Pauline Kael collection of articles

Pretty Poison (1968) – Review by Pauline Kael

2020-02-07T13:15:17+00:00February 7th, 2020|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , |

When I discovered that Pretty Poison had opened without advance publicity or screenings, I rushed to see it, because a movie that makes the movie companies so nervous they’re afraid to show it to the critics stands an awfully good chance of being an interesting movie. Mediocrity and stupidity certainly don’t scare them; talent does.

Weekend (1967) – Review by Pauline Kael

2020-02-07T12:43:04+00:00February 7th, 2020|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , |

Only the title of Jean-Luc Godard’s new film is casual and innocent; Weekend is the most powerful mystical movie since The Seventh Seal and Fires on the Plain and passages of Kurosawa. We are hardly aware of the magnitude of the author-director’s conception until after we are caught up in the comedy of horror, which keeps going further and becoming more nearly inescapable, like Journey to the End of the Night.

Rain Man (1988) – Review by Pauline Kael

2019-08-12T20:50:52+01:00August 10th, 2019|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , , |

Rain Man is Dustin Hoffman humping one note on a piano for two hours and eleven minutes. It’s his dream role. As the autistic savant Raymond Babbitt, he’s impenetrable: he doesn’t make eye contact or touch anyone or carry on a conversation; he doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him.

Day for Night (La Nuit Américaine, 1973) – Review by Pauline Kael

2019-06-16T20:58:51+01:00June 16th, 2019|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

Day for Night has the Truffaut proportion and grace, and it can please those who have grown up with Truffaut’s films — especially those for whom Jean-Pierre Leaud as Antoine Doinel has become part of their own autobiographies, with Antoine’s compromises and modest successes paralleling their own.

Accepting violence as a sensual pleasure: Pauline Kael and Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”

2019-03-26T09:20:35+00:00March 26th, 2019|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , |

Pauline believed she had a clear-eyed view of Kubrick’s intentions. At the end of the picture, when Alex’s former victims turn on him and he reverts to his old, corrupt self, she grasped that Kubrick intended it as “a victory in which we share . . . the movie becomes a vindication of Alex, saying that the punk was a free human being and only the good Alex was a robot.”

The Sting (1973) – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-10-24T09:05:29+01:00October 24th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , |

The Sting, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, strings together the chapters of a Saturday-afternoon serial, each with its own cliffhanger, and we’re invited to wait around to see what the happy twosome will do next. The happy twosome seem to have something for each other, and for most of the rest of the world, that I don’t tune in to.

Serpico: The Hero as Freak – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-09-07T09:23:46+01:00September 7th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

What could be a more appropriate subject for a 1973 movie than the ordeal of Frank Serpico, the New York City policeman who became a pariah in the Department because he wouldn’t take bribes? Serpico, whose incorruptibility alienates him from his fellow-officers and turns him into a messianic hippie freak, is a perfect modern-movie hero.

THE KILLING FIELDS (1984): UNREAL – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-07-23T10:22:48+01:00July 19th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

The Killing Fields, which is based on Sydney Schanberg’s 1980 Times Magazine article "The Death and Life of Dith Pran,” is by no means a negligible movie. It shows us the Khmer Rouge transforming Cambodia into a nationwide gulag, and the scenes of this genocidal revolution have the breadth and terror of something deeply imagined.

PRIZZI’S HONOR (1985) – by Pauline Kael

2018-07-17T11:02:47+01:00July 17th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

If John Huston’s name were not on Prizzi’s Honor, I’d have thought a fresh new talent had burst on the scene, and he’d certainly be the hottest new director in Hollywood. The picture has a daring comic tone—it revels voluptuously in the murderous finagling of the members of a Brooklyn Mafia family, and rejoices in their scams.

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985) – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-07-17T10:23:28+01:00July 17th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

Rambo: First Blood Part II explodes your previous conception of “overwrought”—it’s like a tank sitting on your lap firing at you. Jump-cutting from one would-be high point to another, Rambo is to the action film what Flashdance was to the musical, with one to-be-cherished difference: audiences are laughing at it.


2018-07-09T11:50:11+01:00July 9th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , |

by Pauline Kael The great thing about a tall tale on the screen is that you can be shown the preposterous and the implausible. In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the director Steven Spielberg is like a magician whose tricks are so daring they make you laugh. He [...]


2019-10-08T10:37:58+01:00April 23rd, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

What saves Munchausen from mediocrity is that you sense that Gilliam is brainstorming. He goes hippety-hoppety all over the place. The picture is too dry and too busy to be considered merely mediocre. And he has his gifts. He retains an edge of Monty Python’s cranky, warped slapstick, and he has a painter’s eye.

POPEYE (1980) – Review by Pauline Kael

2019-08-13T07:48:12+01:00March 7th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , , |

Sometimes the components of a picture seem miraculously right and you go to it expecting a magical interaction. That's the case with Popeye. But it comes off a little like some of the Jacques Tati comedies, where you can see the intelligence and skill that went into the gags yet you don't hear yourself laughing.


2018-02-27T23:24:31+00:00February 27th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

Jean-Luc Godard intended to give the public what it wanted. His next film was going to be about a girl and a gun—”A sure-fire story which will sell a lot of tickets.” And so, like Henry James’ hero in The Next Time he proceeded to make a work of art that sold fewer tickets than ever. What was to be a simple commercial movie about a robbery became Band of Outsiders.


2018-02-23T13:44:13+00:00February 20th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a cosmic vaudeville show —an Old Master’s mischief. Now seventy-two, Luis Bunuel is no longer savage about the hypocrisy and the inanity of the privileged classes. They don’t change, and since they have become a persistent bad joke to him, he has grown almost fond of their follies—the way one can grow fond of the snarls and the silliness of vicious pets.

