Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark

Pauline Kael A Life in the Dark The first biography of The New Yorker s influential powerful and controversial film critic A decade after her death Pauline Kael remains the most important figure in film criticism today in part d

  • Title: Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark
  • Author: Brian Kellow
  • ISBN: 9780670023127
  • Page: 434
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The first biography of The New Yorker s influential, powerful, and controversial film critic.A decade after her death, Pauline Kael remains the most important figure in film criticism today, in part due to her own inimitable style and power within the film community and in part due to the enormous influence she has exerted over an entire subsequent generation of film critiThe first biography of The New Yorker s influential, powerful, and controversial film critic.A decade after her death, Pauline Kael remains the most important figure in film criticism today, in part due to her own inimitable style and power within the film community and in part due to the enormous influence she has exerted over an entire subsequent generation of film critics During her tenure at the New Yorker from 1967 to 1991 she was a tastemaker, a career maker, and a career breaker Her brash, vernacular writing style often made for an odd fit at the stately New Yorker.Brian Kellow gives us a richly detailed look at one of the most astonishing bursts of creativity in film history and a rounded portrait of this remarkable and often relentlessly driven woman Pauline Kael is a book that will be welcomed by the same audience that made Mark Harris s Pictures at a Revolution and Peter Biskind s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls bestsellers, and by anyone who is curious about the power of criticism in the arts.

    One thought on “Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark”

    1. According to Rex Reed, Pauline Kael wasalways foaming at the mouth about somethingAccording to Scott Eyman of the Wall Street Journal this book isA convincing narrative of how a brazen woman with a basically unattractive but flagrantly domineering personality molded herself into a writer who could not be ignored… [it portrays] the woman in all her maddening overconfidenceOuch, not a fan then, Rex and Scott? But yeah, you do not warm towards PK as you wend your way through the pages. In some wa [...]

    2. Smashing bio of a forceful critic born to chicken farmersin Petaluma, Ca. (Her only rival in last 50 years is AndrewSarris). Like stars she admired - Stanwyck & Davis - she wasindependent, fearless; she also played favorites. She had one child out of wedlock, a brief marriage. After attending UCB, she dalliedat boring jobs and realized that Film was what aroused herpassion. To hell with sex, she lost it at the Movies honed her critical musings in literary-filmzines and w herkeen "Notes" for [...]

    3. Dorothy Parker sans Liquor?What a character Pauline Kael was! I know people say that about others all the time but Kael was certainly original both as a person and a film critic. Author Kellow has done a great job of highlighting some of her key reviews and the incidents that helped shape her views. The book reads almost like fiction at times….l 400 plus pages. The subtitle: “A Life in the Dark” truly applies. Kael never gets out of her own way yet her outrageous style helps people connect [...]

    4. I was lucky enough to know her pretty well, or at least I thought I did. No one knew the "real" her, but it didn't matter, as the TRUE real her was revealed in the reviews that would appear on alternate Wednesdays in the New Yorker. She was always an event, and remains so. I met her when I was sixteen, and had just taken a summer film making course which used I LOST IT AT THE MOVIES as a text. She taught me how to see, and look beyond received opinion, how to massage a work into submission, how [...]

    5. I was a mini-Paulette in my day. If you have to ask, this book is probably not for you. Each week, starting when I was in college and in the early stages of movie-bratdom, I would rush to the mailbox for my New Yorker, for my Kael fix. She was exhilarating and infuriating, informative and solipsistic. Everything I aspired to. I know my editorial voice was formed by her know-it-all stridency. I know my taste in movies was influenced by her passions. In this, of course, I am not alone. The whole c [...]

    6. I can't remember what led me to Pauline Kael's books. I borrowed them one by one from my high school library, and devoured each one regardless of my interest in the individual movies to which she referred. I joined the school newspaper, and tried my best to imitate her strange approach to her subject matter. This book didn't really do anything for me that Kael's own books didn't do better. It gave a little context for some of the reviews that I read out of time and out of place. It sketched out [...]

    7. Brian's Review:In 1993, when I was eight years old, two events shaped the way I would forever look at movies: seeing Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park opening weekend with my dad, and receiving a CD-ROM entitled Microsoft Cinemania ’94, a disc jam-packed with info, pictures, video, and reviews of every movie made from the dawn of cinema to the (at-that-time) present. I was a super geek at the time—well, you could argue I still am—and for years I spent my nights perusing my Cinemania. (I n [...]

