Jean-Paul RIOPELLE, L'hommage à Rosa Luxemburg, 1992 (détail)[ * ]


Authorship and Authorial Autonomy: The Personal Factor in the Cinematic Work of Art

Trevor Ponech
McGill University

Someone who offers to analyze authorship in the midst of a conversation on multiculturalism and the arts risks violating the assumption that a cooperative discussant's contribution should be relevant to the exchange. Rather than flout expectations, I owe readers an explanation. My ongoing project is to investigate the causal relation of individual consciousness to cultural phenomena. This project has a defensible bias: The individual is an ineluctable, non-specious source of meaning. One implication of this claim is that whether and how convention, tradition, institution, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, class, and other cultural facts constrain artistic production are contingent on the satisfaction of the right sorts of effective psychological conditions. Artistic activities take place partly on the basis of and owing to that which is granted to or imposed on the artist by social-historical context. Yet culture's effects have no autonomy from psychology. Another implication is that beyond the very real differences and diversity of human culture is the possibility of idiomatic self-expression. A still further implication is that across and between cultural locations there are certain shared features alien to none, features that correlate with certain shared principles of cultural judgment. One such universal is the notion of authorship: There exist individuals who, by virtue of exerting control over some of their deliberations and actions, exert control over an artefact's meaning and other artistic properties; to interpret that text, one reasonable option is to examine the history of its author's psychological relation to its production.

Rather than theorizing in general about the strength and direction of the deterministic relations between the individual and social totalities, I defend my bias and pursue its implications by revisiting a perennial problem in film theory. Even if you are not a cinephile or film scholar, the chances are very good that you know, maybe even believe, one of the core tenets of auteurism.1 Few ideas have been as influential within cinema history as the notion that a filmmaker, usually while serving in the position of director, might exert sufficient control over a film's form, style, and meaning to make that movie a direct, first-person expression of his or her own vision of life. In so doing, such a filmmaker achieves the status of "auteur"--author. Since the 1950s, generations of commercial as well as arthouse filmmakers have self-consciously aspired to be auteurs. At the same time, audiences, critics, and scholars around the world have done their parts to make auteurism the international folk psychological theory of cinematic authorship by embracing it as a criterion of merit and by scouting their own and others' national cinemas for signs of approaching (and receding) auteurs. Some readers will suspect that the globalization of auteurism is a symptom of the cultural hegemony of a distinctly Western, individualist ideology, one that has already been routed by various "death of the author" theorists. Though flawed, auteurism is the expression of a commonsense, legitimately transcultural assumption as warranted by the nature of human communication and symbolic exchange as the relevance maxim that I began by citing.

A massive amount of research and teaching is still organized around individual directors and their œuvres, yet auteurism within the academy has not fared well in the wake of structuralist, psychoanalytic, semiotic, and post-structuralist approaches to subjectivity and meaning. Some critiques of auteurism are indeed persuasive. But most also express antipathy toward the personal factor as a constraint on cinematic meaning, and toward the individual author as an essential and irreducible determinant within artistic and cultural production. It is an empirical matter, to be resolved by historians and ethnographers on the basis of the available evidence, whether there has ever been a time and place free of authors (not to be confused with a time and place free of the idea of or belief in authorship). My goal is to find conceptual grounds for reintroducing the personal factor into the theory of cinematic authorship and thereby show how and why some artworks are best regarded as authorially rather than culturally constructed.

I begin by describing the cinematic author not as someone who imposes a "personal vision" on a movie, but as the agent or agents responsible for the "A-plan." 2 An "agent" is an individual creature possessing at least modest capacities for reason, reflection upon its own as well as other agents' beliefs and desires, and deliberate or intentional action. Such a being is intrinsically self-directive; unlike a weather vane or vending machine, it has internal psychological states that it experiences both as meaningful and as making a difference to how it thinks and acts. Plans involve intentionality. They belong to a class of mental items with which the reader is no doubt already intimately familiar. You have plans to write books, take vacations, make dinners, finance your retirement; embedded within these plans is information about what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. The A-plan is not fundamentally different from these sorts of garden variety conduct-controlling psychological states. It settles practical matters of what and how to do things. Such a network of intentions might be fairly abstract, leaving much to be filled in as one's project advances. Yet the A-plan is nonetheless a global, synthetic blue-print or recipe regarding the finished movie's content, structure, properties, and effects, along with some of the means to achieving these ends.

