Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pauline Kael—5001 Nights at the Movies

There's been a resurgence in publication of Pauline Kael's work in the last few years after a 2011 mini-renaissance that saw some biographies and a new collection issued. It's long overdue, though part of the frustration of having to clamor together Kael's pieces around the Internet when most of her work was OOP is realizing how narrow your concept of her really was. Case in point, I was so used to digging out her more famous and easily available long-form pieces that I had no exposure to her capsule writing. This collection, then, was a bit of a surprise once I cracked it open, and honestly a bit of a disappointment. I'm enraptured when Kael gets going, even when I disagree, but this format doesn't allow her to build an argument, so that each dismissal has a nasty curtness to it. I admit a bias in that I think most capsules read this way (including mine), and that I can count on one hand the critics who seem to make an art of it (Agee and Fernando Croce) being the best. Still, it's good to have a fuller portrait of Kael's work, even if this aspect of it does not thrill me at all like her essays.

Read my full review at Spectrum Culture.

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