Film and authorship
in Beginning film studies (second edition)
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This chapter tracks important shifts in thinking about the nature and locus of authorship in film. The first section is devoted to ‘auteur theory’, recounting its emergence during the French ‘New Wave’ and acknowledging its importance. The next section, however, identifies several major problems with auteurism, including its evaluative basis (rather than scientific rigour) and its romantic, individualistic account of creation that flies in the face both of film’s collaborative production and of post-structuralist pronouncements of ‘the death of the author’. Yet the section that follows rehabilitates the figure of the cinematic author (in strong if not overbearing form), recognising the different contributions to this end by analytical philosophy, feminism and legal studies. The chapter’s final substantive section considers ‘digital authors’ – both directors endowed with still greater powers by such phenomena as the DVD ‘Director’s Commentary’ and viewers able to unsettle films by various means that include discontinuous watching on DVD and the production of film-related fan fictions. Finally, these various models of film authorship are tested in a case study of the directorial work of Ang Lee

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