Pauline Kael  

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"I did have a good time at Wild in the Streets, which is more than I can say for Petulia or 2001 or a lot of other highly praised pictures. Wild in the Streets is not a work of art, but then I don’t think Petulia or 2001 is either, though Petulia has that kaleidoscopic hip look and 2001 that new-techniques look which combined with “swinging” or “serious” ideas often pass for modern picture art."--"Trash, Art, and the Movies" (1969) by Pauline Kael


"Can we conclude that, in England and the United States, the auteur theory is an attempt by adult males to justify staying inside the small range of experience of their boyhood and adolescence-that period when masculinity looked so great and important but art was something talked about by poseurs and phonies and sensitive-feminine types? And is it perhaps also their way of making a comment on our civilization by the suggestion that trash is the true film art? I ask; I do not know."--"Circles and Squares" (1963) by Pauline Kael


"... after one of those terrible lovers' quarrels that leave one in a state of incomprehensible despair. I came out of the theater, tears streaming, and overheard the petulant voice of a college girl complaining to her boyfriend, "Well I don't see what was so special about that movie." I walked up the street, crying blindly, no longer certain whether my tears were for the tragedy on the screen, the hopelessness I felt for myself, or the alienation I felt from those who could not experience the radiance of Shoeshine. For if people cannot feel Shoeshine, what can they feel? ... Later I learned that the man with whom I had quarreled had gone the same night and had also emerged in tears. Yet our tears for each other, and for Shoeshine did not bring us together. Life, as Shoeshine demonstrates, is too complex for facile endings."--Pauline Kael reviewing Shoeshine (1971)


"At the movies, we are gradually being conditioned to accept violence as a sensual pleasure. The directors used to say they were showing us its real face and how ugly it was in order to sensitize us to its horrors. You don't have to be very keen to see that they are now in fact de-sensitizing us. They are saying that everyone is brutal, and the heroes must be as brutal as the villains or they turn into fools. There seems to be an assumption that if you're offended by movie brutality, you are somehow playing into the hands of the people who want censorship. But this would deny those of us who don't believe in censorship the use of the only counterbalance: the freedom of the press to say that there's anything conceivably damaging in these films—the freedom to analyze their implications. If we don't use this critical freedom, we are implicitly saying that no brutality is too much for us—that only squares and people who believe in censorship are concerned with brutality."--Pauline Kael reviewing A Clockwork Orange (1971)


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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Pauline Kael (June 19, 1919 – September 3, 2001) was an American film critic who wrote for The New Yorker magazine from 1968 to 1991. Kael was known for her "witty, biting, highly opinionated and sharply focused" reviews, her opinions often contrary to those of her contemporaries. She was one of the most influential American film critics of her era.

She left a lasting impression on several prominent film critics. Roger Ebert argued in an obituary that Kael "had a more positive influence on the climate for film in America than any other single person over the last three decades." Kael, he said, "had no theory, no rules, no guidelines, no objective standards. You couldn't apply her 'approach' to a film. With her it was all personal."

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