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By Joshua Smith

The Australian Auteur
Author: Joshua Smith
Published on: February 24, 1998

The title "auteur" is part of a phase keyed in the notable and influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema during the 1950s (French New Wave) in an attempt to define the official author of a cinematic work of art. Certainly, the filmmaking process is a collaborative effort, with many people contributing to the look, feel and sound of the final product. Still, the author of a filmic text can generally be defined as someone who:

  • plays a major role in envisioning the work (usually the director, but occasionally the scriptwriter)

  • is technically proficient, possessing a mastery of the cinematic art.

  • possesses a recognisable "signature" or trademark which flows throughout his/her oeuvre (body of work)

  • possesses a consistency of vision, such as a focus on similar themes throughout many of his/her pictures

  • displays a continued collaboration with certain members of the cast or crew

Australian directors who have been endowed with the sacred title of auteur include such masters as Peter Weir, Charles Chauvel, Dr. George Miller, Gillian Armstrong, Paul Cox and Jane Campion, who all possessed those qualities listed above.

Of course, a number of other Australian directors, many would say, are equally as technically proficient as those listed above, though they may not possess a personal signature or thematic concern throughout their body of work. Directors who fall into this category are classed as "metteurs-en-scene," having mastered the technical aspects of the cinematic form. Bill Bennett, Ken G. Hall, Bruce Beresford, Fred Schepisi and Phillip Noyce all fall into this category.

As one might expect, the debate regarding the official author of a cinematic work continues to rage, though the director is usually awarded the credit. Conferring value onto one individual for realising a vision that is maintained by many of his/her collaborators may seem unjust, so the truest test of an auteur is whether or not his/her vision and style is held consistently throughout his/her body of work.

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