For years, critics have defined films in terms of their directors, but every so often someone comes out with a book or an article in defense of screenwriters. And a recent book argues for a brand new auteur theory putting screenwriters in the spotlight. Considered one of the world's greatest screenwriters, Jean-Claude Carrière's name appears on one current film, Goya's Ghosts (13 screens). It's one of over 100 produced screenplays he has written, and what's more, he has never had to turn director to protect the integrity of his work (he has one directorial credit, shared, for a 1986 film L'Unique that didn't exactly make or break his career). This is a guy who will never have to worry about his name in the history books. But let's take a closer look.
For one thing, Goya's Ghosts is messy and uneven. Then there's the fact that most of Carrière's films never find United States distribution. On top of that, the vast majority of his work is adaptations of novels. Finally, I think it's safe to say that his reputation rests on the fact that he generally works with acclaimed directors. To go one more, it's probably fair to say that the majority of his entire reputation rests on the six films he wrote with Luis Buñuel from 1967 to 1977. This is not to say that Carrière is a bad writer: on the contrary. Some of his films since Buñuel have been very good, notably Philip Kaufman's The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) and Jonathan Glazer's misunderstood Birth (2004). I'm using this case to point out the trickiness of ranking and cataloging screenwriters and their films. Certainly they deserve much more credit and respect than they get. But where do we start?