FC@Berlin 2019, Dispatch 6 – The art and life of Pauline Kael

Posted on February 12, 2019

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Read the full article on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/berlin-film-festival-2019-the-art-and-life-of-pauline-kael-review-udita-bhargava-dust-review-baradwaj-rangan/

Plus, Udita Bhargava’s ‘Dust’, an abstract movie-painting about the Maoist struggle.

One of the films I was looking forward to the most was Rob Garver’s What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael. The documentary features names like Sarah Jessica Parker, Quentin Tarantino and David O. Russell, but the star, of course, is the critic herself. I wouldn’t be saying anything revelatory if I said how much she opened my eyes to the way — an intensely personal way — one can watch and absorb a movie. Hundreds of working critics will vouch for this. Filmmakers, too. In a clip from the documentary that surfaced during its post-production (and was written about in The New Yorker), Tarantino says, “We grew up reading Pauline Kael. She was our Kerouac.” That’s no exaggeration. Of On the Road, Allen Ginsberg said: “It turned on an entire generation.” Kael’s reviews did the same to a movie generation.

If you are familiar with Kael’s life and times, there’s little here that’s truly new information. (This raises the question: How will this film speak to those who don’t know Kael? Are the bits and pieces read out from her review enough to convey a sense of why she still matters?) The narrative halts at all the milestones. The super-critical Sound of Music review (she called it a “sugar-coated lie”) that got her fired. The auteur-theory slanging match with Andrew Sarris. The Bonnie and Clyde review that made her reputation, and, in a way, made the movie. Her days as The New Yorker’s critic. Her evisceration of David Lean, which left the great director shattered. The public outrage over her Shoah review. (The importance of the subject matter, even if it’s the Holocaust, does not make a film important, she argued.)

Continued at the link above.

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