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Justin Lin may be a Hollywood director working in a popular mold, but close readings of his films makes it clear that he is imparting a personal imprint. His Tokyo Drift configures Japan as a fully realized, lived-in space visited by an outsider, the film's sense of dislocation not unlike Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation. Fast Five, likewise, imagines Brazil as a multicultural mecca, and it remains one of the precious few Hollywood blockbusters to wholly embrace the racial diversity of its cast. These are valuable elements of films that have been widely dismissed as vacuous and trashy. Vulgar auteurism means respecting such films enough to give them the careful evaluation they deserve.

Filmmakers like Justin Lin, who, despite an obvious formal command and distinctive directorial voice, are rarely discussed in a serious way.
Filmmakers like Justin Lin, who, despite an obvious formal command and distinctive directorial voice, are rarely discussed in a serious way.

It's important to recall that the "vulgar" part of vulgar auteurism doesn't refer to crudeness, but to commonality; it argues against the notion that the only films worth talking about are those designed for an arthouse audience. Much like the Young Turks of the French New Wave, who aimed in their Cahiers du cinéma writing to bring critical appreciation to Hollywood filmmakers widely considered unworthy—and from Alfred Hitchcock to Samuel Fuller, their efforts have since been vindicated by history—it is the task of the vulgar auteurists to find the value buried in films we otherwise think of as trashy, unsophisticated, or obscene.

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2 comments
waymeash
waymeash

I believe decades ago these modern day action directors would be described by the far more accurate phrase 'talented hacks'. Someone directs an action sequence or series of where a viewer can surmise what is going on and they're suddenly maligned artists? These are directors for hire: Lin's Fast series makes money, end of story. McTiernan's Predator & 1st Die Hard were well made genre films; Tony Scott could've made them, no beat skipped. Mann has a personalized point of view, skill, ability to slow down narrative but a problem with natural sounding dialogue, though I don't hang around with criminals or cops. Miami Vice was critically maligned in some circles for 2 reasons: lack of irony towards its 80's TV counterpart & something Anuj touched upon, the lack of blockbuster box office numbers combined with internet movie review blogging proclaiming something an artistic failure based upon its financial success (the Heaven's Gate syndrome). I remember in '91 seeing The Last Boy Scout with a buddy at Christmas: everything blew up real good & slick; it was enjoyable on its own terms. It was deemed a failure. Why? Numbers. It was the SAME type of formula action film Scott had made since Top Gun, with a darker more cynical tone (perfect for the holidays). It's just that nowadays Tony Scott flash looks like restraint next to Michael Bay's hyperactive incomprehensibility.  Seeing The Master last fall reminded me that films with this deliberate pacing would not appeal to the gamer/comic book/mall culture that are now running Hollywood. There are too many remakes to remake.

Anuj
Anuj like.author.displayName 1 Like

'It's important to recall that the "vulgar" part of vulgar auteurism doesn't refer to crudeness, but to commonality; it argues against the notion that the only films worth talking about are those designed for an arthouse audience.'

Film criticism as well as larger discourse around film itself has addressed this issue around seventy years ago. It seems the only novelty here resides in nomenclature, not in approach, for if you wish to apply the tenets of auteurism (which at any rate, this new front presupposes is a perfect approach and therefore, can safely be used as a foundation to sprout another tentacle on its body) to directors who are usually thought of as trashy, overtly mainstream, makers of enfranchised films or directors-for-hire, why do you even need a new term? What you state in the excerpt above is so obvious that that it needs to be stated in 2013 is strange in itself. Why? Because the gist of the present affair is: 'Take every movie seriously, for it may reveal conscious design/merit.' The fact is, every serious critic already knows it. Unfortunately, vulgar auteurism, even if inadvertently, seems to rally against the callous approach of only tabloid reviewers/mainstream journalists who function through fixed prisms of judgment (all arthouse is great, all mainstream is bad, etc.) In that, it is preaching to the converted, or to the deaf.

 

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