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Author Topic: Goodbye, Pauline Kael
'lance
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1064

posted 05 September 2001 07:51 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
She really knew and really loved movies, and her writing was the pin that punctured pretension. This New Republic review from 1967 is a great example.

Priceless: of critic's "interpretations" of Last Year at Marienbad she writes:

"No two are alike, no one interesting."


From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 478

posted 06 September 2001 08:44 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
A great broad, she was. Every one of her makes it better for the rest of us grils.

This review (of Antonioni's Blow-Up ) interested me because we tried watching the film over one night just last year and found it impossibly dated, self-conscious. Wish I'd been reading Kael at the time; I remember being overwhelmed by a number of those pretentious party conversations she dissects here.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
Babbler # 621

posted 06 September 2001 10:35 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I haven't even finished that review and there are already a couple of great points. First

quote:
Some years ago I attended an evening of mime
by Marcel Marceau, an elaborate exercise in
aesthetic purification during which the audience
kept applauding its own appreciation of culture
and beauty, i.e., every time they thought
they recognized what was supposed to be going
on.

This is an extremely irritating quality. I have a friend who's always going on about how such and such is exquisite and what I want to say is blow it out your *ss! What he really means is that his taste is exquisite, and he's admiring that. Because he's not ready to endure a critical discussion of why he thinks such and such Culture-with-corinthian-columns-and-a-capital-C is exquisite. He just wants to state it and have you affirm him by agreeing. Well good on ya Pauline Kael for bursting those bubbles.

Next:

quote:
It probably won't blow over
because it also has the Morgan!-Georgy Girl
appeal; people identify with it so strongly,
they get upset if you don't like it--as
if you were rejecting not just the movie but
them. And in a way they're right, because
if you don't accept the peculiarly slugged consciousness
of Blow-Up, you are rejecting
something in them.

A related quality, as I note above. A distinctly bourgeois quality, at that. People get upset if you ask them to explain why they like something, or if you disagree with them. Disagreement is bad taste in "individualistic" bourgeois culture. And bourgeois opinions are shallow and uninteresting. Perhaps it's an innate confirmation of the old adage and its modern twin, that the unexamined life is not worth living and the unlived life is not worth examining.

God it's good to get on that high horse once in a while.

[edited to add:]

Actually it's a perversion of the old adage, in a way: the examined life is (known to be) not worth living. So not one card in the house of cards can be moved. Aesthetic judgments are identity statements, since most other traditional sources of identity have been liquidated. And perversely, morality is demoted to the status of aesthetics, something it's not proper to quibble with (unless it has to do with money).

[ September 06, 2001: Message edited by: rasmus_raven ]


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
Babbler # 621

posted 06 September 2001 10:43 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
An exquisite review. I concur in every detail. I have never liked that movie, nor its Brian de Palma remake with John Travolta the sound mixer, Blowout.

Now, I wonder what she thought of 8 1/2, since she mentions it.


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
'lance
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1064

posted 06 September 2001 08:57 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, here's one clue:

quote:
Kael's contemptuous critique is meant to cut deeper. She considers 8 1/2 a display of mental masturbation: a narcissistic, indulgent "display of self-imprisonment." Kael, by the way, absolutely refused to tolerate the standard defense of so much of Fellini's later art -- why does it have to mean anything? She skewers the Guido/Fellini of the film for the line, "I have nothing to say, but I want to say it." Even if we accept Menand's recent characterization of Kael as the critic whose mission was to keep New Yorker readers from feeling that any film was over their heads, we can see 30 years later in Kael's reaction to 8 1/2 a flash of angry light.

The author of this piece, Alan Stone, acknowledges that some of her criticisms were just, while pointing out that she was definitely in a critical minority on 8 1/2.

Here's a heartfelt tribute from a friend:

The Best Lover a Movie Could Have by David Edelstein

Edelstein also recommends the Stephanie Zacharek piece on Salon. Doubtless The New Yorker will have something good next week as well.

(Whenever I read the phrase "mental masturbation" I hear it in Woody Allen's voice.)

[ September 06, 2001: Message edited by: 'lance ]


From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 490

posted 07 September 2001 01:32 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
A related quality, as I note above. A distinctly bourgeois quality, at that. People get upset if you ask them to explain why they like something, or if you disagree with them. Disagreement is bad taste in "individualistic" bourgeois culture. And bourgeois opinions are shallow and uninteresting. Perhaps it's an innate confirmation of the old adage and its modern twin, that the unexamined life is not worth living and the unlived life is not worth examining.

What I know about "culture" and "refined stuff" you could fit into a thimble. Art does not interest me. Esthetics interest me only insofar as a plane surface or functional character is far more esthetic than an overly-artistic surface or effete character.

I freely admit to being a Philistine with respect to "the arts", of course. But then again, pseudofelinoids find much more interest to be had in the catnip that that damn raven keeps grabbing.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
Babbler # 621

posted 07 September 2001 04:13 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Wow DrConway, you must really like me if you can get over that horrible display of self-righteousness I just indulged in. I notice everyone else kept at least a barge pole's distance away. Except 'lancito , of course. 'lance. It's probably heresy in some circles, but I concur with PK's assessment of 8.5. What I like is all the beautiful people. I don't think it's quite right that the film says nothing -- there is redemption in the end -- but it's that really unsatisfying (for a northerner like myself) Italian reconciliation with life's difficulties, light and sweet like a pastry. Maybe they're right, but I can't bring myself to believe it. Ultimately you have to think Guido's still a repugnant figure and that his final realization is utterly self-regarding. Git!
From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
'lance
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1064

posted 07 September 2001 02:44 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Why rasmus, why ever would I avoid you? Sailor's delight and all...

It's been so long since I saw 8 1/2 that I don't remember it well, anyway not well enough to trust my responses to it. Being a northerner, though, I rather like the idea of redemption being light & sweet, even if Guido is a shit as you say. I can also recall liking the carnival aspect of the movie.

About "bourgeois" opinions etc., I don't necessarily find such opinions shallow and uninteresting (and don't necessarily find the word "bourgeois" useful except as a term of abuse). But I agree entirely with the last paragraph of your first post (if you follow).

That people get sniffy and offended if you dislike something they like, especially in strong terms, I've never understood or at least had sympathy for. Sometimes, of course, they're just reacting to the rude expression of an opinion.

But then some people appear to believe that politeness is a virtue, even the highest virtue, rather than a useful social convention that once in a while must give way to something more important.

(Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes, in Murder By Decree: "If I am offensive, Sir, you may take it that I am offended!" Said molto con brio to John Gielgud, the Prime Minister.)

As for interesting lives, Mavis Gallant said something to the effect that "all lives are interesting; no one life is more interesting than another. Its interest lies in what is revealed, and in what manner." A bit generous, perhaps, but I can see her point.

That said -- and despite my "bourgeois" comment above -- I can think of someone, a former friend of my wife's, who is definitely the sort who wants you to affirm her taste, and who despite being intelligent is besides shallow, uninteresting, and -- yes -- bourgeois.

It's like pornography. You know it when you see it.


From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
'lance
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1064

posted 14 September 2001 04:56 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
At a time when some of the worst of American, and "Western," culture may yet come to the fore, here's a reminder of some of the best.
From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged

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