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Afterglow: A Last Conversation with Pauline Kael Hardcover – September 3, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press Ed edition (September 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306811928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306811920
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,176,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This slim but potent volume offers movie lovers an elegant good-bye from the acerbic, wildly opinionated National Book Award- winning film critic who reigned at the New Yorker from 1968 to 1991. The New York Times called her "probably the most influential film critic of her time." Kael's enthusiasm for films was contagious, as she praised or damned them with giddy vitality. Longtime friend Davis's three extended conversations find the octogenarian still an avid moviegoer. While this book doesn't offer extended reviews, fans will be delighted to hear Kael weigh in on movies released since she stopped writing a decade ago. She enjoyed the "sweet" Star Trek spoof Galaxy Quest; the first half of Boogie Nights; High Fidelity ("it gets better as it goes along"); and Brian De Palma's Mission to Mars. She was also fond of TV's "terrific" Sex and the City and The Sopranos ("I loved the first season and watched it religiously"). She found Silence of the Lambs "a hideous and obvious piece of moviemaking"; Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut "ludicrous from the word go"; and American Beauty "heavy and turgid." She also blasts later-day Steven Spielberg (Always was "a shameful movie" and the casting was "terribly wrongheaded" in Schindler's List). Besides film quips, Kael defends her critical review of the Holocaust documentary Shoah, regrets being talked out of reviewing Deep Throat and discusses current filmmaking and her 20-year battle with Parkinson's disease. (Sept. 3) FYI: The book's publication date coincides with the one-year anniversary of Kael's death at age 82.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

No one wrote about the movies with more vim, vinegar, and piercing intelligence than fearless New Yorker critic Kael, who, as Davis, himself a music critic, so rightly observes, "established the movie review as a form of literature with the potential for social commentary." Davis pays lively tribute to his friend and mentor, who passed away in September 2001, in an essay and conversation that neatly encapsulate Kael's ardor and insights, flinty disposition, uncanny sensibility, and unabashed passion for pop culture. A Californian who abandoned law school to write, Kael "loved the gamble of writing," and recognized that she was "ideally suited for criticism," an art she enlivened and enriched with her dynamic, often devastating, always witty critiques and pronouncements. Here she neatly parses the work of various directors and actors, muses over favorite films, skewers television, decries the current decay of the movie industry, recounts her struggles with prudish editor William Shawn, and expresses regret that she didn't write more about the eroticism of film. Davis' vital give-and-take aptly celebrates Kael's acumen and effervescence. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By smoothsoul on October 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This little book is well worth the read. Pauline Kael is not someone you feel lightly about - you either love her or hate her (there's a website called die-critics-die that gets my blood boiling...). I adore Kael; she is quite simply my favourite writer, and the wonder of her interviews (there's another book containing a whole pile) is that she wrote how she spoke, so a conversation with her is like discovering a new review. Sure enough you get to find out which recent movies she likes ("Three Kings"), but the book is intellectual and moving as well. Few writers ever fused analytic thought with passion the way Kael managed - reading her made you more fully human, made you expand.
This book, slight as it is, gives fresh insight into her writing methods, her tastes, and her wit. It's not as flowing as it might be; Davis's questions seem sometimes to be deliberately elaborate for the unknowing reader (like the explanation about Richard Stark). This is a problem because the fun of Kael is a sharp and fast mind, so a conversation should be a break-neck brain tease among other things. Still, Davis's introduction is wonderful, and he's a fine writer (one I'll look up now I know about him). If you're a Kael fan, read this soon. If you don't know who she is, she's the most important commentator on the popular arts there's been. And she's great, great fun.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those of us who loved Kael, having a chance to hear some of her final words is a real gift. That being said, it's important to note that the length is comparable to a padded magazine article, i.e., it's pretty short, and that part (a good part?) of the interview was published online last year on the New Yorker's website. I gobbled up the chance to read this, but I was disappointed by the brevity and by the realization I'd seen a lot of it already.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Wolverton VINE VOICE on October 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In September, 2001, film critic Pauline Kael passed away. She had written and spoken with sometimes brutal honesty on actors, directors, and all types of movies. Kael didn't really care who she offended or upset. It's not like she tried to offend or upset, she just called them as she saw them. She unflinchingly says of Stanley Kubrick's `Eyes Wide Shut,' "It was ludicrous from the word go." She calls Spielberg "uninteresting" and melodramatic.
But she also handed out glorious praise when it was due, especially when other critics were ignoring good films and performances. She states that "Paul Mazursky hasn't been given his due," and that actresses such as Debra Winger have been wrongfully overlooked. Kael mentions several wonderful films that have all but fallen into obscurity, all because most critics are afraid to take a stand and swim upstream against the tide of their colleagues.
If the book concerned film criticism only, it would be worth purchasing. But interviewer Francis Davis also asks Kael to address writing, her days at The New Yorker, television, and the reason why so many awful films are made these days. `Afterglow' is a fascinating look into the thoughts of Pauline Kael, but it's far, far too short at 126 pages.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nowhere Man VINE VOICE on September 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Having read and loved Kael's work for years, it was a pleasure to see a final publication of her thoughts published a year after her death. While I enjoyed reading her thoughts on the state of contemporary films - including a few final digs at Kubrick (cf. Eyes Wide Shut: "I thought it was preposterous from the start") - I often wanted more of her and less of Francis Davis' at times lengthy interjections. Moreover, at ... list, its almost as [costly] as her compendium "5001 Nights at the Movies" and would only probably take up about 30 pages in a normal magazine (the book's dimensions are rather small and the typeface a bit large - indicating a layout editor's struggle to get this to a publishable length).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By olingerstories on February 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Francis Davis's AFTERGLOW is short, sweet book that records his conversations with his friend and legendary film critic, Pauline Kael. Retired and suffering from Parkinson's, Kael is not the lioness in this book that she was in print from the 60s into the 90s. What does come though is brief thoughts about her craft, the decline of Hollywood is producing top notch material, and her artistic interest in movies. Davis, a famous critic himself, writes in a breezy,flowing manner. The editing is superb and the book is easily read in one sitting.
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