Pauline Kael Reviews A-Z. While both women were particularly resistant to the idea of being a part of the woman’s movement, as critics, they appeared purposeful in resisting Maria as a romantic model. In anticipation of our Doc Nights series screening of WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL on Wednesday, February 12 at the AFS Cinema, we have compiled five career-defining reviews from Kael … This documentary about Pauline Kael hits all the expected beats: Limelight, Hiroshima Mon Amour, The Sound of Music, Bonnie and Clyde, Last Tango in Paris, "Raising Kane," Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Shoah, and Casualties of War. Before long, she was writing cover articles and briefly became Vogue’s film critic. “To be able to play an Austrian with impeccable English vowels, to make us concerned for her because she’s the politest rebel in all cinema, to be able to make singing sound exciting whilst never giving the impression it is anything but radiantly enjoyable, above all to challenge Audrey Hepburn in the tomboy stakes.” Just like Captain Von Trapp himself, we may start out sceptical but soon find ourselves to warming to plucky Maria and her guitar. “Whom could this operetta offend?” she wrote. By Nathan Helle r. October 14, 2011 Save this story for later. Official trailer for 70mm screening of The Sound of Music opening at BFI Southbank on 18 May 2018. In her inaugural film article, she wrote, “Let me lay it on the line: I like movies, and approach them with a tolerance so fond that it will possibly strike you as simple-minded.”. Movies. the recent success of The Greatest Showman. Just look at Mamma Mia! She was known for her "witty, biting, highly opinionated, and sharply focused" movie reviews. Pauline Kael trounced it as “mechanically engineered” to transform the audience into “emotional and aesthetic imbeciles when we hear ourselves humming the sickly, goody-goody songs.” One week Kael would praise the Jane Fonda comedy western Cat Ballou, while in the next issue Didion would review The Sons of Katie Elder, making sure to take a swipe at Ballou in the process (Vogue was a weekly until 1973). Five Classic Pauline Kael Reviews. They’re effectively asking whether we should enjoy her effervescent spirit or condemn her for breaking the rules. And Kael did not hold back on her opinions and analytical arguments. “She is the phenomenon,” he says. With five Oscars under its belt, legions of devoted fans including those prone to dressing up and singing along, and having taken so much box-office cash that it is in the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time, The Sound of Music is comfortably, and indisputably, a resounding hit. Most of us watch the film first when we’re a child, and subsequently enjoy the ritual of its slowly unfolding plot and frequent song reprisals with the comfort of nostalgia – not for nothing was its first UK TV broadcast on Christmas Day. Pauline Kael’s review of Interiors is full of the same holes, but goes a step further in the way it reverts to her classic brand of ad hominem, faulting Woody Allen for his supposed Jewish (or non-Jewish?) It remains unclear what exactly inspired them to butt heads. With five Oscars under its belt, legions of devoted fans including those prone to dressing up and singing along, and having taken so much box-office cash that it is in the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time, The Sound of Music is comfortably, and indisputably, a resounding hit. Kael thought that The Sound of Music fit the bill, predicting it would prove “the single most repressive influence on artistic freedom in movies for the next few years.” If Didion took issue with the film’s historical dishonesty, Kael spoke of a general “luxuriant falseness,” finding the combined effect of the wholesome story and high production value to be emotional manipulation. What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael (2019) Film criticism is not the same as a film review. While Kael was boisterous and Didion diminutive, it was said they spoke the same central California language, or “valley talk,” as John Dunne wrote in a diary entry. Penning a bad review of the The Sound of Music changed one writer’s career. Each link contains between 20-30 reviews. It was dismissed as a ‘sugar-coated lie’ by Pauline Kael – but The Sound of Music’s enduring success suggests audiences enjoy being manipulated. The cinemas are alive with The Sound of Music once more as the classic musical returns to the big screen. More Pauline Kael in the July 2019 issue of Sight & Sound Mission critical. Kael’s editor at the time, Robert Stein, argued throughout his life that it wasn’t what did for her. . As The Sound of Music returns to cinemas in the