The news has spread today that film critic and theorist Andrew Sarris has died at the age of 83.
In the field of Film Studies, I’m most familiar with Sarris as being the one who wrote the English definition for the auteur theory, which was originally theorized by François Truffaut in Cahiers du Cinéma.
In his short, but poignant, 1962 essay “Notes on the Auteur Theory,” Sarris clearly defined the theory as having three premises: technical competence, distinguishable personality (style), and interior meaning. These premises can be visualized as a three concentric circles with technique on the outside, style on the middle, and interior meaning (the most important) on the inside.
The fact that the auteur theory is still discussed and taught sixty years after Sarris’ definition demonstrates how important he was to the field of film studies. He will be missed.
(For a more detailed definition and application of the auteur theory, feel free to read the essay I wrote, in which I applied the theory to the films of Tim Burton)