Andrew Sarris and the Framework of Film

I first read Mr. Sarris’ “Notes on Auteur Theory” in college, perhaps one of the first “seminal” essays on film theory I had read. Back then it resonated with me, having been brought up on a steady diet of those auteurs which Mr. Sarris championed, including Truffaut and Bergman. While generally I don’t subscribe to the idea of the auteur, filmmakers like Sally Potter, Wes Anderson, Woody Allen, Almodóvar, and Sofia Coppola remind me of the usefulness of the auteur framework. There is no question that, despite the multiplicity of influences and constraints on the production of film, a certain aesthetic, thematic, or phenomenological specificity can be achieved through the sheer persistence of an individual and the collaborators who support him/her.

Beyond reading philosophy and history in college, I was further exposed to all sorts of other frameworks: linguistics, post-modernism, Foucaldian power dynamics, semiotics, phenomenology, structuralism. It was heavenly to read all this but, as with many theories and frameworks, they all seemed vague and remote, even when applied to historical or literary trends. Film writing and film theory, however, brought all these together toward me in a way I understood, and moreover, enjoyed. The framework of the cinema (and for that matter, of theatre and dance) was something for which I had good intuition, if not complete understanding, and to bring these theories together in that framework was a useful way for me to re-evaluate disparate threads.

To my ongoing musings on The Role of the Film Critic, I add: to enable art lovers and thinkers to continue to explore, disagree, and evaluate.

Andrew Sarris, Village Voice Film Critic, Dies at 83