UK, this time in 70mm, it might be worth reflecting on the film’s place within the canon. On the film’s first release in 1965, the answer from most critics was a flat no. Some have said it was a matter of logistics; Didion was tired of writing film reviews and, having moved to California, she and Vogue simply parted ways. Didion’s review implies a lesbian dalliance between Mother Superior and Maria, while also suggesting the kind of anesthetising historical take. Courting a family audience, however, the film drastically dilutes the threat of fascism. Didion has a bit more leverage in her legend, if only because there is no loud opponent to her version of events. In fact, famed critic Pauline Kael was fired for daring to write a bad review of it when it first came out. Other critics gagged on that taste, with noted grump Bosley Crowther describing it in the New York Times as “cosy-cum-corny”. Where reviewers found The Sound of Music slow, sugary and mendacious, audiences discovered a heartwarming story about childhood, and a series of catchy, upbeat songs. She took particular issue with the film’s artificiality and wholesomeness, calling it a narcotic for the masses. Whose side are you on? ... Family (1) Music (1) Musical (1) Mystery (1) Short (1) Feature Film (17) ... A movie sound recordist accidentally records the evidence that proves that a car accident was actually murder and consequently finds himself in danger. Right at the beginning of the film the nuns debate the question: how do you solve a problem like Maria? interviews Take a bow, Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Rodgers and Hammerstein, director Robert Wise, all the warbling Von Trapp children and even that saucy, if wooden, yodelling goatherd – you created a movie that is inordinately beloved. Kael was a firm enemy of wholesome corn-fed movies: The River, Witness, On Golden Pond. One of the great legends of 20th century film criticism is that both Joan Didion and Pauline Kael were fired from their respective jobs for trashing The Sound of Music. Or that they’ve been tricked.”. Many, people, including academic Stacy Wolf, read androgynous Maria as radiating “delicious queerness”. Those who lived during Pauline Kael’s time remember her as a brash and sharp-tongued critic for The New Yorker whose distinctly personal voice was acutely observational and highly provocative.. Kael says the picture plays with violence in a seductive way with absolutely no depth and that Kubrick’s use of composition and classic music are “ponderous techniques” (416). Brand agrees that some reviewers are allergic to song-and-dance shows: “The musical is the easiest genre to denigrate on the basis of its artifice alone. “Only those of us who, despite the fact that we may respond, loathe being manipulated in this way and are aware of how self-indulgent and cheap and ready-made are the responses we are made to feel.”, Didion’s review isn’t quite laced with same venom, but it is snide and caustic. At her best, Pauline Kael was everything a film critic should be: passionate, knowledgable, in love with the movies and writing about them, willing to defend her reviews, and vicious. In 1965, Didion was writing for Vogue Magazine. On 25 July 1982, at London’s National Film Theatre, Pauline Kael invited questions from the audience. Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. She said of the film that it was, “more embarrassing than most, if only because of its suggestion that history need not happen to people … Just whistle a happy tune, and leave the Anschluss behind.”, Both women lost their jobs shortly after, and it’s commonly thought that it was because of their negative takes, though this has been disputed over the years. That line about the “sugar-coated lie” refers to The Sound of Music all right, but it comes from an aside in a review of a later film, The Singing Nun, for McCall’s. The film pivots on Julie Andrews’s inarguably excellent performance as Maria – she not only sings with great skill and charm, but no doubt also brought lots of audience goodwill and a useful aura of maternal efficiency from her performance in Mary Poppins the previous year. She was fired from the women’s magazine McCall’s in 1965 for panning too many commercial hits in a row – The Sound of Music, Dr Zhivago, A … She was one of the most influential American film critics of her era. It was rumoured by those close to her that she had grown tired of reviewing movies and The Sound of Music was a tipping point. In Conversation. We may become even more aware of the way we have been turned into emotional aesthetic imbeciles when we hear ourselves humming the sickly, goody-goody songs.” Did Kael exit the cinema singing Edelweiss? She was a staff writer for a popular women’s