Auteurs in Film and Academia

Last night I watched Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, the documentary about New Hollywood based on Peter Biskind's book of the same name. A main point I take away from the film (and which I don't remember taking away from the movie) is that maybe giving directors more or less complete control may not be such a good idea after all. The narrative is that it worked for a few years, giving us The Conversation and Taxi Driver; but then, the treatment directors received, coupled with excessive cocaine consumption, got to their heads, which gave us films like Scorsese's New York, New York (I haven't seen that one, but there seems to be a general agreement that it's, um, not a masterpiece.). The general argument need not be restricted to U.S. cinema. I certainly wouldn't have minded if some money men would have told Godard, "Er, Jean-Luc, can't you give us something that's a little more À bout de souffle?"

So perhaps artistic freedom isn't that hot after all. From a theoretical standpoint, that shouldn't be too surprising. Artists are good at creating original ideas and are almost bound to exhibit a certain amount of self-absorbtion; moreover, going against the grain is pretty much part of the job description. No wonder they'll pursue crap ideas from time to time, scoffing at the proles' ignorance.

I am writing this as I am in the middle of revising an article for resubmission. (In fact, I'm procrastinating). The main insult challenge is to cut its length by about 30%. No fun. But then, would I rather read a shorter or a longer article? Well, we all know the answer to that one. If you think that peer-review is the work of the devil whenever you're on the receiving end, but think, "Thank god there's peer-review" whenever you're asked to act as a gatekeeper, be aware that there's an inconsistency.

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