A Research of The Auteur Theory in Modern-day Cinema with Reference to Wes Anderson

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Words: 2861 |

Pages: 6|

15 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 2861|Pages: 6|15 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Francois Truffaut claimed that there are no good and bad movies, only good and bad directors”. This essay will look at writers such as Truffaut, Sarris and Barthes, discovering the theories of authorship and correction of modern-day cinema from the past and how they reflect the question. Looking at film as an expression from the author, unfolding each element, investigating the director from the interior of the film and comparing how each director has their own approach to cinema will then show how this can then affect the whole outcome of the film. 

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Wes Anderson is a visual director and filmmaker his work reflects his personal development throughout his career and where he fits in an auteur because of his stylistic approach to the art of production. The overall theory in film from where the term auteur started with, the theorist who brought authorship about, how an auteur can affect a film as it reflects to make up the narrative of a movie and the difference in film genre. The change in film and the difference between blockbuster Hollywood from Wes Anderson. The auteur is the individual who creates and holds the original piece of art, the interior meaning, personal style and then technical competence. When the director is a full artist, and they express this while obsessing over details where their cinematic approach is visible and personality is shown and repeated in their art, the term auteur would be used. Films have authors that provide a distinct identity to the contributors of the text ‘Truffaut's use of the French term ‘auteur’ to mean author’ (Grant 2008 p.2) author is contextually regarding to the original writer. “Become a means of writing just as a flexible and subtle as a written language”. It positions film as art while also organizing it into literal genre. The meaning behind the word auteur or who the auteur is has changed because of the modification and outstanding views in film history while change is needed in art and people’s views also change. 

During the studio era, everyone that was involved with a film was a contract employee including the director where they would follow the guidelines from the studios style. The director would not get much say in this, the studio also owned the stars so decided where and what film they would feature in. It has developed, challenged and changed. It is challenging the industrial practices of Hollywood cinema and Hollywood theatre generally is thought not to be art but entertainment. The studio chose the director they felt would be best for the film but gave this director strict guidance about following the script respecting the production elements and not getting any control they would get today. An auteur would then be the script writer or the artist who created the film because the director didn’t have a vision of their own. Now when we talk about auteur, we imagine directors who take control over the whole film from casting to final production therefore doing everything by themselves that the studios use to do. Directors often take over other aspects of the film like the script writing. This shift has created visible divide between the standard Hollywood blockbusters and the unique style of each film auteur. 

When the term auteur was introduced by Andrew Saris 1962, it was considered radical for the director to be so involved and for film to be considered art and an alternative “cinema des auteur” of more personal directors who also write their scripts. It is a collective process but as Sarris pointed, ‘meaningful coherences more likely when the director dominates the proceedings’. That a film is more meaningful and interesting when directed by someone seen to a auteur because it is art rather than entertainment there is more feelings involved. There are different theorists who discover different ways of looking at film and how to analyze it. The theorist Roland Barthes explored narrative and anthropology. He suggested there would be five codes that a narrative would follow, the codes described the meaning of the text and whether it would be an open or closed text. The 5 codes were semantic, symbolic, action, enigma and referential. Barthes’ theory references a narrative and the clarity, unity and characters in a film. This film theory is a classic narrative, ’Excessively obvious cinema’. ‘The cinema, then is one that is made up of motivated signs that lead the spectator through the story to its inevitable conclusion’. This highlights the fact that a narrative does follow a sequence as Barthes states because of how humans see they must have relatable structures to understand a movie. This reflects the typical Hollywood studio style but not the style of a film auteur where the film does not follow liner narrative and the spectator often does not know what happens next why then the audience needs to watch closely and use all senses to establish the narrative. 