One of the things that the international folk doctrine of cinematic authorship seems to value most in an author is autonomy. Chantal Akerman, Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, and John Woo are especially good or important directors in large part because each has a unique sensibility along with a corresponding ability to take creative control of their projects, despite all of the conceivable obstacles to cinematic self-expression. Indeed, some auteur theorists make it sound as if a filmmaker must attain significant autonomy before he or she can be rightly called an author. Andrew Sarris, who does not think that any film artist ever enjoys total creative freedom, nonetheless identifies the auteur-director as one who has "managed to overcome the gravitational pull of the mass of movies" in an effort to impose his own personality on a film. Alexandre Astruc, in an early and influential statement on the topic, describes cinematic authorship as an individual artist's act of self-expression in which the cast, crew, and material resources of the cinema are used as a personal instrument: "The filmmaker-author writes with his camera as a writer writes with his pen." 3

I dispute the idea that any special degree of autonomy is a defining condition of authorship. However, I defend the thesis that cinematic authors sometimes do think and act with an interesting, meaningful, noteworthy degree of autonomy. The sort of freedom I have in mind goes beyond that which is already bundled into the concept of the agent as a creature whose actions are proximally caused by its own subjectively meaningful psychological states. It does not, however, extend to an idealized notion of autonomous agents as ones moved purely by reason, their capacity for self-determination having been excised of all influences of history and context. Some cinema scholars believe that auteur theory goes farthest astray when it loses sight of the fact that a filmmaker's intentions, actions, and abilities are themselves overdetermined by heteronomous "forces" of which the agent/subject is probably not at all conscious. I want to stress that any notion of autonomy worth defending is one which starts from the assumption that individuals are not the sole or ultimate source of their actions; that beings such as ourselves, because of our finite cognitive resources and the depth of our souls, are only ever imperfectly rational; and that our characters and lives are constantly in the process of being shaped by situation and culture. Al Mele therefore offers a relevant contemporary option for understanding autonomy when he associates it with an exercisable capacity of actual agents for self-government. 4 On this account, autonomy is a personal, psychological feature that you could experience yourself as having--an experience that would strike you as being qualitatively different from those instances in which you've felt compelled, coerced, externally directed, or at a loss for self-control. Mele describes an array of satisfiable conditions for the existence of autonomy. These center on the history of how a person came to have a certain attitude or perform a given action, and involve informed deliberation, reliable practical reasoning, mental health, capacities for self-reflection and self-modification, the absence of certain types of manipulation and compulsion, and various other factors supporting a person's "nonultimate" self-control. 5

Below I characterize authorial autonomy as a species of personal autonomy. More precisely, it is the exercise of control over one's beliefs, willings, preferences, values, principles, and actions within the artistic sphere, that is, the sphere of motion picture production. As I am not a philosopher, I am in no position to outline and justify a philosophical theory of autonomy. Instead I try to give my fellow scholars of cinema and culture some reasons to consider seriously the possibility that cinematic authors exist and on occasion enjoy a distinctive measure of freedom that makes a difference to the kinds of work they produce.

Cinematic Authorship

Filmmaking and film authorship require intentional action, whereby certain complex psychological states constrain a person's overt behaviors, whereby in turn the movie's content and structure are shaped. How did it get to be true in the story of Winter Light that Märta takes holy communion from Tomas, that we view her face in profile as she sips from the chalice, and that the relevant images describe this scene as looking thus and so? A commonsensical, experientially well-founded type of explanation--one that can be given an analytical foundation, too--supposes that the movie has the stated properties because Bergman and his associates, after some consideration, decided that the film should have roughly those properties, then took corresponding practical steps toward instantiating these preferences.

Some readers will think that this account is so commonsensical and truistic that it could not let us say anything profound about the real sources of meaning, i.e. the multifarious, obscure, uncontrollable textual, subintentional, or supraindividual forces at work in the cinema. But the open-minded will want to mull over two points. First, the metaphysical assumption that intentions, plans, and practical reasoning are not mere epiphenomena of discourses, conventions, production systems, instinctual drives, etc. seems to me to be more warranted than its negation. Unless one has at one's disposal special evidence to the contrary, one is on the whole in a much better position to maintain that texts, discourses, and so on lack autonomy and causal efficacy; they are ultimately the effects of individuals' meaningful psychological attitudes rather than their sources. Moreover, it is part of our everyday experiences of ourselves and others that deliberation and choice can make a difference to what one does, a person's considered better judgment sometimes settling one on a course of action contrary to what one feels most strongly motivated to do. The (itself questionable) supposition that deep psychical drives recognizably manifest themselves in behavior--including very complex activities like filmmaking--leaves it empirically as well as logically indeterminate as to whether such drives work blindly and mechanically or whether they are themselves subject to significant cognitive conditions and higher-order, conscious modifications. 6 Secondly, it is necessary to distinguish a strong claim for intentionalism from strong intentionalism. Strong claim theorists argue that plans are normally decisive determinants of cinematic meaning, one additional premise of their case being that a movie's meaningful and artistic properties are not exhausted by or identical to only those (directly) intended by its maker(s). Strong intentionalism need not qualify itself with the added premise. What follows is strong claim intentionalism.