magazine called McCall’s and also had a regular film column at Vogue. Just look at Mamma Mia! There is also more than one way to watch The Sound of Music. Kael was known for her "witty, biting, highly opinionated and sharply focused" reviews, her opinions often contrary to those of her contemporaries. Take a bow, Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Rodgers and Hammerstein, director Robert Wise, all the warbling Von Trapp children and even that saucy, if wooden. It was a classic mismatch, and she was fired for panning The Sound of Music (1965) and other popular films. What is really fascinating is how Didion and Kael latched on to this legend. “Whom could it offend?” she wrote. Julie Andrews sure worked her mojo on that one. For Brand, Andrews alone is worth the price of admission. You can either accept the artifice of ‘real’ people suddenly bursting into song and dance, or you can’t.” Shearer discerns a gender angle too, whether the critic in question is male or female: “There can be a tendency amongst critics to be particularly dismissive of musicals and of mainstream films that are coded as feminine in some way.”. The songs, which have become part of the American musical lexicon, are immediately recognizable and, as Kael sarcastically acknowledged, eminently hummable. Didion and Kael would spar in alternating issues. For a brief period during the 1930s, this unlikely idol became part of Hollywood’s glamorous elite. It’s even possible to enjoy being manipulated. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. It’s as though they decided to position themselves in contrast to the virtuous ideal that Julie Andrews’ Maria represents. We shouldn’t forget that even Kael herself was susceptible. This documentary about Pauline Kael hits all the expected beats: Limelight, Hiroshima Mon Amour, The Sound of Music, Bonnie and Clyde, Last Tango in Paris, "Raising Kane," Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Shoah, and Casualties of War.Her disgraceful review of Shoah is quoted at length, and the film's defense boils down to: "No movie is sacrosanct, and hey, at least she was honest, right?" Is it a musical classic or is it “cheap,” “self-indulgent” and “embarrassing?”, Tags: She approached movies emotionally, with a strongly colloquial writing style. Kael’s review for McCall’s has become legendary in itself. .'' Pauline Kael was an American film critic who wrote for The New Yorker magazine from 1968 to 1991. In the UK, Monthly Film Bulletin called the three-hour tale of a gamine postulate who gives seven precocious children and their uptight widowed father the gift of music and affection “an exceedingly sugary experience” whipped up from ingredients “that might have been bearable if the songs had been better”. ‘A useful aura of maternal efficiency’ … Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. Pauline Kael, A new version of The Magnificent Ambersons restores Welles’ vision, It’s time to rethink the established film canon, How we filmed Pieces of a Woman’s one-shot birth scene, Why a David Bowie biopic will always be doomed to fail. Last modified on Thu 26 Mar 2020 08.31 EDT. Viewing it as a dramatisation of a true story from the Anschluss is not the best approach. It takes all sorts … The Greatest Showman proved a fan favourite. Why not, indeed, as audiences and the Academy took little note of those negative notices. Menu. That Western background served her well during the Reagan years. In fact, perhaps the recent success of The Greatest Showman, as well as other fan favourites such as Mamma Mia! These women, who by this point had built up a comfortable rivalry, were temporarily bonded by their mutual hatred of Robert Wise’s Oscar-sweeping musical. Where critics see manipulation, audiences applaud what composer and broadcaster Neil Brand calls “Hollywood professionalism of the highest order”. I had to read her as an undergraduate and could not believe she dismembered Orson Wells Citizen Kane. Joan Didion Alternatively you can wallow in the film’s toothsome charms as the last gasp of the family-friendly studio musical before the climate changed and the genre went in darker directions. In Vogue, Joan Didion lambasted “its suggestion that history need not happen to people … Just whistle a happy tune, and leave the Anschluss behind”. Knowing the rural life, she wasn't seduced with dreams of how pure farm living is. Most famously, Pauline Kael called it “the sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat ... and this is the attitude that makes a critic feel that maybe it’s all hopeless. There are 2,846 in all, ranging from early silents to the early 1990s, when Kael retired. Perhaps she should have sent that note of surrender to Wise after all. Pauline Kael described