Film Feature | Auteurs’ complete control often pays off brilliantly
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 01:09
Some artists just have it all. Perhaps more than with any other discipline, directing films requires a broad array of skills. Directors need to coach their actors to get the best performances out of them, they must be intimately acquainted with cinematography and the technical aspects of camerawork, they have to be logistically minded and maintain an ordered set and they have to convince the film studios and producers that they can create a profitable film. This list of talents can go on and on, and it’s difficult to imagine that some directors can take on even more responsibilities than their job already entails. But this is not the case. Some of the most dynamic figures in film are auteurs who write the films they direct. They often produce and oversee the musical production of their work as well.
Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the most critically lauded auteurs of the last decade, released his latest film “The Master” earlier this week. With glowing reviews and heaps of praise already mounting, “The Master” cements Anderson’s position as one of the country’s leading writer/directors. Considering that one of the year’s best films is currently playing in theater, it pays to take a look at some of the industry’s most accomplished auteurs and see how they have shaped the contemporary cinema.
One of the most remarkable traits of auteur directors like Anderson and Quentin Tarantino is their ability to work within the confines of Hollywood, delivering big-budgeted movies with the aesthetics and artistic integrity of smaller independent films. Thankfully, both directors have built up enough of a reputation to increase the chances of getting their projects green-lit. It is difficult to overestimate the business acumen and persuasive skills needed to get films made.
Consider Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” (2007), a film which must have been a nightmare to pitch to studios. There isn’t a single female lead, the plot revolves around an oil tycoon’s mental and moral deterioration and there is hardly a shred of action barring a virtuostically directed scene in which an oilrig catches fire. Despite these obstacles, the film enjoyed a relatively sizable budget of $25 million, which kept the production values high. While $25 million may seem paltry compared to some industry juggernaut films, like the $225 million CGI-fest “The Avengers” (2012), you don’t see many directors like Anderson adopting hyper-expensive special effects.
Another accomplished auteur to consider is Sofia Coppola. Though she comes from the illustrious cinematic family that also produced Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola and Nicolas Cage, Sofia Coppola established herself without resting on her family’s reputation. With acclaimed films like “The Virgin Suicides” (1999) and “Lost in Translation” (2003) to her name, Coppola has proven that she is a remarkable adapter of novels and writer of original screenplays. Her films have always been regarded for the strength of their soundtracks as well, and Coppola has a remarkable skill for bringing in the artists and songs that she needs to set the atmosphere of her films.
As cinema has developed over the decades, one can’t help but see how larger-budgeted films with massive marketing campaigns have taken an increasingly large share of the world’s cinematic stage. However, thanks to technological advances and easier means of distribution, it is also getting cheaper to produce films and make them available to the public.
While the superficial image of contemporary film is bemoaned by cinephiles for its emphasis on blockbusters that are heavy on action and light on plot and characterization, the increasing success of auteurs like those mentioned in this article is undeniable. It may be harder to see independent and smaller productions, but the effort almost always pays off. Auteurs have begat films ranging from “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) to “Requiem for a Dream” (2002), and their efforts continue to shine among big-budget crowd-pleasers. Thankfully, venues like the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square and Kendall Square Cinema ensure that Boston will feature involved and challenging films for the cinephiles who want to see them.