Saul Chaplin who observed the dance rehearsals compared their atmosphere to that of ‘a concentration camp’. Production design was done by Boris Leven, costume design by Irene Sharaff, the titles by Saul Bass. Despite her initial dismissal of John Boorman's Point Blank (1967) for what she felt was its pointless brutality, she later acknowledged it was "intermittently dazzling" with "more energy and invention than Boorman seems to know what to do with ... one comes out exhilarated but bewildered". [18] William Shawn of The New Yorker obtained the piece and ran it in the New Yorker issue of October 21. A basic shofar call, the Tekiah, provides the musical motif that many of the show’s most important songs are based on. The likeness of Robbins to Kubrick is also appropriate. Pauline Kael Reviews A-Z. She was a deadly serious historical revisionist.[92]. Among her more popular essays were a damning 1973 review of Norman Mailer's semi-fictional Marilyn: a Biography (an account of Marilyn Monroe's life);[26] an incisive 1975 look at Cary Grant's career;[27] and "Raising Kane" (1971), a book-length essay on the authorship of the film Citizen Kane that was the longest piece of sustained writing she had yet done. With her it was all personal. You don't have to be very keen to see that they are now in fact de-sensitizing us. The film West Side Story is based on the 1950s Broadway stage play, from an idea inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet . In this version, an Irish Catholic boy falls in love with a Jewish girl who is a recent immigrant and a Holocaust survivor. [39] Several directors' careers were profoundly affected by her, most notably that of Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader, who was accepted at UCLA Film School's graduate program upon Kael's recommendation. [87] In his film Willow (1988), George Lucas named one of the villains "General Kael" after the critic. But, of course, she wasn't writing comedy. When playwright Arthur Laurents joined the creative team, though, in the words of Misha Berson, author of Something’s Coming, Something Good, a history of ‘West Side Story‘. Kael responded, "Tough shit, Bill," and her review was printed unchanged. [46] At the time, Kael explained that she would still write essays for The New Yorker, along with "some reflections and other pieces of writing about movies.”[46] Over the next 10 years, however, she published no new work save for an introduction to her 1994 compendium, For Keeps. She was particularly critical towards Clint Eastwood: her reviews of his films and acting, even if generally well-favored, were resoundingly negative. https://www.amazon.com/Lost-at-Movies-Pauline-Kael/dp/0714529753 Richard Barrios writes how, ‘Her takedown of West Side Story, so gleeful that it could be termed performance art, was among the book [I Lost It at the Movies]’s most-discussed pieces. In this new book on the classic movie, West Side Story. Such comparisons with Spartacus are apt in more ways than one. . Yet, when he was dismissed halfway through the production (as Anthony Mann was on Spartacus thus allowing the young Kubrick to step in), the cast members, especially the dancers, did not welcome the news with relief but with ‘outrage, disbelief, and gut-punched devastation’. The working title was "East Side Story". [84] When confronted with the rumor that she ran "a conspiratorial network of young critics," Kael said she believed that critics imitated her style rather than her actual opinions, stating, "A number of critics take phrases and attitudes from me, and those takings stick out—they're not integral to the writer's temperament or approach".[85]. As Barrios writes, ‘both were driven men from the East, regarded as species of “genius,” being compelled to play Hollywood games of budget and schedules’. She preferred to analyze films without thinking about the director's other works. With the voice of Sarah Jessica Parker narrating for Kael, the film is a portrait of the work of the film critic and her influence on the male-dominated worlds of cinema and film criticism. The shofar, a hollow ram’s horn, is one of the world’s most ancient instruments, and is still played today in Jewish religious ceremonies during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. [39] Other than sporadic confrontations with Shawn, Kael said she spent most of her work time at home, writing. Your trumpets are gone once you've quit.”[39] She died in 2001 at her home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, from Parkinson's, aged 82. Similarly, in the tentatively titled East Side Story, the original idea was to update Romeo and Juliet but with feuding Jews (Emeralds) and Irish Catholics (Jets) living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan at Passover/Easter. After mentioning that some of the press had dubbed it "The Sound of Money," Kael called the film's message a "sugarcoated lie that people seem to want to eat. Though she might be loath to admit it, West Side Story was, in a way, the making of Pauline Kael’. Pauline Kael reached national attention in the 1960s, first in a brief stint as critic for The New Republic, finally as a longtime fixture at The New Yorker (1968-1991). Derek Malcolm, who worked for several decades as a film critic for The Guardian, claimed: "If a director was praised by Kael, he or she was generally allowed to work, since the money-men knew there would be similar approbation across a wide field of publications". Kirk Douglas (producer of and lead in Spartacus) was one of the Jewish stars in attendance. [89] He later wrote to Kael, commenting: "[Y]our thoughts and writing about the movies [have] been a very