Cahiers Du Cinéma, founded in 1951, was the singular most important magazine of film criticism, a historical gem, a kind of Rosetta stone for understanding film, which was still essentially a new art, and just knowing of its existence for beginning filmmakers is second only to the mandatory viewing of Citizen Kane (1941); but Cahiers Du Cinéma was more than that. In their historical youth, movies were considered trash, like comic books were at one point, an entertainment so temporary that some of the greatest directors not only remade their own films but also have films now permanently lost. Cahiers Du Cinéma helped elevate film to a respectable position that could be studied, and that is just what some Frenchmen did. American film history has very few examples of filmmaker slash film critics. Typically, in the U.S. you give up on filmmaking and become a film critic or critics are generally accused of being film school dropouts or failures. At this point, I turn my head to an imaginary camera, breaking the fourth wall because the joke is on aspiring-filmmaker me as I start this journey as a, quote unquote, film critic. You can’t be a filmmaker and a film critic in America. These Frenchmen though—pardon my French—said screw that. André Bazin, Joseph-Marie Lo Duca and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze founded Cahiers Du Cinéma. The magazine’s previous incarnation, Revue du Cinéma, included three directors, Robert Bresson, Jean Cocteau and Alexandre Astruc. Contributors to Cahiers Du Cinéma included Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette. Except for Bazin and Lo Duca, every one of these men made movies. For some of us though, this reads like a list of one-name film gods: Cocteau, Truffaut, Godard. Those last five contributors not only wrote and made films, but they are also the directors who made up the French New Wave, a group of filmmakers who made movies about their own current times, sometimes dealing with political and social issues, and mostly experimenting with form, editing, style and narrative; the opposite of what was going on with film in their home country at the time. Consider films from the 1940s and 50s and you’ll see by the 60s a gradual change that these filmmaker slash critics helped initiate. It is some kind of irony to theorize about film as you are making films, like an Ouroboros, a self-fulfilled prophecy or a dog chasing its own tail. These directors essentially became what we think of now as independent filmmakers. Genre filmmaking, especially horror, is more independent filmmaking than not. When you want to start as a filmmaker in or out of the studio system, horror is the easiest and most popular genre in which to work; so easy it is oftentimes considered formulaic—incidentally, 99.9% of film is formulaic. Film is also just as equally exploitative—On both counts though, some just do it better. So many horror films exist that there are sub-genres and sub-sub-genres, and over the years we start seeing patterns in horror more easily than in comedies, dramas, science fiction or action, though the two latter are tied for second, huge magnificent genre-defining motifs like the small town sheriff versus the monster, the body horror sub-genre led by Cronenberg, and the character concept of the Final Girl that makes Joseph Campbell roll in his grave only to get better light as he rewrites his character archetypes—all ideas we did not see in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but are so obvious now that you can barely use them outside of meta-storytelling, parody or pure satire. Some of the best directors started off in genre filmmaking. George Lucas’ science fiction film THX-1138 (1971); Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13 (1963), oft-anthologized in those fifty-horror-movie sets; Oliver Stone’s Seizure (1974) and The Hand (1981), yeah that Oliver Stone; James Cameron, who started directing by taking over on Piranha II (1981); and even independent guru, John Sayles, when he wrote Piranha (1978), The Alligator (1980), Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and The Howling (1981)—Whew! What a guy. Some of them stayed in genre filmmaking, but some remain today among our greatest filmmakers, like Peter Jackson who made Bad Taste (1987) and Dead Alive (1992); Romero and company’s Night of the Living Dead (1968); John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978); and Sam Raimi, whose mid-career films include A Simple Plan (1998), For Love of the Game (1999) and The Gift (2000), but who started with the original Evil Dead (1981) and has been doing superhero films and horror since then. I haven’t even begun listing these horror genre directors. The list is huge, and horror fans know the names: Bob Clark, Ed Wood, James Whale, Mick Garris, Don Dohler, Fred Dekker, Jean Rollin, John Landis, Lloyd Kaufman, Mark Pirro, Piers Haggard, Steve Miner, Tod Browning, Tom Holland, Edgar Wright, Brian Yuzna, Jacques Tourneur, William Lustig, Tobe Hooper, Terence Fisher, Takashi Miike, Stuart Gordon, Richard Stanley, Larry Cohen, Freddie Francis, Albert Pyun, HG Lewis, SF Brownrigg, Ted V. Mikels, Roy Ward Baker, Fred Olen Ray, Michele Soavi, Ray Dennis Steckler, Frank Henenlotter, David DeCoteau, Kevin S. Tenney, Andy Milligan, Anthony Hickox, Umberto Lenzi, Amando de Ossorio, Savini, Murnau, Fulci, del Toro, de Palma, Dante, Cronenberg, Craven, Coscarelli, Corman, Castle, Bava, Barker, Argento, and mo-fo-ing Hitchcock, just to name fifty-five more. How many comedy, drama, action or science fiction directors can you name? You won’t be able to name half of this many because the horror genre is the home of what we now universally consider the auteur, the author of the work, a term coined and a concept thoroughly defined in and by those same Frenchmen, none other than alumni from Cahiers Du Cinéma. As for me I am going down this dichotomous road as a filmmaker slash critic, and like the French Resistance, the American Revolutionists and the Rebel Alliance I will keep on fighting till the fight is done. French translation purists will have to pardon my French “notebooks” with my American “horror,” but regardless— “Hello Mr. Fancypants,” “Be afraid . . . be very afraid,” “It’s alive, it’s alive”: this is Cahiers Du Horror. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.