The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline KaelBook | Sanford Schwartz By Tracy O’Neill
A collection of tell-it-like-she-thinks film reviews.
In 1953, San Francisco-based City Lights magazine published a review of Charlie Chaplin's Limelight written by a young unknown, Pauline Kael. In her fearlessly outspoken fashion she hated the film but, more important, the review marked the beginning of her career as a hugely influential movie critic, not least of all for The New Yorker. The Age of Movies, a new collection put together by editor and essayist Sanford Schwartz, collects a large number of Kael's essays and reviews from the 1950s through the 1990s. It begins with "Movies, the Desperate Art," in which she takes aim at the big Hollywood films of the time with scathing wit, a combination of erudite and colloquial speech, quick sentence-to-sentence subject shifts, and ballsy contrarianism. Sharply opinionated, Kael's writing is often mercilessly excoriating, particularly toward her fellow reviewer at the time, the New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther. Yet not all of Kael's writings are exercises in contempt. Early reviews include swoons over French New Wave gems like Godard's Breathless and Truffaut's Jules and Jim and, once Kael set up shop at The New Yorker, she famously defended Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde, when very few supported the now-classic film. Seen as a whole, The Age of Movies highlights the never self-conscious, always sharply entertaining voice of one of America's greatest film critics.