Auteur theory

Third Essay

Topic and direction:

  • Write a critical analysis of mise-en-scène (m-e-s) in the films of Sofia Coppola based on course screenings, readings, and discussions. In particular, focus on the question of whether you can make the case for Sofia Coppola having a distinct visual style as a director and what are the elements of m-e-s and her uses of the camera that define that style.
  • As a way of explaining or illustrating your argument, your analysis should include a close reading of at least two (2) of the frame grabs from each film in the group posted to the blog for the Frame Analysis assignment. You may also use an image, or images, of your choosing.
  • Note that “critical” in this context means to be detailed in your analysis, not judgmental as to quality. Think about what is visually distinctive about Coppola's films.
  • As you select elements or points for discussion, consider the contributions of other "authors" to the look and feel of the films. For example, the directors of photography or the production designers and actors.

Additional guidelines and requirements:

  • As a formal academic paper, this essay should have a clear thesis, or central argument, to make. Sample prompts for this essay: “Mise-en-scène (m-e-s) in Sofia Coppola's films is defined by …”, or, “In Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette and The Bling Ring, you can see Michel Sofia Coppola's visual style through the following uses of mise-en-scène (m-e-s)  …”
  • Essays should cite and document sources following these guidelines.
  • Films should be cited as follows. The first reference should provide a complete title and a date of release in parentheses, e.g., Lost in Translation (2003) (note that the film title is italicized). Subsequent references need only include the title. For films with longer titles, such as The Bling Ring, subsequent references can use a truncated title, as in Bling Ring. Film titles do not need to be included in the list of cited works.
  • Initial reference to mise-en-scène should use the full term. For subsequent references, “m-e-s” is acceptable. You can follow this guideline for all specialized terms.
  • There is no page requirement or limit for this paper, but use five to eight (5-8) as a guide.
  • Essays should be double-spaced with reasonably-sized fonts and margins (readability should be your goal). Number your pages.
  • Be specific in referencing names of filmmakers, characters, places, etc. IMDB and Wikipedia are both good sources for basic information about films and film productions.
  • For guidance on writing academic essays, refer to the resources I have on this page, including the WOU Writing Center. You can also consult with me. For longer questions or to have me review drafts, come to office hours. Shorter questions can be handled electronically via e-mail or on IM or over the phone (503-838-8296). You can also ask for advice via the class blog.

Due date and submission:

  • This essay is due by 11:59 pm on W 6/11. You will also have until that day and time to arrange an extension for full credit. Go here for details about Finals Week.
  • Submit your work electronically by the agreed upon date following these guidelines. For the assignment in the filename, use “Coppola."
  • The Director Essays are each worth fifteen (15) points towards your grade.

Second Essay (including rewrite instructions)

Topic and direction:

  • Write a critical analysis of mise-en-scène (m-e-s) in the films of Michel Gondry based on course screenings, readings, and discussions. In particular, focus on the question of whether you can make the case for Michel Gondry having a distinct visual style as a director and what are the elements of m-e-s and his uses of the camera that define that style.
  • As a way of explaining or illustrating your argument, your analysis should include a close reading of at least two (2) of the frame grabs from each film in the group posted to the blog for the Frame Analysis assignment. You may also use an image, or images, of your choosing.
  • Note that “critical” in this context means to be detailed in your analysis, not judgmental as to quality. Think about what is visually distinctive about Gondry's films.
  • As you select elements or points for discussion, consider the contributions of other "authors" to the look and feel of the films. For example, the directors of photography or the production designers and actors.

Additional guidelines and requirements:

  • As a formal academic paper, this essay should have a clear thesis, or central argument, to make. Sample prompts for this essay: “Mise-en-scène (m-e-s) in Michel Gondry's films is defined by …”, or, “In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind and Dave Chappelle's Block Party, you can see Michel Gondry's visual style through the following uses of mise-en-scène (m-e-s)  …”
  • Essays should cite and document sources following these guidelines.
  • Films should be cited as follows. The first reference should provide a complete title and a date of release in parentheses, e.g., Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) (note that the film title is italicized). Subsequent references need only include the title. For films with longer titles, such as Be Kind Rewind, subsequent references can use a truncated title, as in Be Kind. Film titles do not need to be included in the list of cited works.
  • Initial reference to mise-en-scène should use the full term. For subsequent references, “m-e-s” is acceptable. You can follow this guideline for all specialized terms.
  • There is no page requirement or limit for this paper, but use five to eight (5-8) as a guide.
  • Essays should be double-spaced with reasonably-sized fonts and margins (readability should be your goal). Number your pages.
  • Be specific in referencing names of filmmakers, characters, places, etc. IMDB and Wikipedia are both good sources for basic information about films and film productions.
  • For guidance on writing academic essays, refer to the resources I have on this page, including the WOU Writing Center. You can also consult with me. For longer questions or to have me review drafts, come to office hours. Shorter questions can be handled electronically via e-mail or on IM or over the phone (503-838-8296). You can also ask for advice via the class blog.

Due date and submission:

  • You should schedule a due date with me individually that should fall between M 5/19 and F 5/30. For this essay, I will make an effort to return your work as I receive it in order to afford you more time to perform a rewrite (see below). However, the later your due date, the less time you will have for a rewrite.
  • You should schedule your due date for this essay by the end of the day (11:59 pm) on W 5/21.
  • Submit your work electronically by the agreed upon date following these guidelines. For the assignment in the filename, use “Gondry."
  • You will have until the end of your due date (11:59 pm) to either submit your paper or arrange an extension for full credit.
  • The Director Essays are worth fifteen (15) points towards your grade.

Rewrites:

As with the first essay, you may rewrite this essay after receiving my score and comments. Rewriting is optional.

  1. Your rewrite should follow my suggestions for improvement on your original essay. However, feel free to make additional changes based on your own judgment.
  2. In addition to submitting your revised essay, provide me with an overview of the changes you made.
  3. Rewrites of the first essay are due by 5:00 pm on M 6/9. If you cannot meet this deadline, contact me ASAP regarding an extension. Depending on how long you wait to make this request, I may or may not accept your rewrite for full credit.
  4. Both your revised essay and overview should be submitted as one document following these guidelines for electronic submission. Your assignment name should be "SecondRewrite".
  5. I will add points to your original score based on my assessment of how much the paper has been improved.
  6. Feel free to meet with me to discuss my comments or to get assistance at the Writing Center.

Note that my scoring of the this essay will reflect the fact that you have the option to rewrite, as well as the fact that this is the second essay. Normally, in making my final assessment of a writing assignment like this, I will make allowances for certain, especially minor, flaws and problems, if the paper as a whole is successful. In this case, because of the rewrite opportunity and opportunity to learn from the first assignment, I will not be as liberal in making these kinds adjustments to the final scores of the first essays. 


A "Michel Gondry film"

Unlike Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind was both written and directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine was written by Charlie Kaufman). If you were to cite differences between the films related to this difference in authorship, what would you point to?


Auteur theory

In class, I mentioned "auteur theory" as an important moment in the development of film studies and also that the structure of this course, around the works of three directors, is an example of the influence of that theory.

  • Here you can read an overview of the history of auteur theory in the United States.
  • This (pdf) is film critic Andrew Sarris' influential account of the theory, and here is a reflection on his influence following his death in 2012.
  • Finally, you can watch a video discussion of auteur theory by University of Nebraska Lincoln professor, Wheeler Winston Dixon.

These resources are also collected on the course Storify page