Authorship Critique Analysis of the Wachowskis Auteur Theory Essay

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Wachowski Auteur

The Wachowski Brothers, Bound and the Auteur Theory

The Wachowski Brothers jumped to film legend status with their directorial completion of the Matrix, which would reinvent many of the standards relating to the use of computer graphics, cinematography and major themes. But in many ways, the slick, leather-clad world imagined by the Brothers would be given prelude by the 1996 crime drama, Bound. The qualities that would come to define the Wachowski Brothers in the extremely successful film and marketing franchise that the Matrix Trilogy became may be observed in their first stages in Bound. The thesis is that the Wachowski Brothers demonstrate the auteur theory by showing a stylistic tendency toward the older 'noir' films and a thematic tendency toward male-driven violence in all of their films.

Just as with the Matrix Trilogy, which this essay will also address in detail, Bound suggests a tangled web of seemingly irresistible forces and a group of deeply disenfranchised protagonists battling deadly odds. Instead of the violent, virtual future world of the Matrix, in Bound, the Wachowski's story would center on the plot of a mafia money-launderer's unhappy wife (Violet), her lesbian affair with the attractive ex-convict next door (Corky), and their shared plot to steal $2 million dollars. As the plot unfolds and unravels, we find that the story's true point of emotional interest is actually in the relationship between the two women.

This connection is the emotional core of the film, constituting a relationship founded on genuine attraction, love and camaraderie which persists even when surrounded by ugliness and brutality. This especially stands out when compared to such relationships as that between Violet and her husband. The relationship between Violet and Corky is perhaps the only one established in the film which is not based on fear. Instead, the women in this relationship create a genuine human bond that stands as a lightness in a dark, machine-like world that is dominated by men. In this way, the women and their relationship are used to identify this universe from a warmer point-of-view, not unlike that which is eventually established between the primary human characters at the heart of a cold and machine-like Matrix. As with the Matrix, the characters are not naturally violent in nature but they do engage in violent behaviors as a way of making sense of the world around them. This is the argument made in the text by Kessler (2003), which points out that there is an "entire subgenre of lesbian couples that kill as a sign of male fear, insecurity and libido." (p. 13) Here, we can see that there is a thematic interest in defining the relationship of the primary characters according to the violent world in which they find themselves. They must use violence in their own ways in order to resist this world. This is directly consistent with the characters in the Matrix such as Neo. When we first meet Neo, he is an office-worker with tardiness issues and is not necessarily likely to engage in any type of violent act. It is only eventually when he comes to see the violence defining the world around him that Neo-engages in this type of behavior.

These parallels are underscored by the notion of the director as an auteur. Though the notion of the director as an auteur has been subjected frequently to debate and rejection, there is evidence in some of modern cinema's best young directors that it is still an important goal of the trade to compose a set of films that are given cohesion by their mutual interest in creating a literary universe in which to offer observations. For this reason "the figure of the auteur/author remains an important construct, a principle of textual causality like genre or narrative which asks and insists that readers and audiences see the work as whole, complete, and beyond individual differences and inconsistencies." (Lewis, 41)

Like many of the important figures of the New Wave such as Spielberg, Scorsese and Coppola, the Wachwoski Brothers director were young, innovative and willing to take chances within the limitations of a shoestring budget in order to make a powerful first statement with Bound. And as we can see with the Matrix, they would become committed to many of the devices that were part of that statement. In particular, we can see that the Wachowski's have appealed to some classic noir film concepts in order to achieve their aim. Noir films are a genre defined by dark imagery, plots involving crime and psychological drama, and a certain stylistic cool that usually reflects the era in which the film is made. According to the text by Marx (2005), "the brothers studied the work of other great directors such as Stanley Kubrick, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Ridley Scott, George Lucas, and Fritz Lang." (p. 28) This list of luminaries helps to identify the influences that help to inform their debut and that help to define the work they would do after.

This is to say that like such influences as Billy Wilder and John Huston, both among the original and greatest of noir auteurs, the Wachowski's view their human protagonists as a life raft in a sea of violence, death and darkness. For the Wachowksis, there is a clear diegesis that is actually consistent from their debut film to their larger successes with the Matrix. In both, the crafting of a bleak and bloody world makes the warmth of the relationships between the primary characters stand as the point of redemption. This suggests a clear worldview on the part of the directors and a way of telling their stories that is consistent within this world. As the article by Shapiro (2007) observes, there is a direct connection drawn between masculinity and violence against which the relationship between the two female leads is cast. This denotes a mise en scene that is constant throughout both Bound and the Matrix trilogy (where it bears noting that the 'agents' are universally represented as male characters in business suits). The world envisioned by the authors carries certain consistencies, most particularly those which connect male aggression to the oppression of human warmth, emotion and compassion. (Shapiro, p.1)

The text by Sarris (1962) helps to reinforce this idea by suggesting that the philosophical ideas driving a set of works by a single auteur should be consistent throughout. Sarris indicates that "the auteur theory is concerned with interior meaning, the ultimate glory of the cinema as an art. Interior meaning is extrapolated from the tension between a director's personality and his material. This conception of interior meaning comes close to what Astruc defines as mise en scene." (p. 562) in Bound, the sharp contrast between the human relationship and the inhuman force represented by the Mafia is perhaps best captured in the sex scenes filmed between the lead characters. The directors chose an unflinching and long-cut approach, allowing the embrace between the characters stand in stark contrast to the comic-book violence of the world around them. The low-key lighting used in this scene helps to imply a relationship existing in the shadows, isolated from the world around it. Accordingly, Fillipo (2001) observes that in spite of its traditional noir indulgences, "where Bound leaves off general genre revisionism and charts new territory is in its meticulous process of queering noir, of questioning and revising the assumptions which classical noir makes in its constructions of gender and sexuality." (Fillipo, p. 1)

Still, even in the work of the Wachowski Brothers, which brings us to a highly modernized world, many of the classical cinema devices of prolonged scenes and low-lit backdrops reflect an older set of filmmaking qualities and ideas. As Bordwell (2002) argues, "contrary to claims that Hollywood style has become post-classical, we are still dealing with a variant of classical filmmaking. An analysis of virtually any film from the period I've picked out will confirm a simple truth: nearly all scenes in nearly all contemporary mass-market movies (and in most 'independent' films) are staged, shot, and cut according to principles which crystallized in the 1910s and 1920s." (Bordwell, p. 24)

Perhaps most particularly in the cast of Bound and even in the Matrix, the use of light and dark textures to express a the grim nature of reality shows the use of the noir tradition with many of the same themes that were found in classic noir films by Wilder and Huston. On this point, the article by Shapiro (2007) reinforces this through its examination of Bound in direct connection to the iconic Billy Wilder/Humphrey Bogart collaboration, Double Indemnity. As a template for the themes and look of American film-noir, this can be seen as a good starting point for understanding the authorship values shown by the Wachowskis as the produced their debut film. Particularly, the thematic idea of resistance in the face of powerful and exclusive forces is constant in the work of the Wachowskis. This consistency is given support by the Buscombe (1973) text. Here, Buscombe… [END OF PREVIEW]

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