The theory of authorship where the director has a major creative force is by the film critic Andrew Sarris as ‘henceforth, I will abbreviate “la politique des auteurs’ as the auteur theory to avoid confusion” It was a stable movement in the French New Wave, François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard were major directors in the French New Wave and critics in the French culture, but Truffaut attacked French cinema because of its vision and art. The theorists who supported directors to be auteurs reflects on auteurs of today whom do not include the classical Hollywood directors, they are less expensive and more personal films unlike the big blockbusters. 'becomes a means of writing just as flexible and subtle as a written langue”. The film “Tout va Bien” demonstrates film as a collaborative medium however also a work driven by the directors Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin 1972 French- Italian film, this film examples past film to have strong directors involved and the development of what film has become. ‘No good and bad movies only good and bad directors’? Arguably the word ‘movie’ could be a collaborative medium shared between creatives? because it is art, and all involved in art should be seen. Therefore, a movie being bad or good relies on everyone who is involved, and everyone should be credited so the auteur might simply be seen negatively because it becomes all about the individual person rather than the collaborative medium but when a creative puts themselves forward to work for a director they would know the level of work and would always still be credited but when an audience member watches a film they are there for a reason and in many cases it would be because of the auteur or the actors involved. It is however the director that leads the movement in the films studied and has key drive in film making, each director imprints their own style on a film, consequently demonstrating the power of the director as an overall decider and this will determine whether the film will be favourably received or not. 

Wes Anderson a very recognizable American film maker known for his definite optical style and clear genre, while inhabiting his filmmaking as the role of a modern-day auteur where an audience could consider if this is how he sees life. Anderson’s films show detail to visual style and comedic dryness and emotional tasks. If you are a favourable audience one will be immersed into the action that takes place on the screen. Every single detail is thought out in Anderson’s films. There is notable correlation that brings each of his films to make them feel as one film, but all different storylines and the approach is particularly visible thus its unique characteristics in all forms. “Over a group of films, a director must exhibit certain characteristics of style, which serve as his signature”. Firstly, looking at his overall world building colour pallets and their muted tones and absorbed pastel colours but also the relation between the colour and emotion and personality of the characters. The colour gives away it is an Anderson film without even watching or reading about it. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, M.Gustavo played by Ralph Fiennes, describes his life as a ‘long and frivolous party’ therefore Andersons reflects this in M.Gustavo scenes with the pinks and his regular bakery deliveries. The colours also make one feel like they are inside the movie itself, connected to the scenery and reputation in being outside at one with the nature. The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson) is set in on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, looking at the color in this film and how also it correlates to Anderson theme while inhabiting its own nostalgic color pallet where muted yellow is symbolic showing security it tells young Suzy and Sam's story of how they fell in love and occupies as a colour of trust between one another and their special bond and emotional connection. In addition to yellow another primary colour used is blue. This insinuates a dark side to Moonrise kingdom as they fall form the church tower as their shadows hold hands, also seen on the bad scout's uniform. MoonRise kingdom scene where Suzy and Sam are found, they hug to protect themselves showing mass amount of mustard yellows as their comfort colour. 

Symmetry is generally visible when watching an Anderson movie, it's how he involves the audience, the symmetrical picture surrounds and overtakes an audience’s vision while guiding them to look and focusing on one thing at a time and centralizing it as this consists of a natural position. This action also then draws an audience in to prepare for the suspense/action that takes place in his films that is curiously and arguably never predicted. By engaging the cinematography, the camera takes the journey of a human as it whips spans across the room as one would with their own eye. This action supports the stylistic vision and stimulates the audience feelings for the film. To support Andersons approach he includes shots and angles of slow motion to elevate the motion this being bird’s eye view and tracking and the excessive planning that takes place from the characters and the visual explanations to show the audience in detail while it includes visual drawings to point out key parts. The music creates a mood in its full charm ‘Anderson uses music as a character in itself to augment the plot and create something in and of itself.’ Anderson directs the music to reflect the other characters in the films, Fantastic Mr. Fox’s trademark whistle when he executes something well, this examples Andersons use of music and its symbolic meaning to the character.

 Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson) features his iconic walk player in which he plays when on a mission to receive the ‘Boggis Bunc and Bean’ Rope states that music indicates something is going to happen which sets the mood. The recurring Cast members and character types cinematically supports Anderson’s auteur approach as it subconsciously reflects each films style individually. His persistence and attention to detail shows that he knows the actors and their skills and where they fit in his unique dialogue, so he consistently casts them and in some cases the actors seem to be comic this elaborates his attention to detail. Owen Wilson acts in 6 of the auteur's films but not only that he co-wrote his first 3 films, Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe and many more features in Anderson’s films repeatedly and mostly never once. Owen Wilson featuring in Wes Andersons films. ‘Where ideally artists use all the elements of their medium harmonists for an expressive purpose’. Anderson does use all elements to support his works and takes control of everything a studio production would have done. This displays him as a true auteur. His attention to detail when using the perfume ‘Lady Nash’ as M.Gustavo’s signature smell which then led him to get caught later in the film. The feel is as if one must watch every movement closely so that all Information is gathered. Are they films for adults or children? Arguably both as they interact and include both interests. 