    8. Rarely have I read a biography where I felt so much antipathy toward the subject. I was hoping to learn something of the dynamics of movie development and criticism in this book, and the remarkable career of an influential movie critic, but the overwhelming reaction I felt was how much I really did not like this woman. She was driven, overbearing, and, worst of all, unkind.(OK, a critic shouldn't be concerned with kindness, but there were certain basic human qualities that Ms. Kael seemed to lac [...]

    9. The last time I was this excited to read a newly published biography was back in 1988, when Private Demons, Judy Oppenheimer’s bio of Shirley Jackson, was published. I grew up on Pauline Kael’s movie reviews and I totally get what the biographer means when he states in the afterword that “she toughened me up intellectually.” Too many people I’ve encountered in life (and the microcosm of life known as the internets) have the misguided notion that a good critic is someone whom you agree [...]

    10. Who the heck is Pauline Kael? I had no idea before I picked up this book. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to read a biography of someone you’ve never heard of. On the one hand, it’s all new information so you don’t experience the fatigue of hearing the same stories over again. On the other hand, you have no emotional investment in the subject. There is a reason that biography is generally kept in a separate section from other non-fiction in the library, it fills a different need. Most no [...]

    11. This was WORSE than the lousy Wasserstein bio. It is in NO WAY a biography. The sniggering title tells it all. Mainly he just goes through her reviews, year by year, sometimes month by month, and excerpts them -- you could read For Keeps instead.

    12. I think this book would only be intetesting to people who love movies( which I do). The problem is that I found her life way less interesting than her movie reviews. I think this book needed more teview snippets and less about Her life.

    13. Biography that reads like a history of mid-century movies. Incredibly well-researched with a chatty, vernacular delivery of erudite research. I lived in Manhattan through the '60's, and Kael was THE movie maven I consulted. This book is full of insights about the critic as a writer, analyzing her intellectual and emotional reactions to the movies of my youth, young adulthood and middle years. Kael's mammoth compendium of her critical essays "For Keeps" is a fabulous reference that I still rely o [...]

    14. Thoroughly researched, detailed, and fairly engrossing. Avoids hagiography and also steers clear from the uglier gossip. A fitting account of Kael's life.

    15. PAULINE KAEL: A Life in the Dark. (2011). Brian Kellow. *****. Born in 1919 in Petaluma to Polish immigrant parents who settled there to become chicken ranchers, Kael grew up surrounded by the typical Jewish appreciation for the arts, including literature, painting, dance, and film. When her parents venture failed, they moved to San Francisco where she was exposed to even greater quantities of art movements. She spent several years at Berkeley, missing being awarded a degree in philosophy by onl [...]

    16. Pauline Kael, when asked late in her life if she would write her memoirs, remarked that she already had; for a seventeen year or so stretch, between 1955, when she began writing regularly for The Partisan Review, through 1973, say, by which point she was ensconced at The New Yorker, we can learn as much about the experience of popular art through her movie reviews as from the experience of a critic writing about any other popular medium. Brian Kellow has taken this remark as an injunction to slo [...]

    17. Pauline Kael reveled in the notion that movies had a subtext and were more than entertainments. The years she wrote reviews in The New Yorker began during a golden age of moviemaking. She continued on through the era of blockbusters and the beginning of the dominance of CGI over other methods of storytelling.And although she reveled in strong film storytelling that included nuance, she did not celebrate shades of grey in her own life. Biographer Brian Kellow shows, rather than merely tells, how [...]

    18. Pauline Kael embodied a number of contradictions: She was an intellectual who championed lowbrow tastes, a thinker who valued intuition over theory, and a person who could cultivate, then alienate, directors, fellow critics, and ultimately her readers. Her fame and influence were inseparable from her ability to polarize those who helped cement her celebrity. Biographer Brian Kellow delves into Kael's often contentious life, and the culture of the times, with concision, detail, and even-handednes [...]

    19. I'm flabbergasted to see all the rave reviews for this book. In almost 400 pages, Kellow reveals almost nothing about Kael's childhood, private life, or her relationships. Instead, the book is almost entirely devoted to a summary of her writings, her opinions about movies and filmmakers, all of which we already know from having read her reviews. There are very few revealing insider quotes here, most of them coming from Kael's reviews, and next to nothing at all from family members (eg, Kael's da [...]

