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Bordwell’s acknowledgement of an author function in the special case of art cinema definitely rubs me the wrong way in the context of our discussion of his ongoing disagreement with Chatman on the subject of personifying narrative agency.  Bordwell claims that, “within the art cinema’s mode of production and reception, the concept of an author has a formal function it did not possess in the Hollywood studio system” (211).  He is referring to the tendency to ask “who” communicates or expresses in instances of self-conscious narration, but he writes as though moments of self-consciousness or authorial presence occur only in this limited conception of “art cinema.”  We frequently ask “who” outside of this situation.  As our class discussion of Barton Fink demonstrated, we all had specific ideas of the Cohen brothers as distinctive authors, but Bordwell has insisted the question should be “what” or “how.”

Bordwell cites extra-textual elements that emphasize the “filmmaker as source”—things like film journalism and criticism.  Isn’t this the same stuff we discussed as informing our construction of the implied author?  Bordwell predictably alludes to auteur theory, noting that a distinctive style across a body of films is important to his idea of authorship, but he refers only to examples from European art cinema.  This neglects one of the fundamental arguments for auteur theory, the fact that it applies outside of European art cinema.  The Cahier critics adored Howard Hawks because—even though he worked in the classical Hollywood system, where the labor of filmmaking was industrially divided among specialized experts, and made films in vastly different genres—his work had a consistent stylistic and thematic sensibility.

I basically understand what Bordwell is getting at.  Surely authorship is more often discussed with respect to art cinema, but it seems inconsistent to bracket off one type of film that can have this narrative function.  Also, art cinema still lacks an absolute author in the sense that exists for literature.  Even Fellini and Bergman got some help, some input from others.  When we think of a Bergman film, we are constructing a “Bergman” from what we have read and his other films, so it seems like Bordwell should be talking about an implied author here.  But then we might not have the same pleasure dissecting Chatman’s disagreement.  Part of the problem might also come from Bordwell’s definition of art cinema in opposition to classical hollywood—placing the two distinctly apart, when lots of mainstream films now seem to freely and smoothly combine elements of both.

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