RARA-AVIS: The Inflation of Film Directors

From: Mark Harris ( mark_r_harris@yahoo.com)
Date: 23 Feb 2002

In regard to Rene's comments on film directors being given "credit" for scenes and techniques that come straight from the source novels: This is a real plague on film studies. Directors' reputations are so over-inflated that it is as if the writers
(screenwriters and source writers both) simply didn't exist. The auteurist manner of speaking of film attributes *all* the film's effects to the director, even when it may have been the writer, or the cinematographer, or the editor, or an actor who contributed a particular bit of brilliance. (Check out film editor Ralph Rosenblum's When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins for amusing accounts of how he fashioned coherent films out of incoherent masses of celluloid dumped on him by "name" directors.)

These failures of attribution are exacerbated by the fact that film aficionados, living in their highly insulated world, simply don't bother to familiarize themselves with the constituent elements of the films they profess to adore, including those source novels. For every hundred Orson Welles scholars and fans who weep over the destruction of the original version of The Magnificent Ambersons, there may be one who has read Booth Tarkington's first-rate novel and realized that all the most moving passages in the film-as-we-have-it come straight from the book virtually without adaptive alteration. This doesn't lessen the brilliance of Welles's direction, but it does spread the glory a bit. Similarly, as good as William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives is, it is less complex and challenging than the neglected Mackinlay Kantor novel-in-verse, Glory for Me, that it is based on. I could go on.

Mark Harris

===== Mark Harris Educational Consulting College Admissions Strategies 773-914-3472 http://admissionsplus.blogspot.com/

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