1. There are 2 different ways of analysing film, Genre Analysis and Auteur Theory. Genre
Analysis looks at the core codes and conventions that a genre may incorporate, Auteur
Theory examines when a film maker decides to change the codes and conventions when
creating their film.
Genre Analysis consists of 7 key areas, one being what I have already mentioned and the
other 6 being; themes, setting, iconography, characters, narrative and ideological messages.
Codes and conventions basically mean aspects of a film seen and repeated in other films of
the same genre. For example, in a standard horror movie, you will notice very similar things.
It will take place at night time, set in a quite deserted area. Usually you will see a group of
teenagers/young adults are terrorised by a psychopath and the survivor(s) will come of age.
You will always have the stupid one, the brave one, the loudmouth, etc. and there always
seems to be a frisky couple who thinks they‟ll be fine having sex while a crazed killer is on the
loose. They‟ll inevitably die, as will most of the cast, usually leaving one survivor at the end.
You will then find that the antagonist has died, but then scratch your head when they open
their eyes as the end credits begin or the sequel comes out and they‟re doing it all over again.
Auteur Theory is when a director creates a film that breaks the codes and conventions seen
regularly in movies of the same genre. This can relate to things like the storyline, camera
shots and editing decisions. Auteur is the French word for „author‟ – meaning the film
reflects the personal creative vision of the director.
Someone widely seen as an auteur director is Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock was carving a
great career in the movie business, beginning with silent movies before eventually
progressing to „talkies‟. He and his films were critically acclaimed but it wasn‟t until his
career-defining movie Psycho was released in 1960 that he reached icon status. Even back
then, horror films seemed to stick to the same codes and conventions with every film.
Hitchcock broke these conventions in several ways. One being the use of his actors. Janet
Leigh was a big star at the time thanks to her various roles during the late 1940‟s and
throughout the „50‟s. She signed onto the film, with many people believing that it would be
the biggest star vehicle for her career and elevate her to the very top of the leading ladies in
Hollywood. However, despite being the biggest star of the film, she was killed off relatively
early, surprising everyone, in the iconic shower scene. This was the first instance of
something like this happening, not necessarily the killing of the film‟s most famous actor but
the timing of which she died. This could have proved detrimental to the film but it actually
proved that a film can be successful and carry on without any hitches despite the loss of the
biggest draw. It wasn‟t until almost 40 years later, when another Horror director seen by
some as an auteur, Wes Craven, directed Scream, in 1996, that another high profile example
of this happened. The death of this film‟s biggest star, Drew Barrymore, came even earlier
than Leigh‟s death in Psycho (less than 10 minutes in). The shower scene is also an example
of breaking the conventions for a number of reasons. The scene‟s dialogue and diegetic
sound was mostly drowned out by Hitchcock‟s decision to build the scene‟s tension through
the medium of the score in the background, with a mellow sound to begin with, the music
grew louder and more frantic as the scene went on, culminating in a slow climatic finish as
Leigh‟s character died. The camera work also reflected the music. Many, many shots were
used in the scene, changing from one to another in very quick succession which helped bring
out a startled, frantic and scary experience to the audience that the character played by Leigh
would have felt. It was also broke conventions in that the audience didn‟t actually see the
2. antagonist make contact with his victim. Because of the camera shots and background music,
and the decision to film the antagonist about to slash his victim, it proved that seeing the
murder in detailed gore wasn‟t necessarily needed.
Quentin Tarantino is another filmmaker who has been labelled as an auteur. He is known for
his long scenes of witty dialogue, extreme violence, pop culture references and homage. His
first two films, Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994) were both presented in a non-
linear fashion, which was and still is uncommon in film. Tarantino is seen as someone who,
while still making commercially successful films that entertain almost everyone, creates
works of art. You can tell that he loves movies, which is why he pays blatant homage to many
genres. For example, Kill Bill (split into 2 volumes) incorporated Spaghetti Western, Chinese
martial arts and Italian horror all into one to create a stylish blend that was very entertaining
and (like all of his films) earned high critical acclaim. He also tends to include a soundtrack
that doesn‟t necessarily conform to conventions. Making his name through gangster/crime
movies (his first 3 movies were crime films – Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie
Brown), he has since changed genres with the next 3 commercial films he has made (Kill Bill
Vol.1 - 2003 & 2 - 2004, Inglorious Basterds- 2008and Django Unchained – 2012. His
casting choices are also quite strange, usually picking a big role for an actor who hasn‟t been
in the limelight for a while (John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, Pam Grier in Jackie Brown,
Reservoir Dogs star Michael Madsen in Kill Bill and many more). He likes to give out out-of-
work actors that he views as talented the opportunity to get their career back on track. His
style is very unique, where his films aren‟t really seen to be a part of a genre – more like a
Tarantino genre. There are usually references to characters from his previous films, almost
creating a world of his own. The man himself once said, “I like everything to take place in my
own Quentin universe.”