important source of inspiration for me and my movies, and I hope you don't regret that". To find a movie title, click on a letter. Given these deep Jewish roots, it is only appropriate that West Side Story is being remade by Steven Spielberg for release in late 2021. [72][73] The "I can't believe Nixon won" quote also was sometimes attributed to other liberal female writers, including Katharine Graham, Susan Sontag, and Joan Didion,[74] and was sometimes said to have instead been stated after Ronald Reagan's reelection in 1984. Published in 1965 as I Lost It at the Movies, the collection sold 150,000 paperback copies and was a surprise bestseller. After a boom of Puerto Rican immigration to New York in the late 1940s and 1950s, the story was changed, and the show opened on Broadway in 1957 as "West Side Story". (For context, more homosexuals were fired from government employment in the McCarthy period than communists.). In various forms, it can be heard in the opening ‘Prologue,’ in songs like ‘Something’s Coming,’ ‘Maria,’ and ‘Cool.’. 40 Pauline Kael West Side Story The irony of this hyped-up, slam-bang production is that those involved apparently don't really believe that beauty and romance can be expressed in modern rhythms, because whenever their Romeo and Juliet enter the scene, the dialogue becomes painfully old-fashioned and mawkish, the dancing turns to simpering, sickly romantic ballet, and sugary old stars hover in the sky. [63] In the early 1980s, however, and largely in response to her review of the 1981 drama Rich and Famous, Kael faced notable accusations of homophobia. [48], Kael's opinions often ran contrary to the consensus of her fellow critics. Kael was born on a chicken farm in Petaluma, California, to Isaac Paul Kael and Judith Kael (née Friedman), Jewish emigrants from Poland. An article on the lecture in The New York Times included this quote. Kael was an opponent of the auteur theory, criticizing it both in her reviews and in interviews. At the movies, we are gradually being conditioned to accept violence as a sensual pleasure. [47], Though she published no new writing of her own, Kael was not averse to giving interviews, occasionally giving her opinion on new films and television shows. Saul Chaplin was associate producer. Spartacus was based on a Howard Fast novel with an explicitly Jewish character, David the Jew, but whose Jewishness was progressively erased as the production developed. Kael's opinions often ran contrary to the consensus of her fellow critics. Kael remembered "getting a letter from an eminent New Yorker writer suggesting that I was trampling through the pages of the magazine with cowboy boots covered with dung.”[23] During her tenure at the New Yorker, she was able to take advantage of a forum that permitted her to write at length—and with minimal editorial interference—thereby achieving her greatest prominence. [25] It was the first non-fiction book about film to win a National Book Award. Pauline Kael (/keɪl/; June 19, 1919 – September 3, 2001) was an American film critic who wrote for The New Yorker magazine from 1968 to 1991. Natalie Wood, who played the title role in Marjorie Morningstar in 1958, a movie about about a young Jewish girl coming of age in New York City in the 1950s, starred as Maria. Occasionally, she championed films that were considered critical failures, such as The Warriors and Last Tango in Paris. Brian Kellow published a biography about Kael in 2011: A Life in the Dark (Viking Press). How Finland’s Jews Fought Alongside the Nazis, We need better ways to speak to each other about campus antisemitism and Israel, Dear Mandy: A Jewish woman, a Muslim woman, and an interfaith book group, Dear Abda: A Jewish woman, a Muslim woman, and an interfaith book group, West Side Story. Eliot Feld played Baby John and Martin Abrahams featured as a boy on a bicycle. "[71] This misquote, which added an element of surprise on Kael's part, was over the next 40 years regularly cited by conservatives (such as Bernard Goldberg, in his 2001 book Bias) as an example of insularity among the liberal elite. You couldn't apply her 'approach' to a film. She continued to publish collections of her writing with suggestive titles such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, When the Lights Go Down, and Taking It All In. It was OK with me that she didn't like the film, and it didn't bother me that she didn't like the point I was making, or even how I was making it. The originality of her opinions, as well as the forceful way in which she expressed them, won her ardent supporters as well as angry critics and fans.[55]. The directors used to say they were showing us its real face and how ugly it was in order to sensitize us to its horrors. She called it … I research, write and broadcast regularly (in Welsh and English) on transatlantic Jewish culture and history. In 1978, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who, through their endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. (West Side Story. Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961), big-budget Oscar bait extravaganzas that other critics fawned over. They're outside my ken. Indeed, between takes, they could be found doing chariot races on the Goldwyn backlot and shouting ‘I’m Spartacus’ much to the annoyance of other directors like Billy Wilder. The legend goes that her scathing critique, in which she called the film “the single most repressive influence on artistic freedom in movies,” got her fired from McCall magazine. [58], Kael had a taste for antihero films that violated taboos involving sex and violence; this reportedly alienated some of her readers. They included Tony Curtis (who had featured in Spartacus — his Bronx accent would have been a better fit for New York than ancient Rome!) I can't help but think that Vito Russo and other critics were show-tune queens who got pissed off because Pauline ripped the godawful "West Side Story" a new one. "[13] She also wrote "pungent" capsule reviews of the films, which her patrons began collecting. Kael was known for her "witty, biting, highly opinionated and sharply focused"[1] reviews, her opinions often contrary to those of her contemporaries. Kael had intended to go on to law school, but fell in with a group of artists[5] and moved to New York City with the poet Robert Horan. Kael's reviews included a panning of West Side Story (1961) that drew harsh replies from the film's supporters; ecstatic reviews of Z and MASH that resulted in enormous boosts to those films' popularity; and enthusiastic appraisals of Brian De Palma's early films. [8] In a review of Vittorio De Sica's 1946 neorealist film Shoeshine that has been ranked among her most memorable,[11] Kael described seeing the film, ... after one of those terrible lovers' quarrels that leave one in a state of incomprehensible despair. I think I have". In 1970, Kael received a George Polk Award for her work as a critic at the New Yorker. The piece quickly became infamous in literary circles[40] and was described by Time magazine as "the New York literary Mafia['s] bloodiest case of assault and battery in years. Moore wrote that Kael was incensed that she had to watch Roger & Me in a cinema (after Moore refused to send her a tape of the film for her to watch at home), and she resented Roger & Me winning Best Documentary at the 55th New York Film Critics Circle Awards. In October 1967, Kael wrote a lengthy essay on Bonnie and Clyde, which the magazine declined to publish. "[66] Similarly, her criticism of the 1961 British film Victim was that the film sought to treat gay people "with sympathy and respect—like Negroes and Jews." Her parents lost their farm when Kael was eight, and the family moved to San Francisco. [90], In January 2000, filmmaker Michael Moore posted a recollection of Kael's response[91] to his documentary film Roger & Me (1989). The Jets, the Sharks, and the making of a classic, Richard Barrios describes West Side Story as ‘a musical epic’ that took a big approach like other movies of its time such as Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960). In her review, Pauline Kael called it ‘frenzied hokum’. She was one of the most influential American film critics of her era. Referred to derisively as the "Paulettes," they came to dominate national film criticism in the 1990s. She labeled Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971), starring Clint Eastwood, a "right-wing fantasy" and "a remarkably single-minded attack on liberal values. She has great passion, terrific wit, wonderful writing style, huge knowledge of film history, but too often what she chooses to extol or fails to see is very surprising. Even though the protagonists were changed to Latinos and Anglos, and switched to the West Side of Manhattan, the Jewish traces remained. I walked up the street, crying blindly, no longer certain whether my tears were for the tragedy on the screen, the hopelessness I felt for myself, or the alienation I felt from those who could not experience the radiance of Shoeshine. Some of those considered for the role of Tony were Jewish. [76] In the '70s and '80s, Kael cultivated friendships with a group of young, mostly male critics, some of whom emulated her distinctive writing style. [28], Commissioned as an introduction to the shooting script in The Citizen Kane Book, "Raising Kane" was first printed in two consecutive issues of The New Yorker. Born in 1919, she was a San Francisco area native who ran a Berkeley repertory house in the later 1950s while raising a daughter as a single mother. In the introduction (which was reprinted in The New Yorker), Kael stated, in reference to her film criticism, "I'm frequently asked why I don't write my memoirs. Pauline Kael showed us how to talk about popular art and fall in love with movies. '"[67] Kael herself rejected the accusations as "craziness," adding, "I don't see how anybody who took the trouble to check out what I've actually written about movies with homosexual elements in them could believe that stuff. [88], Though he began directing films after she retired, Quentin Tarantino was also influenced by Kael. She died in September of 2001. Real Soft (1975) Walter McDonald: Caliban in Blue (1976) Gloria Naylor: Cora Lee (1982) Dramatists Guild Landmark Symposium: West Side Story (1985) Frank Rich and Joseph Papp: The Shakespeare Marathon (1989) [47] Wes Anderson recounted his efforts to screen his film Rushmore for Kael in a 1999 The New York Times article titled "My Private Screening With Pauline Kael". The movie’s release also had Jewish connections. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra is put together of the stuff of legend that the director experienced as personal reality, and he filmed the story as if he had been there. Kael had often reviewed Lucas's work without enthusiasm; in her own (negative) review of Willow, she described the character as an "hommage à moi". [2] In 1936 she matriculated at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied philosophy, literature, and art, but dropped out in 1940. Given these deep Jewish roots, it is only appropriate that West Side Story is being remade by Steven Spielberg for release in late 2021. She also panned films that had elsewhere attracted critical admiration, such as A Woman Under the Influence,[50] The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Lawrence of Arabia,[51] most experimental cinema[52] (calling it "a creature of publicity and mutual congratulations on artistry"), most student films ("freshmen compositions"),[53] It's a Wonderful Life, Shoah, Dances with Wolves[54] and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the last of which Kael dubbed a "monumentally unimaginative movie." I wanted the sentences to breathe, to have the sound of a human voice. Mirisch Pictures financed it. Working for Robbins was, by all accounts, a sadistic experience. The motif is known in musical terms as a ‘tri-tone’ (the interval of the augmented 4th.) They are saying that everyone is brutal, and the heroes must be as brutal as the villains or they turn into fools. [37] She fought with William Shawn to review the 1972 pornographic film Deep Throat, though she eventually relented. Kael later explained her writing style: "I worked to loosen my style—to get away from the term-paper pomposity that we learn at college. The movie was even responsible for creating the career of a famous Jewish film critic. [60], However, Kael responded negatively to some action films that she felt pushed what she described as "right wing" or "fascist" agendas. [64], In her review, Kael called the straight-themed Rich and Famous "more like a homosexual fantasy," saying that one female character's "affairs, with their masochistic overtones, are creepy, because they don't seem like what a woman would get into". Nathan Abrams reviews a new book about the classical musical, West Side Story. She also had a strong dislike for films that she felt were manipulative or appealed in superficial ways to conventional attitudes and feelings. Underpinning the Roman epic was an individual who had refused to name names before the House Un-American Activities Committee, blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who penned the script Spartacus under the pseudonym Sam Jackson. [2], Initially, many considered her colloquial, brash writing style an odd fit with the sophisticated and genteel New Yorker. Though she might be loath to admit it, West Side Story was, in a way, the making of Pauline Kael’. [61], In her negative review of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971), Kael explained how she felt some directors who used brutal imagery in their films were desensitizing audiences to violence:[62]. —Kyoko in Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story. [14], Kael continued to juggle writing with other work until she received an offer to publish a book of her criticism. This is because, behind the legendary musical, lay a minyan of Jews. As her condition worsened, she became increasingly depressed about the state of American films, along with feeling that "I had nothing new to say.”[39] In a March 11, 1991, announcement which The New York Times referred to as "earth-shattering," Kael announced her retirement from reviewing films regularly. [45], In the early 1980s, Kael was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, which has a cognitive component. Like most of those who end up embodying a particular establishment, Kael started out as an outsider. Keir Dullea (not Jewish), who later starred in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, might have he been chosen had he not refused to get his longish hair cut. [2][3], She left a lasting impression on several prominent film critics. [59], She was an enthusiastic, if occasionally ambivalent, supporter of Sam Peckinpah and Walter Hill's early work, both of whom specialized in violent action dramas. Kael, he said, "had no theory, no rules, no guidelines, no objective standards. The Jets, the Sharks, and the making of a classic by Richard Barrios is published by (Running Press [Little Brown], £20.). The stage version was originally planned as a story about a Catholic boy falling in love with a Jewish girl. Her collection 5001 Nights at the Movies includes positive reviews of nearly all of Peckinpah's films, with the exception of The Getaway (1972), as well as Hill's Hard Times (1975), The Warriors (1979), and Southern Comfort (1981). When you login first time using a Social Login button, we collect your account public profile information shared by Social Login provider, based on your privacy settings. Review: Hamlet at St. Ann’s Warehouse Is a Triumph of Production Over Performance. For if people cannot feel Shoeshine, what can they feel? "[16] Although according to legend[8] this review led to her being fired from McCall's (and The New York Times printed as much in Kael's obituary), both Kael and the magazine's editor, Robert Stein, denied this. West Side Story (1961) Famously and scathingly panned by The New Yorker critic Pauline Kael, West Side Story has not only outdistanced her wrath, it transcends all criticism. She also panned films that had elsewhere attracted critical admiration, such as A Woman Under the Influence, The Loneliness of the Long Distanc… I don't know anyone who voted for him. ... Later I learned that the man with whom I had quarreled had gone the same night and had also emerged in tears. What was so incredibly appalling and shocking is how she printed outright lies about my movie. Coinciding with a job at the high-circulation women's magazine McCall's, Kael (as Newsweek put it in a 1966 profile) "went mass.”[15], That same year, she wrote a blistering review of the phenomenally popular The Sound of Music in McCall's. [21] According to critic David Thomson, "she was right about a film that had bewildered many other critics.”[14] A few months after the essay ran, Kael quit The New Republic "in despair. 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