I treat authorship as a practical matter of some person or persons deliberately doing something. Deliberately doing something, X, entails acting on an intention to do or achieve X. By "intention" I understand a psychological item that bridges a gap between one's having the motives to perform a given action (along with the skills to do it) and one's actually performing that action. 7 Hence it is has two important facets--one motivational, the other representational. Mele construes the motivational dimension in terms of the acquisition of a commitment or "executive attitude" to an action. Unlike the acquisition of even a preponderantly strong urge to do something, an individual's taking an executive attitude consists of his being settled upon X-ing, where settledness is understood to have the effect of triggering the sort of reasoning and behavior that the individual expects will lead to his X-ing. An intention's representational component describes a goal state and a scheme, however partial, for how to achieve that objective. Intending to do X entails having, and being guided by, some fixed ideas about X as well as steps leading to the realization of X. Thus an intention's causal efficacy derives from its executive attitude component initiating and sustaining the implementation of a representational component guiding behavioral output. A person's intentionally performing an action is not just contingent on his having a plan for so acting, but also depends on his acting as he does because he is following this plan. 8

The kinds of plans that interest me serve, or could serve, an etiological function in a work's emergence because they are components within intentions. Now each of the people involved in a movie's production frequently acts on the basis of some fairly precise intentions: The producers intentionally arrange financing, the director intentionally places the actors nearer to the trees, the actors intentionally follow the dialogue written in the script, the gaffer intentionally tapes together electrical cords, and so on ad infinitum. All of these intentions presumably serve the causal function cited above. Where in this vortex of intentionality does authorship reside? We ought to grant that indeed there probably are cases in which authorship is effectively swept aside by the onslaught of collaborators' and contributors' interventions. In a case of that sort, the film would arguably have makers yet no author nor authors. The solution to this puzzle depends on whether anyone stood in a special type of intentional relation to the proximal conditions of the work's emergence.

Normally, a film's author is the person who possesses the A-plan. An A-plan is essentially an intention like any other, but a good deal can be said of its own typical content and functions. The A-plan is a global, systematic specification of a motion picture representation's properties, as well as procedures for realizing those features; because it has a motivational dimension, the A-plan also triggers, guides, and sustains authorial efforts, of both deliberation and overt physical action, to make a work having the envisioned properties. Of course, an author need not be focally conscious of every element of the plan at all times, any more than you are always fully aware of even the broad strokes of any one of your intricate, long-term plans. Moreover, the A-plan might be, at least initially, rather more vague and abstract than detailed. In any case, it is not misleading to compare the content of this kind of intention to a recipe which stipulates a dish's ingredients, their proportions, how they shall be blended, and the over-all desired results of combining them.

To help clarify matters, it is worth noting three characteristics of authorial plans: scope, hierarchical precedence, and coordinative power. Authorial plans encompass a view of what the work as a whole shall be like when finished. So they have scope in two related senses. They incorporate ideas about different regions of the production, especially its sundry communicative, representational, and aesthetic aspects. Within a single A-plan may be embedded preferences regarding: whether the work shall be fiction or non-fiction, ironic or sincere, obliquely or openly expressive of certain themes; whether it shall be narrative or non-narrative; how the plot, if any, shall be organized; what sorts of objects, situations, events, and characters shall be depicted; when, how, and to what extent viewers will learn facts about the movie's depicta; what the film's visual and aural style, rhythm and pacing shall be; what emotional and other responses it would be desirable to try to elicit from a given target audience. A-plans also have scope in that they may incorporate the planner's subjective access to various systematic relations he or she foresees between the aforementioned aspects--relations, for instance, between lighting and thematics, editing and rhythm, camera angles and the audience's engagement with particular characters.

The author and the A-plan are at the top of a hierarchy. The further down and out we go along its lower branches of subaltern planners and subordinate plans, right out to the gaffers and grips and so forth, the less comprehensive their plans are and the less their reasoning and intentions project and describe aspects of the film's content, form, desired effects on an audience, and other artistically relevant properties. We must, however, note two features of this arrangement. First, the concept of the A-plan may be relativised to one's production role. Bernard Herrmann, composer of North by Northwest's musical score, is a maker of North by Northwest, not its author; but he is the author of its score, in a sense of "musical author" closely parallel to the notion of cinematic author now at issue. A similar claim could be made of actor Cary Grant and his performance, and of writer Ernest Lehman and his screenplay. Secondly, instead of being a rigidly top-down arrangement, the kind of hierarchy we observe could be quite "tangled." Some movies are made in situations in which subalterns have significant opportunities for feedback and independent innovation, with authors being correspondingly disposed toward making adjustments. How authors are related to subordinates and collaborators is a matter of great empirical variety.