    20. First, I'm a film buff, if you can be that and also uninformed about film. The Pauline Kael biography brought me closer to having a grasp on the fascinating evolution of technique, theme, style in movies and has prompted me to up my Netflix selection from the latest Ashley Judd film (Kael herself was all for the trashier end of the spectrum!), to something a wee more artistically challenging. I kept a list in the back of the book of films she had a strong reaction to, positive or negative (from [...]

    21. Brian Kellow as biographer, not to mention near-constant apologist, of the late film critic Pauline Kael, has written a flowing history and critical analysis of the life and work of one of America's, if not the world's, most influential writers.IF Kellow's subjective respect and, at times sycophantic, admiration for Kael seems to bleed into what is an otherwise objective, and often insightful, piece of journalistic prose, then it's a small price to pay for what is, without a doubt, an unparallel [...]

    22. Although I did not always agree with Pauline Kael's movie reviews, I always enjoyed reading them. She was an outspoken and often brash movie critic who frequently clashed with the oh so proper William Shawn during her years working for him at the New Yorker. She called him "Bill" when nearly everyone else called him "Mr. Shawn". She used very bold, to William Shawn's ears often vulgar, language to describe some movies. He usually let her have her way because he didn't relish confrontation and he [...]

    23. I enjoyed reading this. I've read bits and pieces of and about Pauline Kael over the years - Francis Davis' Afterglow is an enjoyable way to spend a lazy afternoon - but didn't really feel like I had much of a grasp of her story. Kellow's book covers the basics well enough, and conveys the arc of her career, with its various hits and misses, in a way that makes me want to read Kael more deeply and watch a shitload of movies.But I'm not certain how good a book it actually is. As Kellow points out [...]

    24. Pauline Kael died on September 3, 2001. That November, her life was celebrated at an extravagant, well attended dinner. Nothing much happened in between.That's the story, per LIFE IN THE DARK. Maybe it's a huge omission. But it speaks to the biography's laser focus on its subject, and more specifically her work as a film critic.Brian Kellow gives us some solid background on her life, starting with her parents, and in the lean years when she fell in love with multiple gay men, had a child out of [...]

    25. An interesting look at the life of arguably the greatest film critic we have known. Pauline Kael had an enormous impact on me as a cinema studies student in the 1980s, influencing my writing and my view of the movies as entertainment and as an art form. Reading her reviews, I always learned something about film and about our society, even when I did not agree with her opinion. I felt enriched reading her essays, a far cry from what passes as film criticism today, the flaccid "thumbs up/thumbs do [...]

    26. Pauline Kael, a longtime movie reviewer for the New Yorker had an acerbic tongue and a sharp wit. She pulled no punches with her reviews, skewering some of the most popular films of her time. She didn't limit her withering criticism to movies, she also targeted fellow film critics. She didn't accumulate only enemies though. A group of young, aspiring writers formed an informal fan club know as the Paulettes. These young hangers on were never allowed to overshadow their mentor. That was the kiss [...]

    27. Four stars for the massive information and character depiction of the legendary movie critic Pauline Kael. So the stars are kudos to Brian Kellow, who has painted for me vividly a feisty, fearless critic with whom I'd rather not cross path if I were a filmmaker. Her criticism can be utterly ego-shattering and downright personal and insulting. Roger Ebert had said, movie reviews are subjective. I believe that's true. And from this biography, I perceive the subjectivism of Pauline Kael had given r [...]

    28. Again, an interview with the author on KUER's RadioWest piqued my interest. This is definitely a well written, well researched biography of Kael, as well as being a fascinating look into the world of film criticism and movie making during that time considered by many to be a golden age for both. I gave this book 3 stars, because like a couple other reviewers, there was just too much information. About two thirds of the way through, I found myself skipping yet one more year of film critics awards [...]

    29. Dodging the vast stretches of dryness that most biographers seem to fatalistically wallow in, Kellow manages to shape the first biography on Kael into the kind of picture she would have hurled superlatives at: timely, joyous, maddening, and complex.One of the few qualms I have is that some of her more infamous pieces, the ones that displayed her awareness with how important a particular picture was to the fabric of American filmmaking (Bonnie and Clyde) & the ones that incurred the Wrath of [...]

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