Pauline Kael
July 8, 2010 4:00 PM   Subscribe

CityLights interview with Pauline Kael -- 1::2::3::4 (approx. 40 mins, NSI, 1982) Topics include Cecil B. Demille, Robert Preston, John Boorman’s Zardoz, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, James Bond films, and Lorenzo Semple Jr. More interviews from the National Screen Institute and Brian Linehan here, including John Candy, Eugene Levy, Christopher Plummer, and Ian McKellen
posted by puny human (13 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Oh how I miss John Candy. Thanks for the link. Was interesting also to read Kael's wikipedia page, too -- I'd never heard of her.
posted by not_on_display at 4:31 PM on July 8, 2010


"The phrase "kiss kiss, bang bang" appeared in the 1960s as an overseas slang for spy movies, especially James Bond movies. It was popular in Europe and Japan. It first appeared as a film title for a 1966 spy comedy made in Spain with Italian financing. It was also the title of famed critic Pauline Kael's second published collection of reviews. Kael wrote that she chose the words as her title because they are "perhaps the briefest statement imaginable of the basic appeal of movies." thus providing the title to one of the more charming neo-noirs
posted by The Whelk at 5:08 PM on July 8, 2010

Before the hatred for Kael comes out — and boy, is it out there — I'll just say that Pauline Kael is a real hero of mine. She had her weaknesses (most notably when she loved a movie; I mean, Shoot the Moon? Casualties of War?) but she had a rare capacity to see right through artifices and momentary delusions to capture the real action in a movie, the part that acted right on the senses and the psyche. She wasn't infallible, but it was hard to get her to accept delivery on a parcel of B.S. And she was a terrific stylist.
posted by argybarg at 5:22 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Thanks very much for this.
Immediately added to delicious account with the coveted (by me anyway) 'motherlode' tag.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 5:23 PM on July 8, 2010

There was nobody like Brian Linehan. His research was staggering, especially given that this was all before the internet. Eventually, he did become a bit of a parody of himself, with questions that were longer and more elaborate that their answers, but he was truly one of a kind. (Well, if you don't count Martin Short's "Brock Lenihan".)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:26 PM on July 8, 2010

I was a big fan of hers growing up. She was one of the few critics who took on the big films and filmmakers. And even though I now see it as a conceit of sorts she still had a tough voice and she refused to back down.

She was on a show back in the 1970's hosted by George Plimpton [I think] that I saw on VHS a few years back. She had some interesting and strong views. One was the way in which Italian filmmakers use color and operatic cinematic forms and conventions vs The English who have drab cinema but are stronger with words. All kinds of generalizations, yes, but a good place to start an argument about film.
posted by Rashomon at 5:43 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

argybarg: "Before the hatred for Kael comes out — and boy, is it out there — I'll just say that Pauline Kael is a real hero of mine."

She's a major American writer.

And I do award her hero points for a single word recorded in this interview in The New Yorker. (sorry, just a summary)

As I remember it: In the context of Kael's affliction with Parkinson's, the interviewer asks her if she has found in old age any wisdom or serenity that compensates for its infirmities.

The dean of American film writing - who lived on a chicken farm until she was 8 - replied:

posted by Joe Beese at 5:45 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

That John Candy interview was terrific, as it contained some great insight into his work with child actors, as well as the ugliest drapes I've ever seen.

Candy's also been interviewed by Brock Linehan.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 6:00 PM on July 8, 2010

We need more movie critics like her. You might not always agree, but she had such a wonderful way with words. You might like a movie she hated and trashed, but even in her hazing you could get enough info to judge for yourself, and she knew how to make one smile. I miss her. In the end many of her controversial opinions were generally found to be right.
posted by caddis at 6:01 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Linehan exemplified passion for one's work; indeed, he was one of the few media people on TV in the 80's whose show didn't look like some promo package the studios had made. He's in the back of my mind as a reminder that there are jobs in this world that can also be callings, if you follow that calling.

He apparently was flattered by the Martin Short SCTV parody. To me both the parodies and the real thing are fascinating stuff.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:01 PM on July 8, 2010

Zardoz you say? I am intrigued.
posted by JHarris at 7:27 PM on July 8, 2010

"Before the hatred for Kael comes out — and boy, is it out there"

See Renata Adler's famous take down of Kael in the NYRB -- The Perils of Pauline

Here is a great collection of essays (both good and bad) about Kael from artforum, Prose and cons - an appreciation of Pauline Kael, New Yorker's film critic (see Gary Indiana's essay Critical Condition for more on Adler)

I personally love Kael, flaws and all, because she was the first thing I got turned on to in the New Yorker. I was a freshman in college and had an important paper to write, so I found a quiet table in the basement of the library, but on the table was a large binder of New Yorker magazines that someone had left out, and it just happened to be flipped open to a Kael review (don't remember which one). I spent the rest of the night totally absorbed reading all the magazines -- and didn't write a word of my paper -- then subscribed the next day. (I was so naive, that even though Updike was my hero at the time, I didn't even know he was connected to the magazine) I loved the way she could crystallize my thoughts about an actor, or a film. There was lot's to disagree with, but she could, at her best, almost teach you how to watch movies. I think a lot of people missed her humor. And though I never shared her enthusiasm for some of her pets like Warren Beatty, I really do miss her voice and the way she could get in your head and make you reconsider even movies you felt strongly about.
posted by puny human at 7:49 PM on July 8, 2010

Kael is like a coherent Camille Paglia. And I mean that in a good way.
posted by jonp72 at 11:25 AM on July 9, 2010

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