even an Irish-Catholic conservative like Ford could be mistaken for a progressive force." (45)

on Zinneman: "Fred Zinneman's career reflects the rise and fall of the realist aesthetic in Hollywood." (168)

Like other such grand pronouncements, these are less the final word on the subject than a spark of rhetoric that puts in motion a question that film scholars would be well to answer - or to figure out best how to answer.

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