July 12, 1998
To the Editor in response toStanley Kauffmann: A Steady Critical Eye on Film's Shifting Currents:
Ms. Scott writes that Andrew Sarris, "who many now credit with changing the way Americans think about film," promoted the French auteur theory, "emphasizing the role of the director above all." Mr. Sarris did much more than import the director-as-auteur theory from France, and it wasn't this theory that so irked Mr. Kauffmann, Pauline Kael and John Simon. Rather, it was Mr. Sarris's notion that the works of Hollywood studio directors like Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford, as well as commercial genres like the western and musical, should be taken seriously.
When Ms. Scott writes that in 1957 "American movies were uninspired...but European cinema in particular had entered a period of brilliance," she comes off as out of touch with the revolution in film scholarship that took place in the 1960's in large part because of Mr. Sarris. John Ford's "The Searchers" had come out the previous year, and Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" would follow in 1958. Both films are now considered by many scholars to be pinnacles of artistic achievement in American cinema.
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