Critics of Film
“The auteur theory is a way of reading and appraising films through the imprint of an auteur (author), usually meant to be the director.”
Andre Bazin was the founder, in 1951, of Cahiers du cinema and is often seen as the father of auteurism because of his appreciation of the world-view and style of such artists as Charlie Chaplin and Jean Renoir. It was younger critics at the magazine who developed the idea further, drawing attention to significant directors from the Hollywood studio era as well as European directors.
François Truffaut, possibly the most polemic Cahiers critic, coined the phrase ‘politique des auteurs’ (referring to the aesthetic policy of venerating directors). The French critics were responding to the belated influx of American films in France after World War Two (they had been held back by import restrictions for a number of years). Thus, directors like Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford were hailed, often extravagantly, as major artists of the cinema.
Critics like Truffaut knew that American filmmakers were working within the restrictions of the Hollywood system and that the types of films and their scripts were often decided for them. But they believed that such artists could nonetheless achieve a personal style in the way they shot a film – the formal aspects of it and the themes that they might seek to emphasise (eg. Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol wrote a book on Hitchcock in which they highlighted recurrent themes in his films, including the transfer of guilt). With other, often European directors, the stamp of the auteur often involved them scripting and fashioning their own material.