I am myself a massive fan of the gangster/crime genre. While not criticising, because I love
pretty much any film of this genre, you are able to see when a director can truly be labelled as
an auteur. Some people think that Martin Scorsese, as an example, could be. However, I
disagree. He is an incredible director, and is actually in my top 3, but I don‟t think he
changes conventions too drastically in order to be declared as an auteur. As I say though, this
isn‟t a criticism because he has directed some of the greatest films of all time –
Goodfellas(1990)is my all-time favourite – and is very skilled at what he does.
On the other hand though, I believe Francis Ford Coppola to be an auteur. He is the director
of the Godfather trilogy, with the first two hailed as possibly the greatest movie of all time, so
it would be easy to describe Coppola as a brilliant gangster/crime movie director. However,
he has branched out into other genres with great success, displaying his unique style of
filmmaking which backs the argument that he is a true auteur. Alongside being a director,
and just like Tarantino, Coppola is also a screen writer and has written the scripts to almost
every film he has ever directed (which includes the Godfather trilogy). Success in comedy
with Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)and horror with Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) meant he
was able to shift a possible tag and develop a versatility which could have potentially harmed
his career because of the enormous success of the Godfather trilogy. The biggest example of
this though is his war film, Apocalypse Now (1979). This didn‟t really follow the conventions
of the generic war movie. The best example of this was a scene where the US Army bombs a
small village. It is an unconventional scene for several ways. For one, we as the audience get
the feeling that we are watching the heroes of the US Army attack enemies. It is revealed
though to be a small town, mostly populated by women and small children, which paints the
3. US Army in a different light. The editing is also different because it contains a lot of cross
cutting between the calm, serene environment of the village and the manic nature of the
soldiers above them in the sky. The music plays a huge part in this scene and it‟s because it
features as diegetic sound and wouldn‟t usually fit in to a scene of this kind. One of the
characters decides to play Ride of the Valkyries, a classic piece of opera music, from the
helicopters speakers. This serves a kind-of warning to the civilians that they will be attacked
very soon. However, because of the nature of the music, it provides a great juxtaposition
between it and the violent action which takes place. It also highlights the insanity of a small
portion of the armed forces, and through the medium of a Hollywood blockbuster, conveys a
very important message. The two contrasting cross-cuts then blend together as the music can
be heard in the village. It then fully joins as one once the attack has begun and ended, leaving
the village in despair and ruin, surrounded by explosions of fire and helicopters circling
This specific scene was a particularly negative representation of the US Army and the
American foreign policy in Vietnam at the time the film was set. The mise en scene and
editing creates this very negative and cynical representation yet paints a vivid picture as to
what genuinely happened. Just like in every war, small villages with women and children will
be bombed - it is a horrible but true fact of war. Unfortunately, for the USA, the Vietnam
attacks were screened live on television, meaning they were unable to cover up any injustices
they created. As an auteur, Francis Ford Coppola takes a risk in portraying this negative
representation but exposes the truth behind the actions of the US Army during the time this
film was set.
As part of this task, I have been asked to give my opinion on Rian Johnson - the writer and
director of Looper - and decide whether or not he can be added to the list of auteurs. Looper
was his third film, and it must be said that as a Sci-Fi movie, it doesn‟t completely conform to
conventions with its incredibly original and thought-provoking plot (uncommon with Sci-Fi)
but I don‟t think that Rian Johnson is an auteur, for a number of reasons.
This is a man who only has the experience of 3 films under his belt. His debut, Brick (2005)
is a film that would probably sit nicely on the CV of an auteur director; however his next
effort, The Brothers Bloom (2008) was a disappointment critically and commercially.
Looper was a return to form but an auteur to me is someone who releases several films that
break conventions and are also rated highly by critics and the paying public alike. The
Brothers Bloom seems to be a generic comedy caper film, which was maybe why it didn‟t
perform as well of his other films.
Sci-Fi/action films need to work hard to be seen as unconventional. In some senses, this film
is, but in my personal opinion I felt the quality of the film began todeteriorate in the second
half, relying too heavily on big action sequences (featuring chases, gun shots, fights,
explosions, etc.) which we see in every generic action movie.
I also didn‟t see anything new in terms of camera shots, music choices, editing, even the cast.
Hiring Bruce Willis for an action movie is probably the most conventional thing in the
history of things. He gave a good performance in terms of his actual acting but there‟s only so
many times you can see a man in his 50‟s firing his gun in mid-air, especially as the
ridiculous 5th instalment of Die Hard was released recently.
4. As mentioned before with Martin Scorsese, not applying the auteur tag to Rian Johnson is
certainly not a criticism. This guy is a talented filmmaker, and has the potential to become a
great one day should he release enough hits. In conclusion, he hasn‟t done enough just yet to
be an auteur.
Conventional blockbuster movies will always make a lot of money, and some might even be
critically acclaimed, but it is clear to see the importance of auteurs in film as a way of
providing art and something to think about while at the cinemas.