Read More Kael: Five of Her Most Notable Reviews
Those who lived during Pauline Kael’s time remember her as a brash and sharp-tongued critic for The New Yorker whose distinctly personal voice was acutely observational and highly provocative.
In anticipation of our Doc Nights series screening of WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL on Wednesday, February 12 at the AFS Cinema, we have compiled five career-defining reviews from Kael that made her a tour de force in the American film criticism that might have missed the younger reader or a delightful refresher for those who witnessed her writing (including a bonus 1963 KPFA broadcast of Kael in all her glory shared to us by AFS Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen):
BONNIE AND CLYDE (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1967/10/21/bonnie-and-clyde)
In her BONNIE AND CLYDE essay, Pauline Kael forecasted the sea change that would take place in American film and displayed an acute understanding of the new American moviegoer that forever cemented her name in the echelons of great American critics.
LAST TANGO IN PARIS
Pauline Kael was in peak form, and fully plugged in to the cultural zeitgeist, when she articulated the sensational experience of the 1975 New York Film Festival premiere of LAST TANGO IN PARIS.
“The funniest epic vision of America ever to reach the screen.” Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE had such an endearing impact on Pauline Kael that she hailed it as a new chapter in the Great American Epic.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
One of Kael’s most notorious and polarizing reviews was for the 1965 classic SOUND OF MUSIC. The legend goes that her scathing critique, in which she called the film “the single most repressive influence on artistic freedom in movies,” got her fired from McCall magazine. Simultaneously, the review was instrumental in the creation of Pauline Kael’s mythological status, as explored in this Little White Lies article by Justine Smith.
WEST SIDE STORY
Another highlight from the ruthless side of Kael’s writing is her merciless critique of yet another beloved classic, WEST SIDE STORY.
BONUS: REPLYING TO LISTENERS BROADCAST
AFS Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen has this to say about Pauline Kael’s Replying to Listeners broadcast, “All of us who replay an argument in our heads afterwards, thinking, “I should have said that!” will appreciate the precision and sickness of the burn she administers here.” Listen to an excerpt.