Essay on Auteur Theory: Howard Hawks and Martin Scorsese

Essay on Auteur Theory: Howard Hawks and Martin Scorsese

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Use a range of auteur theories to examine the work of two significant directors you have studied on this module. One director should have produced the majority of their work prior to 1960 and the other should have produced it from the 1970s onwards.

Discuss the origins and main developments of auteur theory then examine the works of Howard Hawks and Martin Scorsese with relevance to their status as auteur directors.

In having their films examined as auteurs of the cinema, both Howard Hawks and Martin Scorsese have been described as great artists whose body of work demonstrates repeated themes and motifs, that put in context reveals a particular belief and world view that is held by the director. In fact, Hawks was among the first directors working in Hollywood who was considered to be a “major artist” by Cahiers du Cinema critic Jacques Rivette in his 1953 essay The genius of Howard Hawks (Hillier and Wollen, 1). In similar fashion, Ben Nyce in Scorsese up Close, describes Scorsese as a “True artist” on a “personal and artistic quest” (Nyce, 16). The view of a director as a great artist whose films express their own individual vision is one that characterised auteur theory from its inception and through most of the 1960’s. But from the late 1960’s arguments have been raised questioning “the ideology of the artist as sole creator of the art work” (Cook and Bernink, 235). Thus, auteur theory has been modified to include different approaches including structuralism, feminism and social and political concerns. By using different auteur theories to look at the work of these two directors, we shall try to determine whether the director can be referred to as the artist or author of his films and whether the auteur theory is still relevant today.

Before auteurism was solidly established as a theory by the French critics of the Cahiers du Cinema, there existed criticism that acknowledged the director as the artistic centre of a film. This criticism tended to privilege directors with more creative freedom than their peers including directors such as D.W. Griffiths, Orson Welles and John Ford in America, and Sergei Eisenstein and Marcel Carne in Europe. Much of this writing was concerned with “constants of style and world view across the works of the directors concerned” but lacked “the systematic, polemic thrust of auteurism proper” (Hill and Gibson, 312). ...

... middle of paper ... Film Institute.

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Hollows, J and Jancovich, M [eds]. (1995), Approaches to popular film, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Kolker, R. (2000), A Cinema of Loneliness: Penn, Stone, Kubrick, Scorsese, Spielberg, Altman: Third Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Maltby, R. (2003), Hollywood Cinema: Second Edition, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

McBride, J. (1982), Hawks on Hawks, California: University of California Press.

Nowell-Smith, G [ed]. (1996), The Oxford History of World Cinema, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sangster, J. (2002), Scorsese, London: Virgin Books Ltd.


Howard Hawks

El Dorado (1967)

Rio Bravo (1959)

The Big Sky (1952)

I Was A Male War Bride (1949)

Red River (1948)

The Big Sleep (1946)

To Have And Have Not (1944)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Martin Scorsese

The Aviator (2004)

Gangs of New York (2002)

Casino (1995)

Goodfellows (1990)

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

The King of Comedy (1983)

Raging Bull (1980)

Taxi Driver (1976)

Mean Streets (1973)

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