The below is my first assignment for the Raindance MA degree. The assignment is to write an introductory blog post on ‘a significant film’.
A Chacun Son Cinéma
The authorial voice in a significant film
The New Zealand International Film Festival. 2008. Sitting in the back of The New Zealand Film Archive cinema. Excitement fills the darkened room. Granted, this could have been mainly from me, about to see something I had been eagerly anticipating. The screen fills with a series of three-minute short films from 35 auteurs from around the world, an anthology of films on Film: a series of love letters to the Cinema.
For my first assignment for my MA programme, I have been asked to write a blog post on ‘My significant film’. This could be the film that compelled me to become a filmmaker; the film that inspired me; a film with deep and resounding significance.
I am not writing about that film. Because I do not have one significant film. There is not one film that compelled me to become a filmmaker, nor is there one film that compelled me to become a Producer. There are many films. Or rather, there is Film.
Instead I am writing about a film that represents FILM, and the love of Film.
This is ‘A Chacun Son Cinéma / To Each His Own Cinema’ (2007). The extended title continues with “ou Ce petit coup au coeur quand la lumière s’éteint et que le film commence”, or “or the beat the heart skips when the lights go down and the film starts” (‘To Each His Own Cinema’, IMDb).
This anthology was produced for the 60th Festival To Cannes as a Love Letter to cinema. The directors were from around the world, giving a global representative voice to the project. The 33 shorts were made by recognisable directors with acclaimed bodies of work; in the case of the Coen and Dardenne brothers, these were directing teams.
Every one of the filmmakers are recognised as an Auteur.
The word auteur in French translates to author; however the academic term ‘Auteur’ bears new meaning. The concept of Auteur was born from Les Cahiers Du Cinéma, a French film criticism magazine, started in 1951 (now online at cahiersducinema.com). In the January 1954 article ‘Une certain tendence du cinéma français’, François Truffaut proposed a ‘politique des auteurs’ – “a policy of focusing criticism primarily upon directors and specifically upon chosen directors whose individuality of style qualified them, in the eye of the Cahiers team, as ‘auteurs’” (Sarris, 1963). Andrew Sarris, in his article ‘Notes On The Auteur Theory in 1962’, shortened and translated this ‘politique des auteurs’ to ‘Auteur Theory’ (Buscombe, 1973).
Auteur Theory bases itself in the idea that an author is the key creative voice in the production of a text; in cinematic terms, this is the director being the author, or auteur, of the film. Les Cahiers du Cinéma stated that not all directors reach the echelon of Auteur, staying within the realm of metteur-en-scène (someone who simply places within the stage), rather than being distinctive and recognisable as an Auteur. Their collection of Auteurs were considered the ultimate list, although regularly revised and revisited. Certain directors met their list of auteurs; these being predominantly European. The critics further extended their analyses to include John Ford, suggesting that his work within the Hollywood Studio System shows a directorial voice despite the system’s restrictions, thus making him an auteur: thereby “Ford” can be both read in the film text and positioned outside it as author (Wollen, 1972).
Back in the Film Archive in 2008, the screen opened on an empty cinema. A static camera one-shot from the back of the cinema. A film plays on the diegetic screen with actor’s off-screen voices. An ethereal surreal horror film about a dancer. Giant scissors cut the on-screen screen. Images exploded from the screen into the cinema. It is hard to describe. The short faded to black. The audience erupted into applause and laugher when all was explained with the following…
A David Lynch Film
Lynch’s avant-garde surrealist style was evident in his short, ‘Absurda’ (Lynch, 2007); if not during the short, then once his name appeared on screen, for those who know his oeuvre.
Other films were similarly recognisable by their directors: Ken Loach’s naturalistic conversation in ‘Happy Ending’ (Loach, 2007); Lars von Trier’s violence in ‘Occupations’ (von Trier, 2007); Wong Kar-Wai’s luscious visuals in ‘I Travelled 9000 km To Give It To You’ (Wong, 2007). The entire oeuvre is a representation of the Auteur Theory. Here we have master filmmakers showing their craft in concise three-minute short films.
