Tuesday, August 21, 2018 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Pauline Kael (1919 – 2001)


American film critic best known for the reviews she wrote in The New Yorker.
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Pauline Kael
In movies, the balance between art and business has always been precarious, with business outweighing art, but the business was, at least, in the hands of businessmen who loved movies. As popular entertainment, movies need something of what the vulgarian moguls had — zest, a belief in their own instincts, a sentimental dedication to producing pictures that would make their country proud of their contribution, a respect for quality, and the biggest thing: a willingness to take chances. The cool managerial sharks don’t have that; neither do the academics. But the vulgarians also did more than their share of damage, and they’re gone forever anyway. They were part of a different America. They were, more often than not, men who paid only lip service to high ideals, while gouging everyone for profits. The big change in the country is reflected in the fact that people in the movie business no longer feel it necessary to talk about principles at all.
Kael quotes
Unlike storybook heroes and heroines but like many actual heroes and heroines, she was something of a social outcast. (As Simone Weil noted, it was the people with irregular and embarrassing histories who were often the heroes of the Resistance in the Second World War; the proper middle-class people may have felt they had too much to lose.)
Kael
Is there something in druggy subjects that encourages directors to make imitation film noir? Film noir itself becomes an addiction.




Kael Pauline quotes
I regard criticism as an art, and if in this country and in this age it is practiced with honesty, it is no more remunerative than the work of an avant-garde film artist. My dear anonymous letter writers, if you think it is so easy to be a critic, so difficult to be a poet or a painter or film experimenter, may I suggest you try both? You may discover why there are so few critics, so many poets.
Kael Pauline
Watching old movies is like spending an evening with those people next door. They bore us, and we wouldn't go out of our way to see them; we drop in on them because they're so close. If it took some effort to see old movies, we might try to find out which were the good ones, and if people saw only the good ones maybe they would still respect old movies. As it is, people sit and watch movies that audiences walked out on thirty years ago. Like Lot's wife, we are tempted to take another look, attracted not by evil but by something that seems much more shameful — our own innocence.
Pauline Kael quotes
Regrettably, one of the surest signs of the Philistine is his reverence for the superior tastes of those who put him down.
Pauline Kael
Irresponsibility is part of the pleasure of all art; it is the part the schools cannot recognize.
Kael Pauline quotes
The past has a terror and fascination and a beauty beyond almost anything else. We are looking at the dead, and they move and grin and wave at us; it's an almost unbearable experience. When our wonder or our grief are interrupted or followed by a commercial, we want to destroy the ugly box. Old movies don't tear us apart like that. They do something else, which we can take more of and take more easily; they give us a sense of the passage of life. Here is Elizabeth Taylor as a plump matron and here, an hour later, as an exquisite child.
Kael
It tackles a wonderful subject without preening, and brings it off unassertively — so unassertively that the movie is in danger of being overlooked. (Variety has already dismissed it as something "for a very limited audience.") We're getting to the point where the press assumes that movie audiences won't be willing to bring anything to a picture, and warns them off.
Kael Pauline
If we make any kind of decent, useful life for ourselves we have less need to run from it to those diminishing pleasures of the movies. When we go to the movies we want something good, something sustained, we don’t want to settle for just a bit of something, because we have other things to do. If life at home is more interesting, why go to the movies? And the theatres frequented by true moviegoers — those perennial displaced persons in each city, the loners and the losers — depress us. Listening to them — and they are often more audible than the sound track — as they cheer the cons and jeer the cops, we may still share their disaffection, but it’s not enough to keep us interested in cops and robbers. A little nose-thumbing isn’t enough. If we’ve grown up at the movies we know that good work is continuous not with the academic, respectable tradition but with the glimpses of something good in trash, but we want the subversive gesture carried to the domain of discovery. Trash has given us an appetite for art.
Pauline Kael
For some strange reason we don't go to charming, light movies anymore. People expect a movie to be heavy and turgid, like "American Beauty." We've become a heavy-handed society.




Pauline Kael quotes
I loved writing about things when I was excited about them. It's not fun writing about bad movies. I used to think it was bad for my skin. It's painful writing about the bad things in an art form, particularly when young kids are going to be enthusiastic about those things, because they haven't seen anything better, or anything different.
Pauline Kael
The slender, swift Bruce Lee was the Fred Astaire of martial arts, and many of the fights that could be merely brutal come across as lightning-fast choreography.
Kael quotes
Alienation is the most common state of the knowledgeable movie audience, and though it has the peculiar rewards of low connoisseurship, a miser’s delight in small favors, we long to be surprised out of it — not to suspension of disbelief nor to a Brechtian kind of alienation, but to pleasure, something a man can call good without self-disgust.
Kael Pauline
Since I have an aversion to movies in which people say grace at the dinner table (not to the practice but to how movies use it to establish the moral strength of a household), the opening night montage of Sunday-night supper in one home after another in Waxahachie, Texas in 1935 — a whole community saying grace — made me expect the worst.
Kael Pauline quotes
I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them.
Pauline Kael
If there is any test that can be applied to movies, it's that the good ones never make you feel virtuous.
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