PALE RIDER (1985) – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-02-18T11:19:33+00:00February 17th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

As an actor, Eastwood never lets down his guard. His idea of being a real man is that it’s something you have to pretend to be—as Sergio Leone put it, he’s wearing a suit of armor. This actor has made a career out of his terror of expressiveness. Now here he is playing a stiff, a ghost. It’s perfect casting, but he doesn’t have the daring to let go and have fun with it. Even as a ghost, he’s armored.

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-02-18T11:21:27+00:00February 17th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

What keeps Back to the Future from being a comedy classic is that its eye is on the market. Despite Zemeckis and Gale’s wit in devising intricate structures that keep blowing fuses, the thinking here is cramped and conventional. I wish that moviemakers and their designers would stop using old Life magazines for their images of the American past.

VICTIM (1961) – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-02-11T23:35:52+00:00February 11th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

It was a bit startling to pick up an English newspaper and see that the review of Victim was entitled “Ten-letter word”—but as it turned out. The Observer was referring not to Lenny Bruce’s much publicized hyphenated word but to the simple term “homosexual,” which it appears is startling enough in a movie to make the Johnson office refuse to give Victim a seal of approval.


2018-01-21T11:50:05+00:00January 21st, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the most innocent of all technological-marvel movies, and one of the most satisfying. This film has retained some of the wonder and bafflement we feel when we first go into a plan­etarium: we ooh and aah at the vastness, and at the beauty of the mystery. The film doesn’t overawe us, though, because it has a child’s playfulness and love of surprises.

BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI’S 1900: HAIL, FOLLY! – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-01-20T12:31:28+00:00January 20th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

Bertolucci is trying to transcend the audience appeal of his lyrical, psy­chological films. He is trying to make a people’s film by drawing on the mythology of movies, as if it were a collective memory. 1900 is a romantic moviegoer's vision of the class struggle—a love poem for the movies as well as for the life of those who live communally on the land.

THE AMERICAN FRIEND – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-01-20T08:45:45+00:00January 20th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

Angst-dark primary colors—reds and blues so intense they’re near­psychedelic, yet grimy, rotting in the thick, muggy atmosphere. Cities that blur into each other. Characters as figures in cityscapes or as exiles in rooms that are insistently not home. And, under it all, morbid, premon­itory music.

QUEST FOR FIRE (1981) – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-01-12T15:41:04+00:00January 12th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

Eighty thousand years ago, on broad primeval plains, Naoh (Everett McGill), the bravest warrior of the spear-carrying Ulam tribe, and two fellow-warriors, Amoukar (Ron Perlman) and Gaw (Nameer El-Kadi), are sent out on the sacred mission of finding fire and bringing it back to the Ulam.

Mean Streets: Everyday Inferno – Review by Pauline Kael

2019-08-12T21:33:52+01:00January 11th, 2018|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets is a true original of our period, a triumph of personal filmmaking. It has its own hallucinatory look; the characters live in the darkness of bars, with lighting and color just this side of lurid. It has its own unsettling, episodic rhythm and a high-charged emo­tional range that is dizzyingly sensual.

THE GODFATHER: ALCHEMY – Review by Pauline Kael

2017-12-30T13:54:12+00:00December 30th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorised|Tags: , , , , |

A wide, startlingly vivid view of a Mafia dynasty, in which organized crime becomes an obscene nightmare image of American free enterprise. The movie is a popular melodrama with its roots in the gangster films of the 30s, but it expresses a new tragic realism, and it's altogether extraordinary.

The Godfather Part II (1974)- Review by Pauline Kael

2019-11-11T19:52:33+00:00December 12th, 2017|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

Throughout the three hours and twenty minutes of Part II, there are so many moments of epiphany — mysterious, reverberant images, such as the small Vito singing in his cell — that one scarcely has the emotional resources to deal with the experience of this film.

DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) – Review by Pauline Kael

2018-01-30T23:23:17+00:00November 28th, 2017|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

The movie—Costner’s debut as a director—is childishly naïve. When Lieutenant Dunbar is alone with his pet wolf, he’s like Robinson Crusoe on Mars. When he tries to get to know the Sioux, and he and they are feeling each other out, it’s like a sci-fi film that has the hero trying to communicate with an alien race.

THE GODFATHER PART III (1990) – Review by Pauline Kael

2017-08-19T10:34:04+01:00August 18th, 2017|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

by Pauline Kael At the end of The Godfather Part II (1974), the story was complete—beautifully complete. Francis Ford Coppola knew it, and for over a decade he resisted Paramount’s pleas for another sequel. But the studio’s blandishments became more honeyed, his piggy bank was smashed, and late in 1988 [...]


2017-05-08T15:36:56+01:00May 8th, 2017|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

by Pauline Kael The marketing executives are the new high priests of the movie business. It's natural. They’re handling important sums of money. And they dispense the money dramatically, in big campaigns that flood out over the country. It’s not unusual for more to be spent on marketing a picture [...]

Raging Bull (1980) – Review by Pauline Kael

2019-11-11T19:47:55+00:00May 8th, 2017|Categories: CINEMA|Tags: , , , , |

Religious Pulp, or the Incredible Hulk by Pauline Kael As Jake la Motta, the former middleweight boxing champ, in Raging Bull, Robert De Niro wears scar tissue and a big, bent nose that deform his face. It’s a miracle that he didn't grow them—he grew everything else. He developed a [...]