The most significant of the shorts was, for me, that of a filmmaker whom I have studied since first studying film: the quintessential Australasian female auteur, the only female and the only Antipodean to have been invited to make a short as part of this project, Kiwi director, Jane Campion. From the opening of her short ‘The Lady Bug’ (Campion, 2007), I recognised her work. It is sometimes hard to dictate what makes a text recognisably of one person. For me, it could have been the colours, the shot composition, the female character, the location (a school hall similar to all those I have ever been in). I don’t know. But what I do know is that the short was recognisably a Campion film.
‘A Chacun Son Cinéma’ represents, for me, an opportunity to see the Auteur Theory in practice. These directors are masters in their field. The anthology is a masterclass in directorial voice, an exercise in mastery of the short form from talented authors. It was an introduction to new storytellers, as a taster of their style, as well as an opportunity to revisit the work of known filmmakers. I recommend ‘A Chacun Son Cinéma’ for every short film maker to see how it is done.
- Absurda. (2007). Short film. Directed by David Lynch. [Online]. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5kyNorrWLc. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- A Chacun Son Cinéma. 2007. Film. Miscellaneous directors. [DVD]. France: Pyramide Distribution.
- BARTHES, R (1975). ‘Death of the Author’. In: HEATH, S. (trans). Image, Music, Text. New York: Hill and Wang. pp. 142-148
- BRUNETTE, Peter. (2007) ‘To Each HIs Own Cinema (Chacun Son Cinema)’. [Online] Screen Daily. http://www.screendaily.com/to-each-his-own-cinema-chacun-son-cinema/4032712.article.[Accessed 27 September 2015].
- BUSCOMBE, E.(1973). ‘Ideas of Authorship’. [Online] Screen (1973) 14 (3). pp. 75-85. Accessed from http://screen.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/3/75.extract#. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- Cahiers de Cinema. (no date). [Online]. Available from http://www.cahiersducinema.com/. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- Chacun Son Cinema (To Each His Own Cinema). (no date). Festival de Cannes. [Online]. Available from http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/archives/ficheFilm/id/44f74064-9e58-4d60-86e1-c5dfa74ad89a/year/2007.html. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- DE VILLIERS, N. ‘We Are The World Cinema’. (2007). Senses of Cinema. [Online] . Available from http://sensesofcinema.com/2007/feature-articles/chacun-son-cinema/. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- François Truffaut & Auteur Theory. (2011). Notes on Short Film. [Online]. Available from https://alisashortfilm.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/francois-truffaut-auteur-theory/. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- Happy Ending. (2007). Short film. Directed by Ken Loach. [Online]. Available from http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x9cbm4_happy-ending-ken-loach_shortfilms. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- I Travelled 9000 km To Give It To You. (2007). Short film. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai. [Online]. Available from http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2baxk_wong-kar-wai-i-travelled-9000-km-to_shortfilms. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- New World Encyclopedia. (no date). ‘Cahiers du Cinema’. [Online]. Available from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Cahiers_du_Cinema. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- Nga Taonga New Zealand Film Archive. (no date). [Online]. Available from http://www.ngataonga.org.nz/. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- NINVOID99. (2013). ‘The Auteurs: Jane Campion’. [Online]. Cinema Axis. Available at http://cinemaaxis.com/2013/09/30/the-auteurs-jane-campion/. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- Occupations. (2007). Short film. Directed by Lars von Trier. [Online]. Available from https://vimeo.com/92757522. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- SARRIS, A. (1963). ‘Notes On The Auteur Theory in 1962’. Film Culture no. 27, Winter 1962-3, pp. 6-7.
- SARRIS, A. (1963). ‘The Auteur Theory and the Perils of Pauline’. [Online]. Film Quarterly. Vol. 16, No. 4 (Summer, 1963), pp. 26-33. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3185951?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- The Internet Movie Database IMDb. (no date). ’To Each His Own Cinema’. [Online]. Available from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0973844/. [Accessed 26 September 2015].
- The New Zealand International Film Festival. (no date). [Online]. Available from http://nziff.co.nz. [Accessed 27 September 2015].
- TOURTELLOTTE, B. ‘Cannes directors peer into cinema’s past’. (2007). Reuters. [Online]. Available from http://uk.reuters.com/article/2007/05/21/uk-cannes-history-idUKL2018220520070521.[Accessed 27 September 2015].
- WOLLEN, P. (1972). Signs and Meaning in the Cinema. London: Secker and Warburg.