The A-plan's coordination function works on two fronts. On one hand, the A-plan provides a stable background framework within which the planner can engage in further deliberation and problem-solving. Once settled on making a movie possessing features of types F1, F2, and F3--say, a story of time travel, a reflection on human longing, and use of the cinematic image as a metaphor for the vivacity of memory--one's reasoning from a perspective internal to the A-plan helps one to search out and weigh the relevant options for best realizing and connecting the preferred features. On the other hand, the A-plan is distinguished from other filmmaking intentions by its power of social coordination, that is, by constraining the content of other individuals' more regionally determinant and hierarchically subordinate plans, so that these will be relevant to and consistent with the A-plan's specifications. It is therefore likely, especially within the popular cinema, that an authorial plan's implementation entails its initiating and guiding a great many other makers' intentions and actions. In such contexts, an author is someone who effectively marshalls and supervises subalterns' contributions.

Possession of an A-plan gives an individual subjective access to a partial but systematic overview of the completed movie, plus the disposition to embark on the stepwise progression of actions leading toward that scheme's realization. If and when we find someone about whom we can justifiably say, "Aha, she has the A-plan," have we necessarily located the corresponding (prospective) work's author? The answer should be no, for this person may not have done enough of the right things to deserve this title, even on charitable grounds. Cinematic authorship essentially involves making and doing. Someone who possesses a certain intention, or constellation of intentions, therefore may still not have authored anything. In other words, the A-plan itself is but one link in a causal chain of agential reasoning and action constitutive of authorship.

An A-plan is the output of what I take to be the major psychological phenomenon and core concept within the present analysis of authorship, A-planning. "Planning" refers to the activity of filling in and modifying the representational content of intentions. In filmmaking, as in any other domain of life, it is a species of practical reasoning--reasoning undertaken by somebody in order to resolve such questions as, "What do I do now?" or "How do I achieve X?" Cinematic authors must plan with a view to settling on and carrying through a particular type of course of action: the functional adaptation of audio-visual and other resources to such ends as telling stories, expressing attitudes, and creating formal patterns. I would like to leave the discussion of A-planning's technical intricacies to another occasion, restricting myself here to a few programmatic remarks. 9 Intentions often stem from concerted efforts of reflection and deliberation, during which one's options or objectives, as well as routes to achieving them, are carefully assessed before one makes an all (or most) things considered evaluative judgment about what to do. Taking seriously financial as well as aesthetic and scheduling considerations, a filmmaker, Clint, decides that it's best to shoot his next feature, a western, almost entirely on his own ranch. Having added this piece to his plan, Clint carries on to deliberate over which locations to use and how to alter the existing story so as visually and thematically to exploit his ranch's atmosphere.

Notice that A-planning, as the task of filling in the scheme with increasing detail and in response to subsequent exigencies, might be temporally very extended, encompassing the earliest stages of pre- through to the latest stages of post-production, a period which could span years. I also understand A-planning as inclusive of highly spontaneous and open processes. Rather than arising from a more or less laborious act of deliberation, authorial insights--including solutions to problems and reversals of decisions--can be acquired more passively or in an unexpected flash as often happens, even during moments of diversion, when one's thoughts have for a time been deeply immersed in a project.

Although the idea of non-overlapping stages is a bit too tidy to have much empirical appeal, a heuristic model of the pragmatics of cinematic authorship is committed to the idea that upstream of an individual's possession of the A-plan is his or her psychological activity of A-planning. Downstream of both of these points is the executive phase. To have an intention, it is said, is to be in a special settled, as opposed to desiring, state with respect to a prospective action or goal. To have an A-plan is therefore to be prepared to execute it. Minimal preparedness consists of taking the executive attitude toward the plan's content. But our intuitive association of authorship with making and doing implies a more robust notion of the executive phase, too. Needed here is some modest requirement, satisfiable by anyone actively committed to pursuing his or her A-plan. Namely, this agent must take some overt steps consistent, from their own point of view, with realizing the kind of work described by the A-plan. This requirement is meant to reflect the fact that authorship, like filmmaking in general, normally involves performing actions that draw upon and exhibit a person's sometimes very large repertoire of relevant executive capacities, talents, and practical skills.

The foregoing description of authorship's executive dimension does not imply that the finished work will have all and only those properties foreseen in the A-plan. Trying--even trying very, very hard--to do X is itself no guarantee of successful X-ing. For whatever reasons, the cinematic author, her helpers, and her collaborators might fail to implement some parts of the A-plan; their efforts could generate various results not predicted by the plan; or the work could wind up with numerous features that did not originate with or directly depend upon anyone's intentions or efforts to do anything. However, were the executive phase to realize none of the planned properties, it would hardly make sense to speak of authorship. Deciding on the norms of successful implementation is a difficult problem, and in the present context I want to avoid stipulating the degree to which a plan must be realized before it is a case of successful authorship. Thus I offer a neutral formulation: Owing to some agent's efforts and capacities, the A-plan must effectively constrain the work's emergence, content, form, and so on before we can speak of authorship.

