Several weeks ago, my article “Paul McCartney: An Auteur” caused quite a stir. In that piece, I attempt to position Paul McCartney as an artist of the highest standard, one whose entire body of work must be taken seriously. Many of the comments I received criticized my lack of reasoning and found fault in positioning McCartney as a man who can do no wrong. I also received some feedback asserting that the Auteur Theory can only be applied to film due to the director’s position within a system of producers, screenwriters, actors, etc. The reasoning behind rejecting auteurism in music: it is laudatory that a director working within a Hollywood studio system would be able to consistently leave a personal stamp on each of his films, but what is so impressive about a musician placing a personal stamp on his/her solo albums? This logic is sound; however, I wish to apply another aspect of the theory to music. Instead of using auteurism in the sense of a distinct creative vision persevering through studio interference, I believe it can apply to music in the way it forces an audience to evaluate an artist’s entire output.
Without this theory in place, I may not have been aware of many “lesser” films by great filmmakers. I recently viewed Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York. Based on its disappointing box office returns and lukewarm reviews, one would think this was a poorly received, self-indulgent, and anachronistic musical not worth watching. Rather than approaching it as a stand-alone film, auteurism forces us to perceive it as part of something greater: an important step in the development of a filmic genius. Placed in its proper context as the coked-out, artificially retro experiment between Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, New York, New York becomes a must-see.