Friday, February 17, 2012

Auteur Theory

Andrew Sarris was for many years the film critic of The Village Voice and a champion of the auteur theory. He once commented that everyone wanted his job. What he meant by that was not that everyone literally wanted to be chief film critic of The Village Voice, though back in the heyday of the New York intelligensia, in the 50’s,60’s and 70’s when names like Clement Greenberg, Alfred Kazin, Harold Clurman and Susan Sontag were held in higher esteem than their  counterparts are today and at least one film critic, Peter Bogdonovich of Esquire, went on to Hollywood fame, being a critic wasn't a bad job to have. Sarris was referring to the fact that there was an intrinsic envy in the adoration of followers. They journey to Mecca not only to worship Mohammed, but to be him, to supplant him, to take what he has. Bernard Malamud's work might have been a source of admiration for other Jewish American novelists like Bellow and Roth, but the admiration was inevitably tinged with a certain desire to triumph and replace him. Nathan Zuckerman in The Ghost Writer makes a journey to visit his idol E.I. Lonoff, who is to some extent modeled on Malamud. In no writer or artist is the ambivalent nature of admiration and inspiration more manifest than Chekhov. Even male readers identify with his three sisters. Masha, Irina and Olga speak to the primacy of the future over the present, the power of that which has yet to be, over what is, of the way in which we all derogate what we possess.  Chekhov is so good in fact at revealing what seem to be our heart’s secrets that he makes us feel that we could have written the plays ourselves. In the realm of essay writing Montaigne has a similar effect, but gaining an audience with the artist, writer or critic who talks to you is a mixed blessing. Perhaps this conflict explains the murderous relationship between Rimbaud and Verlaine. Sooner or later, he or she looks at you and realizes that you want to appropriate his work and made it your own. He realizes that you want his job.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.