At this juncture, it is possible to make a more cogent statement of the nature of cinematic authorship. A full-blown cinematic author is a person who:

(1) engages in A-planning resulting in

(2) his/her possession of a conduct-controlling A-plan which effectively constrains parts of a cinematic work's meaning and so on because

(3) he/she, having appropriate executive capacities, takes steps to implement his/her A-plan.

Authorship is not to be equated with the making of just any artistic contribution to a film, nor with an instance of an individual exerting extraordinary control over a work's entire structure and significance. Instead, it pertains to the history of a person's psychological and practical relations to a movie's production. This concept of author is not synonymous with that of director, writer, producer, or any combination of such roles. Filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman, Takeshi Kitano, and Preston Sturgess, by virtue of personally planning and performing a variety of important tasks, do not automatically become authors. Would-be authorship pursued on multiple fronts could be externally, or internally, undermined, thus all for naught. Such efforts must effectively constrain the resultant work's emergence. On the other hand, a director like Hitchcock, who relied on screenwriters to generate stories and dialogue, is not necessarily barred from authorship. Owing to his extensive collaboration in the writing process, along with his work to asssimilate the screenplay into his own elaborate A-plans for the movie's thematics, structure, style, and effects, Hitch aquired authorial status by way of both his A-planning and his executive skill with respect to supervising the contributions of colleagues. 10

I am also inclined to agree with Paisley Livingston that not all movies have authors. Perhaps some films result from nothing resembling an A-plan, and fail to fall under the auspices of anybody functioning as an A-planner. 11 Such works would have makers, without any individual or group having much of a global conception of the project. Other works could have joint or collective authors, in which two or more people mutually and cooperatively participate in the formulation and execution of a shared A-plan; still another option would be multiple authorship, as in compilation films and anthologies, wherein each individual cooperatively contributes a largely independently authored work.

Apropos of candidates for the title of "cinematic author," the kind of historical view that I favor encourages us to make subtle but important discriminations when assessing somebody's authorial involvement. Consider this outlandish but heuristically useful test case. A powerful malevolent demon passes the time by inventing an exhaustive plan describing the form, content, and technical steps toward the making of an original feature-length motion picture, The Devil's Own Movie. For a while he fiddles idly with the plan, never intending to make such a film. But one day, out of sheer boredom, he randomly "zaps" a mortal, Bob, who is not a filmmaker. Thus the demon downloads into his victim a mental item with content and functions analogous to an A-plan, along with some relevant executive skills; Bob is thereby compelled to make The Devil's Own Movie, although after months in psychoanalysis he still cannot remember or understand what moved him to sacrifice a year of life to activities he finds alienating and anathema to his personality. Who is the cinematic author? Bob seems like a bad candidate, not least of all because he has done no A-planning. Indeed, were he informed of his true circumstances, Bob would likely agree that the scheme he possesses and acts upon is less his own, in any deep sense, than if he had by chance found it written on papers in a trash basket and freely chosen (without diabolical intervention) to commit it to celluloid. Given the history of his psychological relation to The Devil's Own Movie, the demon seems no better a candidate for author. True, many of the movie's properties stand in the requisite relation of dependence on the content of a plan wholly of his own invention. 12 But on one plausible interpretation of the situation, there is a key defect in the demon's causal role in the movie's emergence. Strictly speaking, he never desires or intends to make the movie. His planning is an academic exercise, devoid of an executive attitude; likewise, he possesses the plan without ever settling on its implementation. And when he does perform an action that results in the film's production, it is with the intention of amusing himself for a moment by instantaneously ruining a mortal's life. The successful execution of the film plan--an action in which the demon takes no intrinsic interest--is a by-product of his fleeting commitment to doing something else. At most, then, The Devil's Own Movie has makers but no author(s).

Now consider this variation on the scenario, different in that from the outset the demon's goal is to bring a movie into existence, his motive being none other than an intrinsic desire to make a movie. But he hates the idea of donning earthly form and dealing with mortals, especially ones from Hollywood. So after extensive planning of the prospective cinematic work, he randomly zaps a by-stander, Bob, and anxiously awaits his unwitting proxy's execution of the plan. The previously missing component--an executive attitude on the demon's part--is now present in abundance. The demon is actively committed to making a movie, and that is what he plans and intends to do. Granted, his involvement in the executive phase is minimal. For this reason, the present scenario surely does not correspond to a case of full-blown authorship. Yet given his executive attitude, and his active engagement in genuine A-planning, the demon's psychological history mandates our charitability. He is the work's author. He wanted to make The Devil's Own Movie, and that's just what he did.

