A. History of Cinema
To understand exactly where the term ‘auteur’ came from we must look in cinematic development in a historical view. Early 20th Century French Cinema has always had an important role in film history. American and Hollywood films quickly dominated the international cinema even through the silent era. The French Cinema was a strong artistic force in the 1920’s with Paris a cultural hub in Europe. France made films like Un Chien Andalou (1929) by director Luis Buñuel and The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer. Until sound came into films, French productions were s mall, artisanal operations and sound changed that. Powerful and international foreign studios came in and made base in France. Paramount Studios came to France in 1930 in Joinville-le-point and made a studio to make films into different languages. Before that, in 1929, Tobis-Klangfilm a German sound company opened their base in Épinay-sur-Seine and from here came one of the internationally recognized achievement of the sound era of films in the form of Sous Les Toits de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris) directed by René Clair in 1930.
The demand for films became higher and as a resort more and more directors and film makers turned to sound. Theatres and musicals became centre of attention and adapted literary and stage adaptations. Pathé Frères and Gaumont were two of the film companies that dominated the production and distribution of French films. There was an artistic push-back in the rise of a filmic movement called Poetic Realism around the 30’s in which studio’s films with a fatalistic view of life (focus on disappointment, estrangement and nostalgia lens). The most prominent French poetic realist was Jean Renoir whose films enjoyed international acknowledgement. When the Nazis marched into Paris during the World War I, filmmakers as well as Renoir fled. Those film makers that stuck around continued to make films but under the supervision of German occupation. Escapist films were made as well as the adaption of literary works under censorship. British and American films were banned so French films dominated with more light-hearted and pleasant stage-plays and theatres that distracted people from the less than pleasant reality they are faced with.
B. Origin of Auteur-ism
After this phase, the French cinema was stronger. The ban over American films was lifted and so Hollywood films rushed in and French films productions went back to how it is before the war. A small group of people rose up against this old way of thinking. Feeling as though something was missing from the films being made at the time, they established themselves as film critics and implemented cinema and film as art. After France was liberated, the Cinephile movement was initiated. This generation of people grew up with French and American films prominent as they grew up. André Bazin and Jacques Daniol-Valcroze started a Magazine called “Cahiers Du Cinéma” with film critics François Truffaut, Jean-Luc and several others. This “Cahiers Du Cinéma” was based off of on two principles: based on Andre Bazin’s Rejection of Montage in favour of Mise en scéne and from Alexandre Astruc’s essay where the director would a camera the same way a writer uses a pen.
François Truffaut took these two principles and made “La politique des auteur” that has a heavy emphasis on plot and dialogue.
There were definitely economic and/or financial limits existing for the film makers. In the early 1950´s, the government only gave money to film makers and directors with established reputations. But, at the end of the decade, funds were given based on the quality of the script of the film.
Francis Truffaut´s article, “A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema” was a form of denunciation to the commercial French films (to which he called the “Tradition of Quality”). This opinion of Truffaut is very often considered to be the rise of the French New Wave of filmmakers, many of whom were associated in the Cahiers du Cinéma.
According to Andrew Sarris, an auteur will be technically advanced, will have an individual style which is distinct from other directors, and will produce films which have ‘interior meaning’ – which indicated that the director´s personality will somehow shine through to his work.