THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL

“It’s appalling to read solemn academic studies of Hitchcock or von Sternberg by people who seem to have lost sight of the primary reason for seeing films like Notorious or Morocco—which is that they were not intended solemnly, that they were playful and inventive and faintly (often deliberately) absurd. And what’s good in them, what relates them to art, is that playfulness and absence of solemnity. There is talk about von Sternberg’s technique—his use of light and decor and detail—and he is, of course, a kitsch master in these areas… Unfortunately, some students take this technique as proof that his films are works of art, once again, I think, falsifying what they really respond to—the satisfying romantic glamour of his very pretty trash. Morocco is great trash, and movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them. The kitsch of an earlier era—even the best kitsch—does not become art…

“We are now told in respectable museum publications that in 1932 a movie like Shanghai Express ‘was completely misunderstood as a mindless adventure’ when indeed it was completely understood as a mindless adventure. And enjoyed as a mindless adventure. It’s a peculiar form of movie madness crossed with academicism, this lowbrowism masquerading as highbrowism, eating a candy bar and cleaning an ‘allegorical problem of human faith’ out of your teeth.” — Pauline Kael, “Trash, Art, and the Movies,” 1969*

“Not long before she died, Pauline remarked to a friend, ‘When we championed trash culture we had no idea it would become the only culture.’ That’s exactly the point. [Kael] and her foot soldiers won the battle but lost the war.” — Paul Schrader, “Fruitful Pursuits,” 2002**

Pauline Kael (1919–2001) was the film critic for The New Yorker throughout the 1970s, when American film culture—if not the magazine—was at its peak, and the country’s preeminent writer about the movies was at the height of her powers. In the obituary he wrote for his colleague, Roger Ebert said, “Kael had a more positive influence on the climate for film in America than any other single person over the last three decades. She had no theory, no rules, no guidelines, no objective standards. You couldn’t apply her ‘approach’ to a film. With her it was all personal.”

Kael had her pet critics and filmmakers, and this coterie style of extreme subjectivity brought many detractors—most notably Renata Adler, whose 1980 takedown “The Perils of Pauline” (published in the New York Review of Books) sent shock waves through Manhattan media circles.

This week at the Newport Beach Film Fest, Rob Garver will present his documentary WHAT SHE SAID—THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL.

WHAT SHE SAID—THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL

Thursday, May 2, at 7:45 pm.

Big Newport 5

300 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach.

*Pauline Kael, “Trash, Art, and the Movies,” Harper’s, February 1969, republished in American Movie Critics: An Anthology from the Silents until Now, edited by Phillip Lopate (New York: Library of America, 2006), 337–367.

**Paul Schrader, “Fruitful Pursuits” section of “Prose and Cons,” a posthumous Kael assembly, Artforum, March 2002, 129.

Also see Craig Seligman, Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me (New York: Counterpoint, 2004).

From top: Pauline Kael; Kael in Chicago with Tony Randall on the Irv Kupcinet Show, 1968; book cover image Little, Brown & Company, 1971; Kael at Cannes with Jacques Perrin in 1977; Kael.

ASSAYAS DOUBLE BILL AT THE AERO

To mark the release of NON-FICTION—the new film from Olivier Assayas—the American Cinematheque presents a double feature of Assayas’ 1996 cult film IRMA VEP and a 35mm presentation of his 2008 masterpiece SUMMER HOURS. Both screen on Thursday.

NON-FICTION will screen the following night.

IRMA VEP and SUMMER HOURS

Thursday, May 2, at 7:30 pm.

NON-FICTION

Friday, May 3, at 7:30 pm.

Aero Theatre

1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica.

From top: Maggie Cheung in Irma Vep; Jérémie Renier (left) and Olivier Assayas on set, Summer Hours; Édith Scob and Juliette Binoche in Summer Hours; Renier, Dominique Reymond, and Charles Berling in Summer Hours; Jean-Pierre Léaud (right) and Cheung in Irma Vep.

BIXA TRAVESTY

BIXA TRAVESTY is a new documentary that “follows Linn da Quebrada, a black trans woman, performer and activist living in impoverished São Paulo. Her electrifying performances—with plenty of nudity—brazenly take on Brazil’s hetero-normative machismo.”*

The film—a Berlinale favorite directed by Kiko Goifman and Claudia Priscilla—screens this week at UCLA.

BIXA TRAVESTY*

Wednesday, May 1, at 7:30 pm.

James Bridges Theater

Melnitz Hall, UCLA

235 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles.

Linn da Quebrada in Bixa Travesty (2018). Images courtesy of the performer and filmmakers.

DIÁLOGOS AT FRIEZE NEW YORK

DIÁLOGOS—a themed section at this year’s Frieze New York—features work by thirteen contemporary Latinx and Latin American artists.

Presented by El Museo del Barrio director Patrick Charpenel and curator Susanna V. Temkin, this exhibition celebrates the museum’s 50th anniversary.

Participating artists include Marta Chilindron, Livia Corona, Edouard Duval-Carrié, Luis Flores, Firelei Báez, Ken Gonzales-Day, Ana Mendieta, Rubén Ortiz Torres, Gala Porras-Kim, Dario Robleto, Freddy Rodríguez, Chemi Rosado-Seijo, Mariela Scafati,

DIÁLOGOS—FRIEZE NEW YORK 2019

Wednesday through Sunday, May 1 through 5.

Randall’s Island Park, New York City.

From top: Firelei BáezUntitled [Central Power Station], 2019., acrylic and oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist, James Cohan, New York, and Kavi Gupta, Chicago, photograph by Jackie Furtado; Freddy RodriguezGold or Investing in Art II, 2015, acrylic on canvas, courtesy of Hutchinson Modern; Marta ChilindronStar, 2019, acrylic and hinges, courtesy of Cecilia de Torres, Ltd.; Rubén Ortiz TorresLa jaula de oro (Gilded Cage), 2017, urethane, chromaluscent paint, gold leaf, and resin on aluminum, courtesy of Royale Projects.

JACOLBY SATTERWHITE AND LEGACY RUSSELL

As part of the Frieze Art and Fashion Summit in New York, Jacolby Satterwhite will join Studio Museum associate curator Legacy Russell for “Self and Subjectivity—Breaking the Confines of Identity,” a discussion about Satterwhite’s focus on “power, politics, and a dystopian future.”* 

JACOLBY SATTERWHITE and LEGACY RUSSELL

FRIEZE ART AND FASHION SUMMIT

Tuesday, April 30, at 10:20 am.

The New School, Parsons

Tishman Auditorium

63 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

From top: Jacolby Satterwhite, photograph by Frank Sun, courtesy the artist, the photographer, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Jacolby Satterwhite, En Plein Air: Abduction I, 2014, courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán; Legacy Russell, photograph by Daniel Dorsa, courtesy of the writer and the photographer.