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The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael Kindle Edition
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If Library of America is going to archive Kael's work and place her within the canon with other great Library of America authors, they should publish all of her works in quality bindings. Instead we have a rather sad book here which is bound in a rather mediocre way.
The amazing thing about Kael is that she reviewed all sorts of stuff for a long period of time -- major hits, cinematic masterpieces, failed films, and the general all-purpose stuff that Hollywood churns out every year. Seeing her takes on minor and forgotten films can be as enlightening as her holding forth at length about Citizen Kane or Disney. For she was a critic, yes, but also a sort of de facto movie beat reporter.
Most of Kael's work (all of it perhaps?) can be tracked down in a series of paperbacks. And the best Kael collection remains the collection titled For Keeps which is a big ol' heavy book, a book so full of Kael's brain power that many of the copies have twisted spines or don't want to lie flat.
Among critics, it's generally said that favorable reviews are harder to write than unfavorable ones, and Kael was particularly gifted at the rave. So all in all this isn't a bad selection and editor Sanford Schwartz has done a good job, and taken an interesting approach, in the space he was given.
As other reviewers have said, the binding is cheap and bad (FOR KEEPS' binding is just as bad and works out even worse, because it has more bulk). But the pages and design here are good, and it's nice to have THE KAEL OF POSITIVE THINKING. Even at that, enough negativity remains to keep everything spicy. The book includes, for example, "Why are Movies So Bad? or, The Numbers," and her review of MAGNUM FORCE, which begins, "Clint Eastwood isn't offensive; he isn't an actor, so one could hardly call him a bad actor."
Glaring omissions - Ellen Burstyn. Meryl Streep post Deer Hunter. Holly Hunter. Jon Voight. Julie Andrews. Sean Connery. Kathleen Turner. Joanne Woodward. Disney. Richard Gere. William Hurt. Glenn Close. Sigourney Weaver. Harrison Ford. Blake Edwards. Peter Bogdanovich. Terry Gilliam. Alan J. Pakula. Ridley Scott. George Lucas. Tim Burton. Cher. Deborah Kerr. Jack Lemmon. Michael Caine (given that Caine is in every fourth film made, how could he be missed?), Sally Field (both the Norma Rae review, and another long piece where Kael said something to the effect that she didn't even want to leave the house and go to the movie theater because she had just watched Sybil with Field, and knew that she'd see nothing better in the theater than Field's performance all year). Anything Disney. Melanie Griffith. and on and on and on, so many directors, films, and actors which I remember Kael writing so vividly about in careermaking reviews, but none are here. AND NOT ONE PAGE MENTIONING ANDREW SARRIS? Hello?
Kael's earliest work is pretty awful because despite her bravado, she's very clearly the little girl with her nose pressed up to the candy store window, saying ME ME ME. Nearly every early review spends more time dissecting and mocking other film critics than it does reviewing the film in question - it's clear that she's so frustrating by not being in NYC, not wielding critical power, not getting paid for her work. Most of these early pieces (to which many a page in this book is devoted) come across as tantrums, with Kael coming across as this brat who is screaming I'm right, and everyone else is always wrong, and I hate them, I hate them, they're prone to grand hyperbole (meanwhile, you can pick out any number of sweeping "this is the best film [fill in the blank]" from Kael's reviews. An equal opportunity offender at this early stage, Kael manages to throw in overhanded and underhanded slams at gays, jews, blacks, children, men, actually anyone who doesn't match her own reflection gets trod upon.
Clearly Kael found her moment with the Bonnie and Clyde review (here, she reviews (surprise!) the film rather than other critics and you begin to see her gorgeous talent for describing the presence of actors, the work of directors and editors and cinematographers.
It's absolutely criminal that the public gets this, while the full work of Kael is jawdroppingly out of print. Boo hiss from a devoted Kael reader.
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