Auteur is the definition given to a director with a distinct visual style throughout their body of work. Think of it like a signature where their creativity marks a stamp on every film. Auteur theory was developed in France in the late 1940s and into the early 1950s, defined as:
"A true film auteur is someone who brings something genuinely personal to his subject instead of producing a tasteful, accurate but lifeless rendering of the original material" — Francois Truffaut
Truffaut stated that auteur directors bring something personal to their films. Their creative vision shines on screen and they use their own unique styles. When watching more than one film from these types of directors, they're instantly recognizable because of their consistent themes and aesthetics, leading to some of cinema's most dedicated fanbases.
There are two ways to look at auteur directors: You will either love them or hate them. Because their work has such a consistent tone and theme, it's likely that you'll either like every film they make, or have no interest in any of them.
With auteur directors, you're promised the same escapism you experienced with that director's previous work. Audiences know what they're going to get, so spending hard-earned cash at the box office with an auteur director they enjoy can be a safe bet.
Using the same distinctive aspects in their films allows them to show the audience who they are and what their style is. This helps them create a wide fanbase because they consistently provide a style in line with a specific audience's taste. If they love a film enough, they will want to see something like that again. With auteur directors that's exactly what you get; it's similar material with a different storyline.
These styles and themes can vary from music, to camera movements, to actors. Take a look at Tim Burton, for example, whose films almost always feature Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
He has a unique style because his films are so eccentric and out there. They're completely different from other films. He's known for his fantasy films, which have a dark, gothic theme to them. This is his bold statement in his films and it draws people in who like similar things. Audiences with eccentric personalities can fixate on his films and gain inspiration. Focusing on auteurs Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton, let's take a deeper look and why auteur directors create magic on the big screen, often creating the most devoted fanbases in cinema.
Art & Design: An Auteur's Vision
One of the things that stands out most in Burton's films is the fantastic art throughout his movies; not just the set design, but the costumes too. Particularly in Alice in Wonderland, the costumes are beautiful. They all have an old fashioned feel to them, even if the film is set in modern times. The women in his films always wear extravagant dresses and the attention to detail is astonishing. The audience can easily fantasize about wanting to live in this magical world and wear these costumes, helping to bring the world to life. Burton also gives the audience a fashion sense to look towards for ideas, which is another reason why his fanbase loves him so much.
In contrast to Burton's fantasy aesthetic, auteur director Martin Scorsese often sets his films in New York City and they contain a lot of realistic violence that can be quite graphic. This makes him a welcome figure as the leading director of crime movies. Quentin Tarantino also takes his costumes very seriously. His characters are always dressed to fit their characteristics and the storyline, often borrowing ideas from Tarantino's favorite movies.
Look at Reservoir Dogs, for example. All the men wore black suits because in the '90s, that's what looked cool in gangster movies. His costumes, like Burton's, are extremely popular on Halloween, which shows that audiences around the world are taking to these directors in a more passionate way. They're wanting to become these characters for the night, proving that the characters and outfits are incredibly memorable.
Filming Techniques: Creating A Consistent Tone
Burton's style also differs because he uses a lot of fast movements, which means the camera will often be on a steadicam or dolly in order to move around and capture the images in a certain way. It really adds to the feel of his films because his films are crazy in the best possible way, making you feel like you're on this ride with these characters. This all makes him unique and auteur because he always uses these styles. If you watch one of his films without knowing he's the director, it's hard not to think of him because of his unique style.
Scorsese is known for his use of tracking shots. This is one of his most notable auteur features. Tracking shots are quite difficult to master, but he does it flawlessly. You can watch his most famous tracking shot in Goodfellas above, showing that this is an excellent technique to utilize because it's a more interesting way of capturing movement on the screen. It can add to the dramatic feel and engage the audience in a more personal way because they can feel like they're there.
Tarantino also uses tracking shots. He uses cranes to track over his characters, and is known for his "intimidation shot," where he has the camera at a low angle with the characters towering over it.
Non-linear is a word that comes to mind when describing Tarantino because some of his films aren't shot in chronological order. He mixes it around and sometimes has scenes that occur later on in the film at the start.
Tarantino, along with auteurs Wes Anderson and Scorsese, are all fans of using slow motion. As Scorsese specializes in the crime genre, his films are often fast-paced and full of drama, so to have a contrast between these dramatics in slow motion is unique and captivating.
Soundtracks: Music Relevant To A Fanbase
One last aspect that makes Scorsese an auteur director is his use of music. He often uses diegetic music, better known as music that is logically playing thanks to what we see on-screen. An example of this would be someone playing a record or singing a song. However, he frequently uses songs by The Rolling Stones to create a certain atmosphere in his films. Tarantino also has a very interesting music taste when it comes to his films. The soundtracks he uses often make his scenes more notable because it intensifies them, and open up new playlists to his fans.
Action & Dialogue: Imitation And Homage
Martial arts plays a big part in Tarantino's films, and he makes references to pop culture along the way. As well as honing his own creative and original style, he often incorporates other films into his own. He takes scenes from other films and puts them into his own films, like the City of the Living Dead and Kill Bill Vol. 1, with the blood pouring out of a character's eyes. He does it in all his films, which isn't a bad thing, because he has his own ideas in how to use them.
The dialogue in Tarantino's films can be more exciting than the action. He has this unique ability to creative distinctive characters that stay with audiences for years. Everyone knows The Bride from Kill Bill and Hans Landa from Inglorious Bastards. Not to mention the Pulp Fiction characters.
As an auteur, Tarantino is one of the most popular directors of our time, having had several widely successful films, and action and dialogue has been key to his success.
Actors & Actresses: An Auteur's Muse
Actors, without a doubt, aid films in being as successful as they are. Johnny Depp is insanely talented and is phenomenal at transforming himself into the roles he plays for Burton's films. He's so believable and that makes these films so special. Depp and Burton have made eight successful films together and have a close friendship. That's why directors continue to work with the same cast — they have a good relationship and if it works well then you might as well work with the same people. This also helps improve the fanbase of these directors because as the fans fall in love with the actors and actresses, it's hard not to fall in love with the director too.
Leonardo DiCaprio is a recurring actor in Scorsese's modern films, having appeared in several of them. You can't deny that DiCaprio has a huge fanbase independently, and appearing in Scorsese's films improves the box office results as well as the quality of the movie. In the past, Scorsese used to make a lot of films with Robert De Niro, whereas you'll often see Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel appear in Tarantino movies.
With all this in mind, it's clear that auteur directors are very welcome in the industry, gaining a lot of respect while creating movies and building loyal fanbases throughout their careers.