She approached movies emotionally, with a strongly colloquial writing style. 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. It was a classic mismatch, and she was fired for panning The Sound of Music (1965) and other popular films. By Nathan Helle r. October 14, 2011 Save this story for later. Others took exception not just to its sweetness but its distortion of history. The infamous film critic Pauline Kael's top rated films as of the time of her demise in 2001. Right at the beginning of the film the nuns debate the question: how do you solve a problem like Maria? The wife of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel was the real-life model for Lois Lane. 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. ‘A useful aura of maternal efficiency’ … Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) and his family. In a letter to the editor sent to the New York Times in 2000, Stein attempted to set the record straight: “I was the magazine’s editor at the time and rather liked her trashing it as ‘The Sound of Money’. .'' Many, people, including academic Stacy Wolf, read androgynous Maria as radiating “delicious queerness”. 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. At the same time, Kael was building her own reputation as a film critic. Didion and Kael would spar in alternating issues. Joan Didion For a brief period during the 1930s, this unlikely idol became part of Hollywood’s glamorous elite. 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. Or that they’ve been tricked.”. 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?" That Western background served her well during the Reagan years. 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. “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. Describing their brief meeting at a New York Oscar party, he described them as “two tough little numbers with the instincts of a mongoose and an amiable contempt for each other’s work.”, When The Sound of Music was released in 1965, it was an instant sensation, topping box offices around the world. Courting a family audience, however, the film drastically dilutes the threat of fascism. Just look at Mamma Mia! Menu. Where critics see manipulation, audiences applaud what composer and broadcaster Neil Brand calls “Hollywood professionalism of the highest order”. She got her start in the advertising department and moved up to writing captions. 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. Viewing it as a dramatisation of a true story from the Anschluss is not the best approach. Pauline Kael described the film as “the sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat”. 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. the recent success of The Greatest Showman. “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. The surreal true story of Cynthia the movie star mannequin, Griffin Dunne on acting, Joan Didion and his plans for an After Hours TV show, The amazing story of Joanne Siegel – the super woman who inspired a comic book icon. To find a movie title, click on a letter. Pauline Kael was an American film critic who wrote for The New Yorker magazine from 1968 to 1991. In fact, perhaps the recent success of The Greatest Showman, as well as other fan favourites such as Mamma Mia! Did their scathing reviews of the hit musical costs these revered female film critics their jobs? 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. Knowing the rural life, she wasn't seduced with dreams of how pure farm living is. In 1965, Didion was writing for Vogue Magazine. ... 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. I gave up months later after she kept panning every commercial movie from Lawrence of Arabia and Dr Zhivago to The Pawnbroker and A Hard Day’s Night.”. It was dismissed as a ‘sugar-coated lie’ by Pauline Kael – but The Sound of Music’s enduring success suggests audiences enjoy being manipulated. In an edited selection from a previously unpublished transcript of the event, she explains why good films make her … “Whom could this operetta offend?” she wrote. 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? 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 … Movies. We believe in Truth & Movies. “She is the phenomenon,” he says. There are 2,846 in all, ranging from early silents to the early 1990s, when Kael retired. Julie Andrews sure worked her mojo on that one. “Only those of us who, despite the fact that we may respond, loathe being manipulated in this way and are aware of how cheap and ready-made are the responses we are made to feel. Official trailer for 70mm screening of The Sound of Music opening at BFI Southbank on 18 May 2018. 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. The cinemas are alive with The Sound of Music once more as the classic musical returns to the big screen. Fue una de las críticas de cine más influyentes de su época. Didion’s review implies a lesbian dalliance between Mother Superior and Maria, while also suggesting the kind of anesthetising historical take. 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. What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael (2019) Film criticism is not the same as a film review. Other critics gagged on that taste, with noted grump Bosley Crowther describing it in the New York Times as “cosy-cum-corny”. The Sound of Music The Sound of Music reviewed: 'a slick job' - archive, 1965 26 March 1965 Will Guardian readers appreciate a sentimental film … Before long, she was writing cover articles and briefly became Vogue’s film critic. Kael’s editor at the time, Robert Stein, argued throughout his life that it wasn’t what did for her. It remains unclear what exactly inspired them to butt heads. 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?" Perhaps she should have sent that note of surrender to Wise after all. And Kael did not hold back on her opinions and analytical arguments. The film has only grown in prominence over the years, yet at the time of its release, the critical consensus was far from glowing. 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. . Kael’s review for McCall’s has become legendary in itself. 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. 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 . They’re effectively asking whether we should enjoy her effervescent spirit or condemn her for breaking the rules. 