My Gleanings

Monday, June 18, 2007

Truffaut on the auteur 1960

This is a translation of two first two paragraphs of an essay which François Truffaut contributed to a collection entitled Cinema, univers de abscence in 1960. It was republished in Le Plaisir des yeux a collection of pieces by Truffaut in 1987. Truffaut had planned that book as a companion to The Films in My Life, however, he was not able to finish it and Jean Narboni and Serge Toubiana completed it working from a chapter scheme which Truffaut had devised and winnowing down a list of about 150 articles he had selected for possible inclusion. It is my translation.

The Director, the One Who Hasn't a Right to Complain

The question of knowing who is the true auteur of a film is not posed peremptorily: there are films of directors, films of screenwriters, films of cinematographers, films of stars. The hard and fast rule is that the director, and he alone, can be regarded as the auteur even though he may not have written a line of the scenario, he may not have directed the actors and he may not have chosen the camera angles. A film always resembles the one who gets the director's credit. And, in the worst case -- the one which I have just cited -- we would be looking straight at the film of a gentleman who had not directed the actors, collaborated on the screenplay or chosen the camera angles. Even were the screenplay good, the actors talented enough to play without direction and the cameraman skilled, this film would be a bad film and precisely, the bad film of a bad director.
In my opinion, the director is the lone member of the cinematic team who has no right to complain or feel mistreated; he must know himself well enough to assess his exact worth and to decide if he is capable of undergoing such-and-such constraint and to turn it to his own advantage -- the advantage of the film. Or, if such-and-such constraint will become a concession and, as such, detrimental in the outcome.
Let us not forget that the greatest director alive, Jean Renoir, has virtually directed only films de commande or adaptations, attracting them to himself until on each occasion he created a completely personal work.