The Auteur Theory and the death of the Author
My Author is Robert Altman. The first film I watched by him was called The Gingerbread man. It intrigued me by the name and after I read the description and saw it was labeled as a thriller I had to watch it. What I found interesting was the fact that I thought it was just a film about a guy thinking not with his head but his other head. Which then turned out that it was about the government, courtrooms, lawyers, police officers, detectives, etc. It was saying how our system can be flawed right before our eyes and no one would pay attention if one was conflicted with being accused of mentally insane. It was rather fascinating watching everyone being manipulated by one person who was mentally unstable and plot her entire revenge out by killing her father who had over 12 million worth on his property in South Carolina. To this day we still put innocent people in jail and the guilty on the streets. When there is nothing better then the system we have chosen. In today’s society is still a huge issue among most people especially the death penalty. We have grown more as a society then we had in the last 60 years but we still have instances where people are falsely accused of a crime they never committed. While this film describes a perfect scenario you question the judicial system more then ever.
The second film I watched was called Gosford Park. Its basically like the game clue. It was taken place around the Great Depression. You have a house full of rich, wealthy, people with their servants and maids in the cellar. They all gathered for a hunting trip. While someone murders the owner, the richest man out of all of them. The story teaches you about conservative people around the world. The biggest conflict besides the murder was the three americans at the hunting parties. There was one actor, one artists, and one director. They were frowned upon and suggested that they were the murderers because of their “hollywood skill”. It shows how people thought about the new upcoming world when some just wanted to keep it traditional and conservative.
The Modernist Art Cinema of Robert Altman
Robert Altman is 80 years old in February 2005. He is the director of 33 feature films since his first major Hollywood film in 1967. He is a notorious renegade from the standard operating procedures and finished products of the motion picture industry, and he has been critically acclaimed as one of the most pre-eminent directors in American cinema during the last quarter of the twentieth century. His two most recent films reflect the independent director continuing to make independent films: The Company (2003) is at once a fictional meditation on ballet and a documentary on the work of the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. Tanner on Tanner (2004) reprises Tanner ’88‘s (1988) fictional cast, real presidential politics, and creative collaboration between Altman and Doonesbury‘s Gerry Trudeau to cast a caustic and mockumentary eye on the American presidential campaign of 2004. The unusual diversity of his work, as well as its prestige, is represented by William Bolcom’s opera adaptation of A Wedding (1978), currently performing at the Chicago Lyric Opera, under Altman’s direction.
In 2001, at age 76, Altman mounted his most recent big scale movie production. Gosford Parkemploys a huge cast, including practically the entire first echelon of contemporary British actors; location shooting at an elegant old English manor house; the lavish set designs and costumes of the heritage film; and an intricately crafted (Academy Award winning) screenplay. Gosford Park will stand as one of Altman’s best films. Moreover, it simultaneously represents the most salient features of his films and reasserts the parameters of the American art cinema.
Gosford Park reconstructs classical narrative form in many ways: It ironically interweaves numerous genres – the Agatha Christie murder mystery, the upstairs/downstairs social drama, and the country house comedy of manners. Forty-four speaking parts in the film provide glimpses into the tangled implications of over 25 separate plots and constitute one of the largest cast of characters of all his multifaceted narratives from MASH (1970) to Prêt-à-Porter (1994). In Gosford Park logical causality disappears under the pressure of traumatic engagements that are not only unspoken by the narrative but are repressed by the characters themselves. The classically requisite discovery of the culprit at the end is contravened by the geometric progression of alternative clues and Altman’s insistence that the murder is never resolved. The confusing multiplication of plot lines and the hybrid mixing of murder, manners, maids, and man servants critiques a singular and stereotypical view of crime, justice, and social class by subverting the classic detective story. The film breaks the ideological illusion of harmony between masters and servants valorised in cultural representations like the 1970s British television series Upstairs/Downstairs. It reveals hypocrisy and meanness in the class system where social crimes and misdemeanors multiply and expand beyond the ability or the interests of the mystery story to say ask “who dunnit?”.
Like other works of modernist discourse, the film also reflects upon itself as an act of aesthetic production. In the midst of all its narrative indirection Altman reflexively introduces two representatives of the entertainment industry. The Hollywood movie executive is a producer of Charlie Chan films who is in England to research a new movie, a murder mystery set in a country house full of guests for the weekend, “not unlike this one.” The role of the producer both critiques the pretentiousness of the English social order and represents the vulgarity of American popular culture. His Jewish ethnicity and his bourgeois American manners offend the other guests who assure him that he can tell them the end of his planned film because as one says at dinner, “none of us will see it!” The mutual interchangeability of the effete world of British high society and mass culture entertainment is marked more specifically, however, by the role of Ivor Novello. Novello in real life was a small time actor and a big time success as a popular songwriter and matinee idol in 1930s England. The performance of his sentimental and escapist songs about other worlds, other times, and other loves motivate two dramatically different effects. His fellow guests are mildly amused by this divertissement from the popular culture, but the servants – who have been abuzz about the presence of this star since his arrival – are entranced. At one point Altman’s cameras catch the enthralled servants behind doors, on the stairs, in the hallways in small groups mesmerised by his singing. Aristocracy and popular entertainment alike create worlds of magic and illusion and escape. Like its representation inNashville (1975), Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976), The Player (1992) and Prêt-à-Porter, the world of entertainment is both treasured and condemned for its fascinating and coercive images.
Gosford Park sums up the characteristics of all the films Altman has made since 1967 when he began to make movies in Hollywood. Born in 1925 in Kansas City, he spent the post-war decades developing a thorough competency in cinematography by making business and industrial films. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he became one of the most prolific television directors among a large group of new directors that included Arthur Penn, Sidney Lumet, Sam Peckinpah and Sidney Pollack. He worked regularly as director for numerous series, including most notably Bus Stop, The Millionaire,Whirlybirds, Combat, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Bonanza. He earned a reputation in those years as a cantankerous and rebellious filmmaker who liked to shoot stories “sideways”. One producer from the Kraft Suspense Theater in the early 1960s described what Altman “hated most in television, and that is the very commercial, highly plotted story, and he hated commercial storytelling with a vengeance.” (1) In 1967 he left television production for the feature-film world of Hollywood, makingCountdown (1968), a science fiction film in the classical style, and That Cold Day in the Park (1969), a psychological thriller that first demonstrates the art-cinema style that would become his signature. His third film in 1970 was the highly acclaimed MASH, the most successful box-office film of his career, and his first of the five films across the reach of his career to earn Academy Award nominations for Best Director (along with Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts  and Gosford Park).