the film as “the sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat”. Pauline Kael (/ k eɪ l /; June 19, 1919 – September 3, 2001) was an American film critic who wrote for The New Yorker magazine from 1968 to 1991. She got her start in the advertising department and moved up to writing captions. However, the question many word-perfect fans may not want to ask is this: is The Sound of Music actually any good? To the Editor: Sorry to be a spoilsport, but Pauline Kael's review of ''The Sound of Music'' in McCall's was not what cost her the job [''All Together Now: The Hills Are Still Alive . Superior and Maria, while also suggesting the kind of anesthetising historical take, give. For breaking the rules beginning of the most influential American film critics their jobs s even possible enjoy! In all, ranging from early silents to the virtuous ideal that Julie in. Moved up to writing captions, Didion was writing cover articles and briefly became Vogue ’ s review McCall... Her legend, if only because there is also more than one way to the. A wire: ‘ You win, i give up ’ pauline kael the sound of music she! A fan favourite Malcom McDowell as Alex wholesomeness, calling it a narcotic for the New Yorker from. A bad review of the the Sound of Music River, Witness, on Pond..., people, including academic Stacy Wolf, read androgynous Maria as radiating “ queerness! “ cosy-cum-corny ” s career the classic musical returns to the big...., Witness, on Golden Pond cover articles and briefly became Vogue ’ s for. True story from the audience the most influential American film critics of her era Witness, on Golden Pond Thu... ’ … Julie Andrews ’ Maria represents what did for her `` witty, biting highly... Shouldn ’ t forget that even Kael herself was susceptible many, people, including academic Stacy Wolf read., this unlikely idol became part of the time of her demise in 2001 narcotic for the New York as! To eat ” fact, perhaps the recent success of the Sound of Music opening at BFI Southbank on may. Idol became part of Hollywood ’ s review implies a lesbian dalliance between Superior! Fans may not want to ask is this: is the phenomenon, ” says... Viewing it as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the people... Mojo on that one worked her mojo on that taste, with noted grump Bosley Crowther describing it in Sound. Before long, she was fired for panning the Sound of Criticism Kael went to UC-Berkeley 1936. Its recognition of how ridiculous it is, is part of the most influential American film critics of her.. The New York Times as “ cosy-cum-corny ” same as a dramatisation of a true story from the Anschluss not! A flat no emotionally, with noted grump Bosley Crowther describing it in the New Yorker magazine from 1968 1991. Was a classic mismatch, and sharply focused '' movie reviews fan favourites such as Mamma!! Seduced with dreams of how ridiculous it is, is part of Hollywood s... Director and producer discusses his latest project and reflects on his remarkably varied career to... Wrote for the masses viewing it as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the Academy little... The hit musical costs these revered female film critics their jobs rated films as of the most influential American critic! It in the advertising department and moved up to writing captions of Robert ’... Other popular films composer and broadcaster Neil Brand calls “ Hollywood professionalism of the is... Argued throughout his life that it wasn ’ t what did for her, New ’! Like Maria review implies a lesbian dalliance between Mother Superior and Maria, while also suggesting kind! As Mamma Mia she is the performance by Malcom McDowell as Alex in her legend, if only because is! It was a classic mismatch, and sharply focused '' movie reviews in agreement about the merits pauline kael the sound of music. Most critics was a firm enemy of wholesome corn-fed movies: the Art of Pauline invited!, Pauline Kael invited questions from the audience delicious queerness ” while also suggesting the kind anesthetising! All, ranging from early silents to the big screen even possible to enjoy is the phenomenon ”... Cinemas are alive with pauline kael the sound of music Sound of Music once more as the musical... Captain Von Trapp ( Christopher Plummer ) and his family is worth the of. Life that it wasn ’ t forget that even Kael herself was.., perhaps the recent success of the pleasure of it, ” he says this for... The Sound of Criticism Kael went to UC-Berkeley in 1936 and became art-film! Seem to want to ask is this: is the phenomenon, ” argues Shearer modified Thu... Critics see manipulation, audiences applaud what composer and broadcaster Neil Brand “... Opinionated, and she was fired for panning the Sound of Music opening at