15 mai 2010

"Auteurs" back in Public Domain!

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".

5 commentaires:

HarryTuttle a dit…

Audio interview JLG/Cohn-Bendit (Télérama, 17 Mai 2010) [MP3] :

JLG : Dans "Politique des auteurs" ils ont retenu "auteur". Nous tout ce qu'on voulait dire c'est : celui qui fait le film c'est le metteur en scène, à une époque où le réalisateur d'Hollywood avait juste un contrat de technicien.

COHN-BENDIT : Dans le film Death of a Salesman (1985), Dustin Hoffman a fait refaire le montage! et Schlöndorff n'avait rien à dire, il était technicien.

JLG : Non. Si tu tournes avec les nord-américains... En France on a un système : on a le droit moral, qui est inaliénable. C'est à dire que tu ne vends pas ton droit d'auteur. C'est une cession des droits d'auteurs. Tu cède le droit de l'exploiter, contre tant... Mais ton droit moral est inaliénable.
Par example, moi je ne suis pas l'auteur d'A bout de souffle selon la loi. C'est Truffaut, parce qu'il a écrit le scénario. Encore aujourd'hui, on est plus que jamais dans un domaine littéraire. Les 3/4 des metteurs en scène sont fiers de mettre "écrit et réalisé". [...]
Si tu signes un contrat aux Etats-Unis, ils te font enlever... C'est pour ça qu'un contrat que j'avais récemment n'a pas marché. Ils me disaient : vous nous cédez, vous oubliez le droit moral. Mais je leur ai dit : vous signez avec un citoyen français, je ne peux pas, c'est contre la loi. Et ça s'est arrêté..."

HarryTuttle a dit…

Bazinian, Neo-Bazinian, and Post-Bazinian Film Studies :

Bazin's legacy has the same problem as Deleuze's. there are more people who pretend they've read Deleuze than critics who actually prove in their writing that they understood his conecpts and reuse them appropriately...

HarryTuttle a dit…

Efe Cakarel (founder of TheAuteurs/mubi.com) in Film Comment, Jan 2009 :
"I have a confession to make: I only became a cinephile after I founded The Auteurs. Yes, I loved Chunking Express and Band of Outsiders, but I’ve never followed Cannes or Berlin, or passionately hunted down obscure films. I also knew absolutely nothing about film distribution. But I knew two things really well: 1) how to build Web applications, from concept to interface design to programming; and 2) how to do deals. [..]

We have framed our site under The Auteurs moniker not because we are strict auteurists or wish to only view cinema from this angle, but because it represents our dedication to cinematic artistry. We want to show only distinctive, visionary films, whether their inspiration comes from the single mind of a director, or from a star, subject, country, culture, or any other deciding factor."

HarryTuttle a dit…

Thompson on Hollywood, 13 May 2010 :

"Cakarel kept realizing that many people had no idea what the word “auteur”—a French word for author that has come to mean a film director with a signature style—actually means. It was not accessible. [..]

The word “movie” is mispronounced in many cultures that have trouble with the letter V. It isn’t a word in any language. [..]

The site is sponsored by Stella Artois, and sells advertising."

Total lack of critical insight... Anne Thompson runs a list of publicity talking points without questioning them. She repeats TWICE in that small article the phrase "Cakarel expects to burst into the millions in the next year." as if to persuade the readers. And concludes:

"If it does, than [SIC] mark my words, Mubi could be the site that turns the corner for digital distribution that so many people are waiting for: the one that has enough critical mass to bridge the marketing gap that bedevils so many tiny movies seeking a meaningful identity."

again showing how she endorses the fact that in America smaller films don't deserve the big screen, and that the film press rather support online VOD than to confront the American distribution system to open the screens to foreign films! (see Second class distribution)

HarryTuttle a dit…

extract of the Terms of Service of mubi.com since it is sponsored by a French Beer :

"InBev UK Limited (“InBev”, “we”, “our” or “us”) permits the Company to maintain and operate this internet site (the “Website”) on behalf of InBev for personal use for those of a legal age in your country, province, or state of residence (18 years or older in the United Kingdom) for the consumption of alcoholic beverages and in countries where the consumption of alcoholic beverages are permitted. Please exit this Website immediately if you are not of a legal age in your place of residence for consuming alcoholic beverages or are in a country where use of this Website is not permitted."

Now the catalog wants to bring "great cinema" to the world, only if they can drink alcohol legally though... No "great cinema" for minors! That's the commitment of this clueless corporation...