Wes Anderson’s characters are slightly abnormal to a classic Hollywood genre but in a film such as Moon Rise Kingdom has a resemblance to characters. 'Over a group of films, a director must exhibit certain characteristics of style, which serve as his signature,” The characteristics of a Wes Anderson film includes features such as a bright colour palettes, adventurous tone of music as well as visually stimulating camera angle and comedic actors. All these factors create his approach to art and filmmaking and point out his individuality and creative context. From the features set out they overall give the idea of a childlike fantasy film. However, the mature undertones within the story lines of these fantasy films creates depth and insight into a different more adult perspective of life. Therefore, it is questionable which audience Anderson is appealing to. A strongest example of this observation being the 2018 animation “Isle of Dogs.” The audience for Wes Anderson will generally be the same as his own work similar as he attracts the eye of an artist an individual who enjoys the create process and doesn't just focus on the plot but the overall sequence. Isle Of dogs, this image displays the very details of the characters in his Films the textures are vivid and so interesting. Auteurs changed the way films were seen “Interior meaning is extrapolated from the tension between a director’s personality and his material.’” Saris says the more involved the director is with the process the originality will then appear. This is done if a vision is pushed and therefore the film is more meaningful while including the truth and beauty. Wes Anderson examples a modern-day auteur and follows his own vision supporting theorists while also leading his own genre method. This supports Francois Truffaut’s statement in claiming that there are no good and bad movies, only good and bad directors arguably because if an audience member likes a Wes Anderson movie they will always like his movies and there is a vision and the vision doesn't change. This is supported when looking at the correct director who takes the form of an auteur as Wes Anderson does, and when looking at correct theorists to support it as well with representation, narrative and genre to real life, film is a collaborative medium and is controlled by all within but there must be a director to establish the films genre and representation. ‘Supporters of the auteur theory further contend that the most cinematically successful films will bear the unmistakable personal stamp of the director.’ This applies to Anderson’s approach. It's about playing with the audience's emotion and how they interact with the director and genre of the film or their taste. It's down to opinion but a director who comes under the auteur category will mostly be a brilliant director because they take control and show full direction and know what they want whereas classic Hollywood direction is from other movements and strands and therefore if the director doesn't have the control of the film then it could come off badly but also if the director isn't in film terms artistically good and they have full control the movie will then it will be critically good.

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Overall film is down to opinion and when going to the movies one will choose a film on choice, ratings or popularity and if one interacts and feels interest or if they don’t like the film its personal and not always because the director isn't very good. Whereas if a large audience shows a mass dislike to the movie it would have been the director's fault if it is a mainly director run movie (auteur) film and if the critics say the director did an overall bad job this is when Truffaut's statement is correct. If a film is primarily directed by one individual and it turns out to be bad it consequently describes the director as not being very good and therefore it is seen to be a bad movie as well. “The cinema is not a craft. It Is an art. It does not mean team work. One is always alone; one the set before the blank page” “film is an art, and art is the expression of the emotion, experience and ‘world view’ of an individual artist”. Film is art and art is collaborative but also individual, art is driven by one and the one who drives the creative force has a responsibility for all within as they hold authorship and take the movement to its level this is applied in film therefore the director is a reasonable artist. 


  • Andrew, D. (1984). Concepts in film theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Business Insider. (2019). The actors who have appeared in the most Wes Anderson films — from Bill Murray to Owen Wilson. [online] Available at:
  • Caughie, J. (1989). Theories of authorship. Routledge.
  • Film Inquiry. (2019). A Quick Guide To Auteur Theory | Film Inquiry. [online] Available at:
  • Grant, B. (2008). Auteurs and authorship. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Pub.
  • IMDb. (2019). Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). [online] Available at: 
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A Research Of The Auteur Theory In Modern-day Cinema With Reference To Wes Anderson. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
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