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Posted 6/10/2016 3:12pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Pauline Kael was the film critic for The New Yorker from 1967 to 1991, " ... in the arts, the critic is the only independent source of information. The rest is advertising."

Posted 6/8/2016 9:46pm by Eugene Wyatt.

... we can turn to (Kael's) review of Sidney J. Furie's Lady Sings the Blues, the biography of Billie Holiday:


"Lady Sings the Blues" fails to do justice to the musical life of which Billie Holiday was a part, and it never shows what made her a star, much less what made her an artist. The sad truth is that there is no indication that those who made the picture understand that jazz is any different from pop corruptions of jazz. And yet when the movie was over I wrote "I love it" on my pad of paper and closed it and stuffed it back in my pocket. 

Pauline Kael The New Yorker 1972.


She goes on in that review to say that certain movies have a "chemistry of pop vulgarization [that] is all-powerful." Lady Sings the Blues has "what makes movies work for a mass audience: easy pleasure, tawdry electricity, personality, great quantities of personality."


While John Simon would balk at the rationale here (steeped as it is in self-analysis.and sociology), other critics and moviegoers find this frankness, combined with Kael's standards, a more tenable approach to criticism. Whatever else you say about it, you must admit that Kael's rationale is never cloaked. You always know what she is thinking and why--and her prose is straightforward. 

A Comparative Study Of Selected American Film Critics 1958-1974 Joseph Blades 1976, p. 52.

Posted 6/8/2016 8:08pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The New Yorker film critic (1967-1991)

Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them.

Trash, Art And The Movies from Going Steady, Pauline Kael 1968, p. 85.

Posted 6/1/2016 12:55pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Monica Vitti As Claudia ln L'Avventura (1960)

Monica Vitti: I like prominent noses on women, it has to do with pride.

The characters are Too shallow to be truly lonely, they are people trying to escape their boredom in each other and finding it there. They become reconciled to life only by resignation. Claudia, the only one capable of love, is defeated like the rest; her love turns to pity.

I Lost It At The Movies, 1961 Pauline Kael, p. 148-149.

By the way Pauline Kael liked, like I like Monica Vitti, L'Avventura.

Posted 5/27/2016 9:54pm by Eugene Wyatt.

This evening I happened to be watching an example of Film Noirspecifically The Big Sleep, adapted as a screenplay from the Raymond Chandler novel by William Faulkner et al, starring Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as Vivian, directed by Howard Hawks, 1946. Chandler, through his characters Marlowe and Vivian, mentions Marcel Proust.

The screenplay, The Big Sleep,

Vivian : So you do get up, I was beginning to think you worked in bed like Marcel Proust.

Marlowe : Who’s he ?

Vivian : You wouldn’t know him, a French writer.

Marlowe : Come into my boudoir.

The novel, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler 1939, 

Vivian « Well, you do get up »

Wrinkling her nose at the faded red settee, the two odd semi-easy chairs, the net curtains that needed laundering and the boy’s size library table with the venerable magazines on it to give the place a professional touch.

Vivian « I was beginning to think perhaps you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust. »

Marlowe « Who’s he ? »

I put a cigarette in my mouth and stared at her. She looked a little pale and strained, but she looked like a girl who could function under a strain.

Vivian « A French writer, a connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn’t know him. »

Marlowe « Tut, tut, come into my boudoir. »

Posted 5/25/2016 5:13pm by Eugene Wyatt.

In the mid '80s,

... (A)t a film critics meeting, Pauline Kael leaned over to Richard Schickel and whispered, “It isn’t any fun anymore.” When Schickel asked why, she answered, “Remember how it was in the ’60s and ’70s, when movies were hot, when we were hot? Movies seemed to matter.” 

The Complete History Of American Film Criticism (2010) Jerry Roberts, Loc 4905.

Posted 5/25/2016 5:07pm by Eugene Wyatt.

I wish somebody could convince me that the movies are not just about over. They’re so sensationalistic, they’re so empty, they’re so cruel, they’re so fast paced. The only thing that convinces me I’ve been to the movies is that I’m sick to my stomach.

Mark Crispin Miller, Head of the Media Studies program at Johns Hopkins University in The Atlantic Monthly.

Posted 5/24/2016 8:51pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Director Billy Wilder’s indelible quip on film critic Judith Crest—on NBC's The Today Show from 1964 to 1973—was: “Inviting her to review your movies is like inviting the Boston strangler to massage your neck.”

The Complete History Of American Film Criticism (2010) Jerry Roberts, Loc 3908.

To be a film critic, she said, you have to have three percent education, five percent intelligence, two percent style, and ninety percent gall and egomania in equal parts.

Posted 5/19/2016 11:06pm by Eugene Wyatt.

In the evening I watch Film Noir, a late 1940's term coined by French cinema critics. Film Noir describes Hollywood crime film, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes of characters and their sexual motivations.

An example of Film Noir is Touch Of Evil in which Orson Welles' performance, as the crooked cop Quinlan, was so much better than every actor in the film and he should be faulted as the director (which he was) for not bringing up his fellow players to his level. The one possible exception is Marlene Dietrich; she was marvelous at Tana, a restauratrice.

In the daylight for four hours every Thursday on my way to the tannery I listen to books read to me by a narrator on Audible.com. I now listen to The Philosophy of Film Noir edited by Mark T. Conrad. According to the book Film Noir extends from 1941 to 1958, from The Maltese Falcon to Touch Of Evil; later films that fall into that category, like Chinatown 1974, are called Neo Noir.

Posted 5/16/2016 4:13am by Eugene Wyatt.

Ferguson’s conversational tones, his populist sentiments, and his succinct, punchy writing style established him as a thinking man’s proletariat with his cerebral gears usually engaged on the how and the why certain movies worked. He fit his forum, The New Republic, as his tone seemed to court cineastes and intellectuals as well as the politically aware and literarily minded casual readers. His opinions were provocatively and often amusingly presented.

“No one can study the deceptive effortlessness with which one thing leads to another without learning where the true beauty of this medium is to be mined,” he wrote, admiring Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). The critic tried to enlarge on this notion with his assessment of Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940), writing, “If you have any interest in the true motion or sweep of motion pictures, watching that man work is like listening to music ... . If you would like a seminar on how to make a movie travel the lightest and fastest way, in a kind of beauty that is peculiar to movies alone, you can see this once, and then again to see what you missed, and then study it twice.”

Ferguson recognized that film art is based in the primary aspects of dialogue writing, acting, camera framing and camera movement, and film editing. And he felt that the more seamless that these and other ingredients were combined by the director, the more effective any film would be. Ferguson felt that if he could detect showboating in a filmmaker, the less effective the final result would be. Unlike critics who would zero in on directors as distinctive stylists with persistent themes—Von Sternberg and Lubitsch—Ferguson argued that direction should parallel musical composition and should show little or no sign of itself.

The main reason Ferguson felt that Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) amounted to “retrogression in film technique” was that it was unnecessarily showy, a movie that brandished technique.

The Complete History Of American Film Criticism (2010) Jerry Roberts, Loc 816.

My emphasis.