Authorial Autonomy

Putting aside skepticism about the existence of authors, cinema scholars are likely to suspect that there are overwhelming reasons why such a person could enjoy no more than trivial autonomy. An author, particularly one working in the popular, commercial cinema, is perforce subject to countless influences and constraints imposed by economic, industrial, and institutional realities. Moreover, do not such realities as genres, formulas, and marketing demographics ultimately belie the notion of uncompromised individual creative freedom? Even the more heterodox practices of low-budget, independent, and avant-garde filmmakers are those of selves moulded by intractable psychic, social, and cultural factors. Many critics will share Edward Buscombe's sentiment that in analyzing notions of authorship, "The conscious will and talent of the artist (for want of a better word) may still be allowed some part, surely. But of course, that conscious will and talent are also in turn the product of those forces that act upon the artist, and it is here that traditional auteur theory most seriously breaks down." 13

Were we to view autonomy in absolute terms--as the individual's transcendence of external as well as internal influences alien to that person's will, or as a trait of the wholly self-shaping agent--we'd have to agree that auteurism fails by positing and valorizing the autonomous author. Yet at the same time, we would be ignoring a kind of practical autonomy that seems achievable by, although not definitive of, the cinematic author. I urge that our discussion of autonomy be bounded in other respects, too. Critiques of auteurism often sound as if they are passing judgment on the individual's potential for overall personal autonomy. I limit discussion to the possibility of a person exhibiting self-rule with respect to certain of their artistic endeavors; and I make the corresponding assumption that someone might be, on balance, an autonomous author without being an autonomous person on the whole. Similarly, authorial autonomy may vary during the interval between a project's inception and completion. Cinematic authorship is generally a complex, time consuming task comprising a great many actions and events systematically linked across several identifiable phases. The freedom one exercises during A-planning might not be matched by one's control at the executive phase. Authorial autonomy is gradational, that is, one more or less freely does X at a given time, and one can be more or less autonomous relative to other authors or to one's self in the context of previous phases or episodes of filmmaking. Finally, like an attibution of authorship, an assessment of authorial autonomy pertains to what we can know, or discover, about the history of someone's psychological relation to certain plans and actions. It is not enough that this artefact's production be under his or her intentional control. Autonomy also depends on how the agent comes to have the beliefs, desires, values, and other attitudes guiding the processes by which that person forms or acquires the relevant filmmaking intentions. This idea helps to explain how agents can be genuinely responsible for the emergence of certain cultural phenomena, like movies, without denying the obvious fact that people's thoughts and actions are (somehow) constrained by social-historical realities.

What conditions promote authorial autonomy? Broadly speaking, I think that the leading contenders involve evaluative deliberation and judgment. A-planning encompasses the process of practical reflection, reasoning, and problem-solving aimed toward decisive judgments regarding what it is better or best to do. 14 Subsequently, the artist acquires corresponding intentions and performs actions executing those intentions. As a rule of thumb, I suggest that authorial freedom grows with increased engagement in the appropriate types of evaluative judgment. It is only in this way that there is any hope of the author exercising more substantial, less superficial control over cinematic form, content, and functions. More to the point, the psychological process of A-planning can be autonomous when it is on balance an instance of informed, uncompelled, uncoerced, reliable deliberation about what it is better or best to do. When we ask whether someone autonomously authored a work, we might have in mind questions about the extent to which that person had "creative control" over the project, imposed their "personal vision" on the finished film, answered to or took commands from studio bosses, effectively supervised if not personally performed a variety of key artistic tasks, relied upon the expertise of other production workers, and was constrained by commercial dictates or cinematic conventions. We can start to answer many such questions by considering two aspects of the agent's A-planning: the informational and motivational inputs to judgment, and what is done with those inputs.

It seems plausible to contend, as Mele does, that someone who acts autonomously is able to do so partly because his beliefs about the matter that concerns him are conducive to informed deliberation. 15 A preponderance of defective beliefs about how to X, X-ing's feasibility, or its consequences therefore reduces one's control over the situation by thwarting insight and undermining the power of planning. One facet of creative control thus pertains to the epistemic quality of an author's beliefs. Say, for instance, that a prestigious director, Woody, decides to make a horror film but, due to a total lack of experience in this genre many of his most relevant choices of style, editing, and mise en scène are based on faulty beliefs about how to trigger the desired emotional responses. To make things worse, some acolytes who view a "rough cut" of the film spare Woody's feelings by reporting that they feel terror and dread when, in fact, they do not. We shouldn't expect any filmmaker to be omniscient or to deliberate without error and only with reference to justified, true beliefs. But insofar as misinformation significantly degrades his control over whether his film really is horrifying, an artistic property of central concern to him, Woody is that much less autonomous.

