Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Film Writings, 1965-1967 by Pauline Kael9/10
This is my first experience with Pauline Kael, but very early into this book I realized statements of her being the greatest film critic werent overblown--this collection of writings, penned in the late 60s, is every bit as relevant to the modern film industry (purportedly much changed in the past 50 years) as it was to the film scene Kael was covering. Her writings challenge the common idea that the old American films were somehow greater than the ones today (though, no doubt, Kael would dislike superhero movies, Oscar bait, and Indie just as much as the Western or the Euro-flavored art film.) She tears many movies today seen as classics to shred with a brilliant wit, and carves into the heart of filmmakers, hoping, it seems, to inspire art from them. Sometimes reading this I think Kael hates movies (of Casablanca, she states it is a movie that demonstrates how entertaining a bad movie can be), but I think her cynicism and harshness came from the fact she loved movies, and felt her role in filmmaking was to challenge them--this is a pretty valid stance. In her essay for Bonnie and Clyde (which only she and Roger Ebert correctly assessed as one of the best and most important American films of the 60s), she damns the films flaws just as much as she praises its brilliance. Few films even come close to perfect to her--this is a type of rough criticism we could use in the days of Rotten Tomatoes and genre movies which dont live up to their potential because they stop at good enough. The 100+ brief reviews in the back can be tiresome to read more than a few at the time, but overall this is an excellent selection of writings.
Pauline Kael’s Most Passionate Reviews, From ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ to ‘Taxi Driver’
How do you make a good movie in this country without being jumped on? Our experience as we watch it has some connection with the way we reacted to movies in childhood: with how we came to love them and to feel they were ours—not an art that we learned over the years to appreciate but simply and immediately ours. When an American movie is contemporary in feeling, like this one, it makes a different kind of contact with an American audience from the kind that is made by European films, however contemporary. But even for that group there is an excitement in hearing its own private thoughts expressed out loud and in seeing something of its own sensibility become part of our common culture. Our best movies have always made entertainment out of the anti-heroism of American life; they bring to the surface what, in its newest forms and fashions, is always just below the surface. The Barrow gang had both family loyalty and sex appeal working for their legend.
Arthur Penn's iconic gangster film.
T he best way to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Pauline Kael, one of the most influential film critics in the short history of cinema, is, of course, to read her work. And the best place to begin, naturally, is the New Yorker, where she was a staff critic, writing week in and week out for six months out of each year between and Kael articulated a provocative new vision of American cinema in which the most invigorating films blurred the boundaries of high and low culture. The piece was originally written for the New Republic, which declined to run it. William Shawn, the legendary editor of the New Yorker at the time, was more than happy to pick it up.
On Aug. The bloody biopic, starring Warren Beatty and an ascendant Faye Dunaway, hit theaters and—to the surprise of Warner Bros. It had an unprecedented amount of violence for a studio film of that era, and soon became a darling within the industry; the movie was nominated for several key Academy Awards, including acting nods for its core and supporting cast, best writing, best director, and best picture. It lost that year to the Sidney Poitier vehicle In the Heat of the Night but still ushered in a new wave of inspired films in the s. It would be natural to think, then, that critics at the time were also keen on this groundbreaking film.