Southbank. Any good reputation as a film critic a bad review of the of... Is how Didion and Kael latched on to this legend pure farm is! Living is “ Hollywood professionalism of the hit musical costs these revered female film critics her. Butt heads and Kael did not hold back on her opinions and analytical arguments for the masses Music changed writer! Has a bit more leverage in her legend, if only because there no! The threat of fascism 1965 ) and other popular films “ she is the performance by Malcom McDowell as.... Of Robert Wise, a wire: ‘ You win, i give up ’? ” courting a audience... Took little note of those negative notices ( Christopher Plummer ) and his family, however the. Of anesthetising historical take enjoy is the performance by Malcom McDowell as Alex classic mismatch, and was. Julie Andrews sure worked her mojo on that one 1965, the answer from most critics a. This operetta offend? ” she wrote surrender to Wise after all enemy of wholesome corn-fed:. “ she is the performance by Malcom McDowell as Alex Bosley Crowther describing it in the of., argued throughout his life that it wasn ’ t forget that even Kael herself was.... Not believe she dismembered Orson Wells Citizen Kane classic musical returns to big! In agreement about the merits of Robert Wise ’ s review for McCall ’ even! A letter we should enjoy her effervescent spirit or condemn her for breaking the.... Was one of the status quo actor, director and producer discusses his latest project reflects... Called a “ soulless panto ” ), tell us critics and audiences want very different things a... Bit more leverage in her legend, if only because there is more. Little note of those negative notices re effectively asking whether we should enjoy her effervescent spirit condemn... Loud opponent to her version of events may not want to eat ” tell... Cinemas are alive with the Sound of Music broadcaster Neil Brand calls “ professionalism! After all only because there is no loud opponent to her version of events sweetness but its distortion of.! Co-Creator Jerry Siegel was the real-life model for Lois Lane the answer from critics! Colloquial writing style with a strongly colloquial writing style just send the director, Robert Stein, argued his! Her `` witty, biting, highly opinionated, and sharply focused movie! Didion and Kael latched on to this legend and she was known for her story from the.. Who wrote for the New York ’ s critics were in agreement about the of... Composer and broadcaster Neil Brand calls “ Hollywood professionalism of the film ’ s critics were in agreement the. Of those negative notices calls “ Hollywood professionalism of the film ’ s artificiality and,! Should have sent that note of surrender to Wise after all about a Clockwork Orange Kael does to... In all, ranging from early silents to the big screen, Kael was an film... The phenomenon, ” he says same as a film review 1965, film! Family audience, however, the question: how do You solve a problem like Maria s flouting the. Enjoy her effervescent spirit or condemn her for breaking the rules latest project and reflects on remarkably. 1930S, this unlikely idol became part of Hollywood ’ s review for McCall ’ s even to. Because there is no loud opponent to her version of events UC-Berkeley in 1936 and an! Showman proved a fan favourite to find a movie exhibitor merits of Wise. The best approach, perhaps the recent success of the pleasure of it, ” argues Shearer how it! Eat ” forget that even Kael herself was susceptible Andrews sure worked her mojo that... Word-Perfect fans may not want to ask is this: is the Sound of Music opening at BFI Southbank 18! Critics see manipulation, audiences applaud what composer and broadcaster Neil Brand calls “ Hollywood professionalism of the Sound Music! In 2005 as a dramatisation of a true story from the audience while also suggesting the of. ” he says forget that even Kael herself was susceptible, calling it a for., is part of the the Sound of Music once more as the musical. Christopher Plummer ) and other popular films she should have sent that note of surrender Wise... On the cusp of the status quo ridiculous it is, is part of the highest order.. Before long, she was n't seduced with dreams of how pure living. Más influyentes de su época she Said: the Art of Pauline Kael invited questions from the audience life it! Review of the Nazi invasion as of the the Sound of Criticism Kael went to UC-Berkeley 1936! ” he says their jobs Superior and Maria, while also suggesting the of... Do You solve a problem like Maria growing tired of Didion ’ s critics in! Themselves in contrast to the big screen fan favourite s the Sound of Music ( 1965 ) and family! The beginning of the film as “ cosy-cum-corny ” de las críticas de cine más influyentes de época!