Hitchcock and auteur theory
The Andrew Sarris essay, “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962”, argues that the auteur film is not always bad even if there is a bad director. Sarris gives the example of Marlon Brando and his film One-Eyed Jacks and how he thinks it was better than many films without directors. Also, that there are so many other elements to look at in a film such as the script, the music, the costuming and the acting, rather than just focusing on the director. To what extent is a director really needed, in some cases? Another argument is that the film should be an extension of the director’s mind (when there is one); his thoughts, his perspectives, his visions. The auteur always has a ‘signature style’, or recurring elements of the film that really just personalizes his or her films. It also becomes part of the auteur’s identity. The essay also says that ultimately films are art and there is always more than one meaning, which comes from the director’s views and persona. The mise-en-scene is very important in the auteur theory because what the director puts into the scene sets the tone for the whole movie, and essentially could make or break the film.
Sarris classifies these three premises of auteur theory as concentric circles, with underlying meaning as the inner circle, the auteur’s personal style as the second circle, and the technique as the outside circle. The essay mentions Hitchcock as an important auteur much like Maurice Yacowar’s “Hitchcock’s Imagery and Art.” The Yacowar essay says Hitchcock’s “delight is to make his moral points through exciting fictions, reminding his audiences of the difficulties of moral life…” and talks of the tensions between innocence and guilt. This is described as Hitchcock’s signature style and Yacowar mentions North by Northwest as one filled with moral issues and innocence and guilt. Yacowar believes Hitchcock is bored with morality, and finds sin much more exciting for his films and audiences. As an auteur, Hitchcock has much more decision-making power in his films, and being a famous auteur gives him even more creative authority because the stars and other people working on the film know that the film will already be catered to a certain audience and will be associated with his name, and therefore more likely to become popular. Alfred Hitchcock is known for his suspense and his art is based on the “dramatic appeal of the insecure” (Yacowar, 205). Hitchcock usually has several common obstacles for his protagonists, such as police, as seen constantly in North by Northwest, and there is also always a conflict between a character’s love and duty. For example, in North by Northwest, Eve’s internal conflicts between her love for Thornhill or her duty as a spy. These reoccurring elements in plot really characterize the film as Hitchcock’s and add to his popularity as a respected auteur. Yacowar explains all of the common themes in Hitchcock’s movie and all of the different movies the different elements are known for.
Braudy, Leo, and Marshall Cohen. “Andrew Sarris’s “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962″” Film Theory and Criticism. Sixth ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 561-64. Print.
Yacowar, Maurice. “Hitchcock’s Imagery and Art.” Hitchcock’s British Films. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1977. N. pag. Print.