By: Jack Lehtonen
“In reality, VA is a loosely affiliated group of young cinephiles and critics. In Sarrisite terms, it’s more concerned with Expressive Esoterica than the Pantheon; nearly every thinkpiece about VA has focused on Tony Scott and, for some reason, Michael Bay (who isn’t actually that big with the VA crowd), but the bulk of VA activity actually focuses on directors like Paul W.S. Anderson, Jon M. Chu, John Hyams, Nimrod Antal, Isaac Florentine, Roel Reine, the Farrelly brothers, Neveldine & Taylor, and Russell Mulcahy. VA is also interested in performance, especially when it’s applied to action stars.
VA has two missions. The first is to mount convincing arguments in favor of figures it sees at major but undervalued: John McTiernan, Abel Ferrara, Walter Hill, etc. The second, larger mission involves exploring and analyzing the directors listed in the above paragraph.
It’s true that VA is largely concerned with “American cinema,” though not with American directors (Anderson is British, Reine is Dutch, Antal is Hungarian, Florentine is Israeli, etc., etc.), American actors, or even with American-made films.
Rather, it’s concerned with how the great traditions of American cinema—the things we value about Hawks, Joseph H. Lewis, Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher, and so on and so forth—have survived in present-day genre filmmaking. This is why John Carpenter is such an important VA figure: he represents a link between classical Hawksian style and the formalism of the great contemporary genre filmmakers."
Directors Commonly Discussed in Vulgar Auteurism (Alphabetized by last name):
-Paul W.S. Anderson
-Jon M. Chu
-Bobby & Peter Farrelly
-Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
-M. Night Shyamalan
The names above fall into either of the two missions outlined by Vishnevetsky above.
Firstly: yes, Vulgar Auteurism, and the auteurs it has subsequently set out to analyze, has largely been limited to masculine, American genre cinema. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky outlines above why this has been the predominant, defining link of the directors subjected to VA scrutiny. However, this is not the central goal/mark of VA. VA is inclusive in spirit, not exclusive. It seeks to only expand its grasp. Much has been made over the lack of more traditionally feminine genres, to say nothing of foreign cinema. Again, the bulk of attention being directed towards, roughly, action cinema is a trend articulated above. It will continue to be a central feature. It will not, however, remain the sole feature.
Putting an exact definition on Vulgar Auteurism, beyond the clear points outlined by Vishnevetsky, is rushing something that needn’t be rushed. Over at The Vulgar Cinema , we are working towards a gradual articulation/exploration of VA itself. Various critics and bloggers are putting together a picture of what it is across the internet. The name Vulgar Auteurism (ironically stolen for this list, and the "movement"’s its eventual branding as such, from detractors on this site), and its relation to original auteurism, has lead to a series of misleading, over-generalized straw man arguments that don’t bother to actually discuss the subject, and the plethora of writing on it, itself. This is not a “theory”, it is an approach, a sort-of spirit of investigation.
This list is, naturally, riddled with flaws, as it is one person trying to gauge the work of many. It is nothing like complete. It is not a definite canon. Rather, it is intended as a rough guide to Vulgar Auteurism, to point the way for those curious to the directors, films, and writings that paint the picture of this contentious subject. This list, as opposed to its older incarnation, is permeable by design, and will be updated frequently. Suggestions for directors/films/writings to be featured are greatly appreciated.
Rather than crowding the list with films, each director above will be represented by one film. Don’t read too much into the selection of their respective films.
Some Essential Reading (A Note: these links are not meant to brand their respective writers as VA; rather, they are in tune with the central spirit of VA):
01Paul W.S. Anderson
06Jon M. Chu
17M. Night Shyamalan