Jeffrey Knapp, University of California-Berkeley "The Author of Mass Entertainment"
Critics of the auteur theory represent it as an awkward latecomer to the
movie scene that was either willfully blind to, or else hopelessly out of
touch with, the fundamentally collaborative nature of filmmaking. But
this view of auteur theory fails to account for its popularity from the
early decades of the twentieth century, long before Truffaut formulated
his version of it. During the twenties and thirties, for instance,
Charlie Chaplin was regularly hailed as a one-man dynamo who "did
everything" on his films. The talk will focus on Chaplin's career, and in
particular on "City Lights," to help explain the paradoxical appeal of the
auteur in mass entertainment, and to explore Chaplin's surprisingly
complex response to the problem of the auteur as one among the many of
his collaborators and his audience.