Features and Columns · Movies

A Tale of Two Auteurs: the Myth of Bad Behavior as Artistic Process

Hear us out: treating actors poorly = bad.
The Shining And Lost Highway and auteur theory
Warner Bros./October Films
By  · Published on July 12th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that compares Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining with David Lynch’s Lost Highway to underline the darker side of auteur theory.


Deep down we all know that there’s something icky about auteur theory. But it can be a bit difficult to pinpoint what, exactly, that something is. Has any good come from idolizing individuals and their vision at the expense of others’ safety? Who wins and who loses when we consider a film’s director as its sole author? When collaboration and agency surrender to artistic impulse?

The video essay below does a brilliant job of lucidly articulating one of auteur theory’s more unsavory wrinkles: its ability to justify the prioritization of art over people, excusing willful poor behavior as part of their uncontainable genius.

The essay compares two movies, directed by two auteurs with very similar thematic concerns: Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining (1980) and David Lynch‘s Lost Highway (1997). Both films offer tense portraits of domestic violence perpetrated by frustrated, volatile men. And while both Kubrick and Lynch easily qualify for a vaulted cinematic status, the first-hand accounts from their closest collaborators suggest a stark — and informative — difference in their approach.

The essay focuses more heavily on The Shining, and any readers unfamiliar with — or fuzzy on the details — of the madness in Kubrick’s method will find a concise and fair retelling here. Those with flash sensitivities, be sure to note the flagged sections in the video’s description.

Watch “Myth of the Auteur: Stanley Kubrick vs. David Lynch”:

Who made this?

This video on Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and the auteur theory is by Maggie Mae Fish, a Los Angeles-based comedian, actress, and culture critic who releases short films and video essays on her YouTube account. Fish has been featured on College Humor, Screen Junkies, and JASH. She was also a former lead actor and writer at Cracked.com. You can follow Fish on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).