Coined in Cinema Scope as a term of disparagement and reappropriated by John Lehtonen and others at MUBI, vulgar auteurism is auteurism by another name, a new generation’s extension of la politique des auteurs put forward by the Young Turks in the yellow Cahiers du cinema of the 1950s. Just as Godard, Truffaut et al. courted controversy by claiming that directors like Vincente Minnelli, Samuel Fuller, and Nicholas Ray were supreme artistes, vulgar auteurists invite scorn and enmity upon themselves by treating so-called genre filmmakers such as John McTiernan, John Carpenter, and Tony Scott as masters.
It makes sense that cinema saps its energies from the culture and the technologies that constitute its production. The rise of the torrent and the proliferation of the internet has meant that criticism has experienced a shift in both form and subject. Literally speaking, auteurism and vulgar auteurism are not distinct things, but the latter has defined itself as more of a statement of intent than a way of experiencing or pondering movies. These vulgarians generally find their subjects in areas of cinema considered off-limits even for the most committed auteurists—the trash-heaps of Hollywood and world cinema, beyond any barrier of good taste.
The Vulgar Cinema is an optimistic step away from “vulgar auteurism” in that we are now encompassing as wide a group of subjects as possible, often moving away from the more traditionally masculinist towards “other” kinds of off-limits cinemas, like commercial Indian film, episodes of TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or South Park, romantic comedies, 3D concert films, etc. We began by saying that every fortnight features a subject on which all contributors will have to write on, interspersed by shorter ‘chickenscratch’ pieces on whatever takes our fancies. Today the chickenscratch pieces dominate, and we’re still optimistic.