In the philosophical literature, another hallmark of self-rule is the absence of coercion and compulsion from the etiology of action. Presumably, part of what it means to have modest self-control is to be in command of one's motivations for thinking and acting as one does. The person whose conduct is for a time spurred on by neurotic fears, brainwashing, or threats of physical harm is probably nonautonomous during that period. Although I shall leave the idea of coercion unexamined, the concept of compulsion must be distinguished from causal determination in general, as a clear-cut violation of the will or erosion of personal responsibility. On one analysis, then, to be compelled to think or act in a certain manner, during a given interval, is to be forced to acquire or sustain a conduct-controlling value, principle, want, desire, need, preference, or other so-called "pro-attitude." The distinctive force of compulsion derives from this condition: The agent comes to have that attitude in a way that bypasses his (limited) abilities for controlling his mental life and thereby results in his being practically unable to shed that attitude, where the agent did not himself engineer the bypassing. 16 If unbeknownst and unbidden by you a political operative intentionally feeds you a potion that makes you want to vote for the more evil of two candidates for public office; or if accidently and unknowingly you pour that same powerful elixir into your martini, the history and conditions underlying the longing that now preoccupies you seem to add up to compelled motivation. Your normal path to political will formation, involving evidence gathering and assessing candidates' policies in light of your own values, has been subverted. Given the potion's irresistible effects, relative to your own ordinarily moderate capacity to master desires contrary to your better judgment, it is not at the moment (nor anytime in the near future) within your psychological power to extinguish or lessen the urge to vote for the greater of two evils. And unlike Odysseus, you have not arranged this manipulation for yourself.

A filmmaker wanting to evade an ideological witch hunt might, with a deep sense of shame, try to stay off the blacklist of unemployable artists by choosing projects he finds inane but unlikely to cast doubt on his loyalty to a reigning ideology about which he has reservations. The change in his artistic preferences is not one he sought out for himself; what's more these new preferences bypass the principles usually controlling his decisions about whether a movie is worth making, and stem from entrenched anxieties about success and acceptance that would be difficult for him to shed for the time being. This person's artistic judgments and, more generally, filmmaking activities, are compelled in the current sense of the term. Conversely, ~Pedro!, a flamboyant European director who moves to Los Angeles and willingly assumes the burdens of mainstream American filmmaking, is not necessarily compelled when he finds himself conforming to norms of style and taste at odds with his former transgressive aesthetic. To get other rewards, perhaps he engineers a (tentative) psychological détente with Hollywood values.

To decide whether ~Pedro! has lost some autonomy, we really need to look at the bigger picture, that is, the reliability of his deliberations. If ~Pedro! decided to go to Hollywood on the basis of informed, critical reflection on his options, taking into consideration his long standing artistic plus other relevant principles and goals, then a significant measure of autonomy is built into his choice, even if it does entail compromises. Alternatively, a hasty judgment made under the influence of wishful thinking and biased belief--focussed primarily on his fantasy of taking Hollywood by storm, and recalling only those European talents who have made it big in L.A.--would by dint of its irrationality undermine his self-control from the outset and render subsequent authorial choices that much less self-controlled. How an author deliberates is crucial to his or her achievements as an A-planner, break-downs of autonomy in this sphere being a potential liability to artistic success. On the evidence, I suspect that Edward Wood authored Plan 9 From Outer Space, a stultifying display of this enthusiastic yet talentless amateur filmmaker's unwitting violations of form and narrative sense. 17 Apparently Wood aspired to make a better movie, with altogether as much polish as the independent studio-produced "B" pictures of the 1950s. Yet as an A-planner he was consistently inept and self-deceived in his calculations of the feasibility, for someone like himself with few resources and no specialized skills, of adapting his vision of Plan 9's story and special effects to the screen.

Because autonomy is a higher-order property beyond a mere capacity for purposive action, it is standard among theorists to link it with an ability to recognize values, desires, and principles of special importance to one, critically appraise their merits, then actively revise, reject, or identify with them. Here the concept of identification is meant to evoke the possibility of an agent taking a conscious stand on the desirability and goodness, for him, of having or accepting a certain value, then forming a belief to the effect that his having that value is a good thing. 18 Without guaranteeing autonomy, such reflection on higher-order attitudes may promote authenticity, in the sense of one's possessing and acting on values, desires, and principles with which one identifies in an uncompelled way. By so taking responsibility for them, he becomes a source--though surely not the only or ultimate source--of those attitudes.

