Conversations With My Mom: Auteur Theory
Mom: Your dad and I just watched Ball Of Fire and Crime Of Passion, both with Barbara Stanwyck. Have you seen them?
Me: Just Ball Of Fire. It's great.
Mom: How come you haven't seen the other one? I thought you liked Barbara Stanwyck.
Me: I love Barbara Stanwyck. Ball Of Fire is by Howard Hawks, one of my favorite directors. But Crime Of Passion is...by some obscure guy [Gerd Oswald].
Mom: So, even though you love Barbara Stanwyck, you wouldn't see a movie just to see her in it?
Me: No, not always.
Mom: But she's wonderful in everything she does.
Me: She sure is.
Mom: So, why are you so gung-ho on directors?
Me: [pause, bracing myself] It's something called...[ahem]...the "auteur theory".
Mom: [cocks an eyebrow] Come again?
Me: Here's an example: All the movies by Hawks tend to be similar, have a certain style, a certain attitude. They repeat ideas and characters and themes...
Mom: Is this the guy who directed those two movies you made us watch last week?
Me: Yeah, Rio Bravo and El Dorado.
Mom: But they were both really the same movie!
Me: Yeah, wasn't that great?
Mom: No. Why would you want a director to repeat himself, make the same movie all over again?
Me: [defensively] Well, Mom, they're not exactly the same, there are cool little differences....But the big reason why they're so great is because every one of his movies is a Hawks movie....It's like every movie he makes has his fingerprints all over it, you know? His unique way of seeing the world, it's in every one of his movies....[trailing off]
Mom: [pauses, then smiles mischievously and throws in a word she has recently picked up from American television]: Whatever.