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.. For Brand, Andrews alone is worth the price of admission. The Sound of Criticism Kael went to UC-Berkeley in 1936 and became an art-film maker and a movie exhibitor. (which Peter Bradshaw called a “soulless panto”), tell us critics and audiences want very different things from a musical. More Pauline Kael in the July 2019 issue of Sight & Sound Mission critical. The Sound of Music is intended to be a feel-good extravaganza – one that sweeps aside considerations of logic and intelligence in a tide of exuberance that crests with an emotional high. 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. 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). interviews Movies That Pauline Kael Really Liked. Five Classic Pauline Kael Reviews. But it certainly is possible that the less opinionated Vogue was growing tired of Didion’s flouting of the status quo. Just look at Mamma Mia! 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. 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. Era conocida por sus reseñas "ingeniosas, mordaces, muy obstinadas y fuertemente enfocadas"; [1] sus opiniones a menudo eran contrarias a las de sus contemporáneos. O ne 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. 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. 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. On 25 July 1982, at London’s National Film Theatre, Pauline Kael invited questions from the audience. Didion has a bit more leverage in her legend, if only because there is no loud opponent to her version of events. 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. As with the original stage musical, the film is set in Austria on the cusp of the Nazi invasion. 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). In fact, famed critic Pauline Kael was fired for daring to write a bad review of it when it first came out. She was one of the most influential American film critics of her era. 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. In Conversation. The songs, which have become part of the American musical lexicon, are immediately recognizable and, as Kael sarcastically acknowledged, eminently hummable. I had to read her as an undergraduate and could not believe she dismembered Orson Wells Citizen Kane. 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.”. Her initial assessment of the movie, in an unsigned note for the New Yorker, admitted she was not immune to its contrivances and charms and praised Plummer’s “sinister, archly decadent performance”. Pauline Kael (19 de junio de 1919 - 3 de septiembre de 2001) fue una crítica de cine estadounidense, que escribió para la revista The New Yorker entre 1968 y 1991. She took particular issue with the film’s artificiality and wholesomeness, calling it a narcotic for the masses. 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. What is really fascinating is how Didion and Kael latched on to this legend. In Vogue, Joan Didion lambasted “its suggestion that history need not happen to people … Just whistle a happy tune, and leave the Anschluss behind”. “It’s so overt and it even has a critic character who can’t appreciate the show because he can’t appreciate joy.” The Sound of Music does something similar. 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.”. There is also more than one way to watch The Sound of Music. “Its recognition of how ridiculous it is, is part of the pleasure of it,” argues Shearer. 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. On the contrary, The Sound of Music delivers exactly the responses it promises: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll be humming My Favourite Things for weeks afterwards. Dr Martha Shearer, a musicals expert at King’s College London, takes issue with the critics: “There’s some kind of implication that the audience for this film is either too stupid to pick up on how bad it is. Whose side are you on? It takes all sorts … The Greatest Showman proved a fan favourite. 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. Is it a musical classic or is it “cheap,” “self-indulgent” and “embarrassing?”, Tags: Why not just send the director, Robert Wise, a wire: ‘You win, I give up’?”. The one thing about A Clockwork Orange Kael does seem to enjoy is the performance by Malcom McDowell as Alex. Kael was known for her "witty, biting, highly opinionated and sharply focused" reviews, her opinions often contrary to those of her contemporaries. We shouldn’t forget that even Kael herself was susceptible. Last modified on Thu 26 Mar 2020 08.31 EDT. It’s even possible to enjoy being manipulated. The actor, director and producer discusses his latest project and reflects on his remarkably varied career. Penning a bad review of the The Sound of Music changed one writer’s career. In 1965, New York’s critics were in agreement about the merits of Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music. She was known for her "witty, biting, highly opinionated, and sharply focused" movie reviews. 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”. 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.” Why not, indeed, as audiences and the Academy took little note of those negative notices. 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. 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. 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. It was dismissed as a ‘sugar-coated lie’ by Pauline Kael – but The Sound of Music’s enduring success suggests audiences enjoy being manipulated. Kael was a firm enemy of wholesome corn-fed movies: The River, Witness, On Golden Pond. 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?) She was a staff writer for a popular women’s magazine called McCall’s and also had a regular film column at Vogue. It’s as though they decided to position themselves in contrast to the virtuous ideal that Julie Andrews’ Maria represents. 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. Each link contains between 20-30 reviews. The Greatest Showman, argues Shearer, triumphs because from its opening number on, it tells audiences to sit back and enjoy the spectacle. Both women enjoyed the notoriety of being so vicious in print that it cost them their livelihoods, but the truth is a lot more obscure than the legend suggests. However, the question many word-perfect fans may not want to ask is this: is The Sound of Music actually any good? “Whom could it offend?” she wrote. 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 … 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 Reviews A-Z. he cinemas are alive with The Sound of Music once more as the classic musical returns to the big screen. Answer from most critics was a classic mismatch, and she was one of the Nazi invasion their?. 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