To appreciate authenticity's rapport with authorial autonomy, consider this fictional portrait of cinematic authorship from Olivier Assayas' satire on contemporary French cinema, Irma Vep (1996). René Vidal, one of a lingering but no longer prominent cohort of filmmakers borne to the screen by the New Wave, is asked by French television producers to direct a remake of Louis Feuillade's classic 1915 serial, Les Vampires. René agrees on the condition that he be allowed to cast Hong Kong movie star Maggie Cheung, who Assayas casts as herself, to play the anagrammatic crime diva Irma Vep. Otherwise, René professes interest in reproducing the style and substance of the original series' tale of the Parisian criminal underworld. But like Guido Anselmi in 8 1/2, he soon regards the project expected of him as an unbearable imposition. In the midst of shooting, René has a nervous collapse and is eventually replaced by another director. However, he leaves behind a short film composed from footage shot before his departure. Far from a magisterial updating of Feuillade, René's own work runs less than five minutes and is decidedly nonnarrative. Instead, a colleague's early prediction that he would "muck things up in the editing room" proves true: The movie René makes is a disjunctive yet rhythmic collage of images, mainly of Maggie costumed as Irma; much of the film's surface is carefully etched with geometric shapes and patterned scratches, including wavey lines emanating from Maggie's eyes.

René seems ineligible to be a perfectly autonomous author, not least of all because of the failure of his A-planning to prevent a significant artistic failure. Moreover, his shakey mental health might rule out characterizing him as on balance an autonomous individual. But insofar as Irma Vep's narrative is attentive to the critical reflection that leads the director to abandon one plan, while transforming it into another, there are also grounds to credit him with a measure of personal qua artistic control. At the story's outset, René informs Maggie of his desire to respect the simplicity and beauty of Feuillade's Les Vampires while also modernizing the work, Maggie's participation being one step toward modernization. But later, just before he leaves the production, the director tells his star that it was only ever his idea of her as Irma Vep that sustained his attraction to Les Vampires. Upon reflection, René finds that he has been caught up in a two-dimensional fantasy--of Maggie's agile "magical" persona in Hong Kong supernatural adventure films; of her dressed in a latex rubber bodysuit, modelled after Catwoman's costume in Batman Returns. Beneath the surface of this exciting image, he can see no reason to remake Feuillade's serial. When Maggie asks if he is no longer interested in the project, he replies: "I'm interested in you. You are more interesting than the character. But in the end, there is nothing for you to act. Irma Vep is an object." Of course, no matter what film he makes, René's sensibilities will be deeply constrained by his history and culture; and he is hardly unique among cineastes in having lost confidence in French national cinema culture, and in looking to the Asian cinema (among other sites) for inspiration and renewal. Nevertheless, by engaging in a critical reconstruction of the values and desires animating his plans, and by aligning his artistic goals with the results of this self-reflection, René attains a genuine if modest degree of authorial automomy extending from his work's authenticity. Even if his short film is a somewhat unfashionable echo of New Wave assaults on cinematic conventions, his manipulations of Maggie's image effectively register his insight that the value he initially placed on the remake, and the desires that motivated him, were superficial. And expressing that insight is, upon reflection, what he values most.

If one authors a film, it is because one fulfills some deeply stable, transhistorical conditions on the nature of authorship. To be sure, one also thereby acts as a cultural agent, as there are myriad ways in which cultural-historical givens likely influence the content of one's plans, why one formulates these plans and not others, and how one enacts them. The type of theory of authorship that I am developing does not doubt that artworks result from, embody, and help to reproduce deeply cultural attitudes--including implicit as well as explicit beliefs, values, norms, feelings, and habits of thought and action that are mutually and firmly held by members of one human group, but that need have no such grip on the lives of members of another group. But it does regard the artwork's emergence and its cultural perspective as idiomatic in three main senses.

First, whether a work actually embodies or indicates a cultural attitude is psychologically contingent, insofar as that attitude cannot be manifested unless it figures as a proximal cause of the work by constraining the planning and/or executive activities of the author(s) or maker(s). There are crucial distinctions to be made here: Much as one's accent can unintentionally indicate one's nationality, a value or assumption might be conveyed as collateral information, because it influenced an artist's choices of style or content, without the artist having tried to express, communicate, or endorse that attitude. By the same token, the fictive René Vidal deliberately albeit obliquely expresses a taste for American and Asian cinematic forms, while casting doubt on the artistic merits of superficial exercises in cinematic hybridization. Secondly, it follows that whether a work actually embodies or indicates a cultural attitude can be subject to critical self-reflection and value-engineering. Finally, a filmmaker's opportunites for effective control over a film's voice, including its images of an ethnic or racial group, may be multiple and substantial even when his or her work is subject to demonstrable hegemony. A critic who, for instance, equates independent and authentic African-American filmmaking with the director's complete autonomy from classical Hollywood styles as well as from the financial, technological, distribution, and marketing resources of the Hollywood mainstream gains a bold sense in which such a director would be "oppositional," but obscures the nature and sources of authorial autonomy while pushing it still further from the artist's reach. 19 I hope, then, that an analysis of authorship and autonomy in psychological terms, rather than as resistance and ideological struggle, identifies phenomena that are nonetheless attainable and integral cultural realities.


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