We spoke a bit yesterday in class about how genre theory emerged partially in reaction against auteur theory. While I can see why this would occur, I also wonder if it is possible for the two theories to work in harmony. Specifically, in the genre theory chapter of Understanding Film Theory, one theorist is highlighted that suggests this possibility. On pages 26-27, the chapter focuses on Edward Buscombe, who wrote about genre theory in the 70s. According to the textbook authors, Buscombe was interested in the semantics portion of a film as a means of assigning it to a genre. However, Buscombe calls the semantics “the outer form” or “formal elements.” The definition, however, remains the same as the one we discussed in class; the outer form is the “setting, clothes, tools of the trade, and miscellaneous physical objects” of a film (27). The authors then write that “these four interlinking elements impact on the narrative framework and dictate to a certain extent how stories are told” (27). Thus, it is the mise-en-scene (or outer form or semantics) that situate a film firmly in one genre. The authors then go on to say that “Buscombe claims that genre enables good directors to excel” (27). Thus, good directors use genre, and its accompanying outer forms, as a blueprint for the film; if they are making a Western, directors know what essential props, costuming, etc. are needed and came work within the narrative framework. They excel when they push the boundaries of a specific genre and approach it in an original manner.
I am wondering, though, if we an extend Buscombe’s argument to reach a connection between genre and auteur. If we were to apply Buscombe’s argument that good directors can excel when working within the confines of a specific genre, one that possesses specific outer forms, to the inner form, or the central themes or ideas, what would happen? Take Scorsese’s body of work for example. As the auteur theory chapter asserts, Scorsese’s films are connected due to their preoccupation with Catholicism. That, I believe, qualifies as a specific inner form or recurring theme across a number of films. While not all of the Scorsese’s films look the same, could they still be contained within the same genre? Could a qualification for an auteur therefore be that they oftentimes work within one specific genre, based on the inner form/theme/syntax of their films? Or, is the outer form of a film more indicative of a genre and taking the themes of an auteur director not enough to say that a director works within one genre?