Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Birthday Notice

Pauline Kael: June 19, 1919 to September 3, 2001

From an obit at BBC News:

Kael worked for the New Yorker between 1968 and 1991, when she retired. During that time she made the cinema section one of the most popular on the culturally influential magazine.

To Kael, cinema was America's "national theatre" and she is credited with helping establish the reputations of acclaimed film-makers such as Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman and Steven Spielberg. She also wrote 10 books, including a celebrated collection of reviews Lost it at the Movies, and won a National Book Award in 1974 for Deeper into Movies.

Kael's witty, often slangy, language immediately struck a chord among readers and was considered by many as a breath of fresh air. Also new and exciting was Kael's honesty and refusal to conform to accepted opinion. Her reviews were also founded on acute social, commercial and artistic insight.

Among some of her most famous reviews were her scathing comments about The Sound of Music in an article headlined The Sound of Money. She thought Rain Man was a "wet piece of kitsch" and she dismissed Dances With Wolves as a "nature-boy movie", mocking director-star Kevin Costner as "having feathers in his hair and feathers in his head".

Kael equally disdained what she saw as pretension pretending to be high art. She had contempt for movies like Last Year at Marienbad and Blow-Up. Kael also scorned the idea of the director as "auteur". There was, however, no doubting her deep love of the cinema. But it was one based on the idea of cinema as pure entertainment.

"What she loved is an appeal of motion pictures that is ultimately a primitive one that goes back to the role of motion pictures as sheer entertainment," commented Annette Insdorf, a film professor at Columbia University.

"She did not subscribe to the notion that movies had to be good for you."

Movies as pure entertainment - sounds good to me...


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