The website mubi.com, formerly known as "TheAuteurs.com", after a couple year of "beta testing", finally figured out that they didn't hold the exclusive patent for the word "auteur" in America, and changed their brand to a less megalomaniac name!
They imagined that auteurism could be a capitalist corporation, and that slapping the logo "auteur" on their products would automatically make any movie, regardless for the effective control the director had on the whole production, a "film d'auteur". Film theory is that easy in the USA. You can buy yourself legitimacy if you don't have any. Gerald Peary even rewrites history in his documentary on American Criticism and made Andrew Sarris the inventor of auteurism! But when your audience doesn't even know that non-English languages exist, that there is a film press in other countries... you can get away with pretty much anything. So why not do it if you can.
That's how you destroy the cinephile culture in a country, to replace it with star-system fandom which every critics continue to feed year after year. They don't have no "auteurism" in Hollywoodland, the monster they've created is Actorism.
Pauline Kael didn't care about the proper theory, she had an auteur-radar in her guts. The Paulettes didn't care. And that's how you arrive at a cultural state where "auteurs" means "my favourite directors", "cinéaste" [French translation : filmmaker] means "cinéma enthusiast", "montage" [editing] means "metaphorical collage", "Tradition de Qualité" means "mediocre independent art films"... That's the kind of "healthy culture" they firmly believe they get. But if you don't do anything against the spread of deception, you get the cultural climate you deserve.
Last month I received a telling email from TheAuteurs, an impersonal publicity spam asking me to vote for them to win a Webby award (whatever that is). The visual was saying something like : "if you like Hitchcock, Scorsese, Godard, Kubrick, Renoir, Coppola... vote for our website" (or whichever well known auteurs of the same stature). So basically they don't expect to win an award for the work they authored themselves, film reviews, VOD distribution... they don't ask if we like what they actually do to deserve one, they just skip that part and go directly to the source and steal some of the fame off of someone else's hardwork. Clever marketing indeed. Nothing unusual. But it reveals a certain mentality.
It's like if the Academy awarded the Best Picture Oscar to Rotten Tomatoes for syndicating film reviews so admirably, and granting that film a 99% at the tomatometer! Way to go living off of someone else's success.
In China they say that if you point at the Moon, the fools will only look at the finger pointing at it...
Apparently they did win that award. I guess the fans did like the namedropping. And they wanted me to believe it was an obscur website with low traffic... Good job!
I had high hopes when they announced in Cannes last year to offer FREE streaming of films restored by the World Cinema Foundation. And when they accepted my project of a yearly roundtable to discuss important issues, internationally and collectively, called Epilogue. Unfortunately these were one-shot stunts to fill the "air-time" (which they are dedicated to pack densely and quickly). Doing these things once a year is more than enough, and they didn't repeat the exercise, or just forgot about it, which is worse. That is not the level of commitment towards Web 2.0, open access, and educational cinephilia I expected from this self-appointed "auteurist" source. But we have different priorities most obviously, and irreconcilable cultural barriers. Their loss!
Now by liberating yourself from the cumbersome legacy of "auteurism", you're free to go full blown commercial, without the guilt of calling it "auteurism". They will continue to link publicity stunts, press kit marketing and vacuous blurbs, they will sell VOD of whatever movies they fancy, auteurs or not, in the hope to become Netflix or RottenTomatoes.
Never underestimate the appeal of populism in American "culture".
Could have become the rebirth of SERIOUS, INDEPENDENT film culture online in the USA...
As long as American film critics won't do their job by taking into consideration the structural flaws of the system they feed, the international context they live in, they won't have a relevant presence in World culture. (Not that they'd care if they don't; it doesn't matter cause American Film Criticism is #1 in America!) While they would normally have the prerogative (because of the overall power of their film industry) to claim top spot in film culture as well... Only Hollywood is capable to truly influence the (popular) culture throughout the world. Why American Film Criticism can not?
Anyway, welcome back in the public domain to our cherished word "auteur"!
P.S. this kind of cynical provocation is not enough to shake up the complacent inertia that paralyzes the cinema intelligentsia. And by calling it "arrogance" and "elitism" (because sarcasm is too tough for the delicate nature of people whose job is to give a thumb up or down in a wink to months of hard labor) they will feel better about themselves and look away from the long-overdue necessary introspection that might shatters their illusions. That's also called "denial".