Notes on Auteurism

The traditional model of an Auteur could be seen as a director that takes the script, and “transforms it into an original piece of work “. This may seem a rather ambiguous definition, but all that is needed to make clear what the practice of auteurism is, is one piece of work that fits the definition perfectly. Robert Altmans Popeye is just that. Altman took an institution, that of Popeye, a classic American icon, and wrote it to fit it to his traditional thematic concerns. It has been Altmans style to take a treasured and American figure whether it be “the Western” genre or Popeye, and turn the focus from the traditional action based narrative, to a more personal exploration. From the opening sequence it becomes obvious this is an Altman movie with the self-reflexive opening in which Popeye addresses the camera claiming “Im in the wrong movie”. Like in Brewster McCloud, where the MGM Lion asks for his line, it is Altmans way of letting the viewer think about the film in a personal way making sure the audience realizes they are watching a movie. There is no third wall for Altman, as he constantly reminds the viewer of the fact that they are not viewing a reality, but a construct of media by placing various symbols throughout, such as a megaphone in the horse race scene and paintings of beautiful places everywhere (while the town, Sweet Haven itself is a complete dump). Popeye sets out to be a deconstructive musical, which stays in congruence with the rest of Altmans anti-Hollywood films (Brewster McCloud, Buffalo Bill and the Indians, The Long Goodbye, and The Player). Altman deconstructs the musical through the songs themselves as they are sung by the two leads without any ability to sing (Shelley Duvall as Olive Oil and Robin Williams as Popeye). On top of this is apparent that some of Shelley Duvalls songs are purposely sung off key to emphasize the insecurities of her character as well as bring attention to …

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