Kael's Causes Célèbres
January 10 - 22
Pauline Kael's eloquent and impassioned (but rarely undiscriminating) embrace of certain films and filmmakers could have a profound effect on their receptions and reputations, sometimes resuscitating films whose initial receptions had been chilly (BONNIE AND CLYDE, McCABE & MRS. MILLER), sometimes creating an advance buzz that paved the way for challenging films that might have otherwise met more resistance (LAST TANGO IN PARIS, NASHVILLE). From January 10 to 22, we present seven films that are especially important in defining Kael's taste and influence.
PAULINE KAEL DISCOUNT!
Buy a ticket at our regular prices for WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL, and get a ticket for any one film in the Kael's Causes Célèbres series at this discount rate with proof of your original purchase: General Admission $7; Students $5; Members $4. (This discount price applies to the second film only. Discount available in person at the box office only.)
1951, Jean Renoir, USA/India, 99 min.
With Patricia Walters, Thomas E. Breen
"A mythic poem set in the midst of the Indian river of life…serenely yet passionately beautiful."—Pauline Kael
Kael said, "Renoir is probably the greatest director of them all." The entrance-hall of her former house in Berkeley contains a commissioned mural based on the sand painting that opens Renoir's 1951 masterpiece. Set along the banks of the Ganges River, THE RIVER centers on three young women of British blood whose comings-of-age are catalyzed by the arrival of a troubled American war veteran. Renoir's film expands upon Rumer Godden's autobiographical novel to enlarge the presence of India as a both a spiritual and physical force, the latter rendered in stunningly photographed location settings that moved Martin Scorsese to rank THE RIVER and THE RED SHOES as "the two most beautiful color films ever made." 35mm. (MR)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
1971, Robert Altman, USA, 121 min.
With Warren Beatty, Julie Christie
"A beautiful pipe dream of a movie...Delicate, richly textured, and unusually understated, this modern classic is not like any other film."—Pauline Kael
It is tempting to read this famed revisionist Western—about a dreamer (Beatty) who becomes a success in an unsavory business and is doomed by his refusal to bend to outside pressures—as a commentary on Robert Altman's entire career. The film’s considerable achievements include career performances from Beatty and Christie, haunting music from Leonard Cohen, and the authentic feel of Presbyterian Church, the town Altman built from scratch on a mountaintop in Vancouver. 35mm widescreen. (Peter Sobczynski)
Robert Altman's maverick vision usually spelled risk at the box office, and Kael lent her muscle to such dicey Altman projects as THE LONG GOODBYE, THIEVES LIKE US, NASHVILLE (notoriously reviewed while still in post-production), and McCABE & MRS. MILLER. You can read her review of McCABE in this link [scroll down to end of the article and then back up to reveal hidden pages]
Bonnie and Clyde
1967, Arthur Penn, USA, 111 min.
With Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway
"A landmark movie, this account of the lives of the 30s outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow keeps the audience in a state of eager, nervous imbalance; it holds our attention by throwing our disbelief back in our faces."—Pauline Kael
“A milestone in the history of American movies...funny, heartbreaking, and astonishingly beautiful.”—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
The surprise smash success of BONNIE AND CLYDE—written off by its studio, dumped into a mid-August release slot, and panned by several prominent critics—announced the coming of a new era. Borrowing freely from the French New Wave, shifting tones with jarring audacity, and spilling more blood than ever before seen in a Hollywood movie, director Arthur Penn and screenwriters Robert Benton, David Newman, and Robert Towne revitalized the gangster genre and transformed Depression-era bank-robbers Clyde Barrow (Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Dunaway) into outlaw icons for a rebellious generation. 35mm. (MR)
Kael's 7,000-word review, appearing two months after the film's lackluster initial release, is credited with turning it into a phenomenon. You can read it in this link.
Last Tango in Paris
1972, Bernardo Bertolucci, France, 126 min.
With Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider
"This must be the most powerfully erotic movie ever made, and it may turn out to be the most liberating movie ever made...Bertolucci and Brando have altered the face of an art form. Who was prepared for that?"—Pauline Kael
"Brando's most unsparing, magnetic performance."—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune.
Paul (Brando), a recently widowed expatriate American in Paris, embarks on a three-day sexual tryst with a compliant stranger (Schneider) in a rampage aimed at ravaging her body and soul. The film achieved instant notoriety as much for Brando’s vulgar, funny, revealing self-reflexive monologues as for the violent anonymous sex transparently rooted in a quest for self-obliteration. In English and French with English subtitles. 4K DCP digital restoration. (BS)
Pauline Kael's lengthy, renowned review of LAST TANGO IN PARIS can be accessed in this link.
1973, Martin Scorsese, USA, 112 min.
With Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro
"A true original, and a triumph of personal filmmaking. This picture about the experience of growing up in New York's Little Italy has an unsettling, episodic rhythm and it's dizzyingly sensual."—Pauline Kael
Turning his camera to the tough Italian neighborhood in New York where he grew up, Scorsese follows Charlie (Keitel), a fledgling book collector for the local mob, as he tries to balance his strained romance with an epileptic girlfriend and his friendship with her violent, unstable brother, Johnny Boy (De Niro). The role won De Niro critical acclaim and marks the first collaboration of one of the most celebrated actor/director pairings in film history. 35mm. (Christopher Sanew)
Kael's rave review of MEAN STREETS, quoted at length in WHAT SHE SAID, gave a tremendous boost to the young filmmaker's career. You can read it in this link.
Casualties of War
1989, Brian De Palma, USA, 112 min.
With Sean Penn, Michael J. Fox
"A great, intense movie about war and rape...Directed by Brian De Palma, the movie is the culmination of his best work."—Pauline Kael
"The greatest film about the Vietnam War."—Quentin Tarantino
One of Kael's last great causes célèbres was CASUALTIES OF WAR, a film that divided critics and represented a marked change-of-pace for a director whose stylish thrillers she had long championed. Based on a real incident from the Vietnam War, it tells of a American reconnaissance squad, sexually and otherwise frustrated, who are incited by their sergeant (Penn) to kidnap a Vietnamese girl, over the increasingly urgent (and risky) objections of one of the soldiers (Fox). What's remarkable is how many of the characteristic elements of De Palma's thrillers and crime films (ominous p.o.v. tracking shots, split-focus widescreen frames, voyeurism, complicity, lingering guilt, the link between sex and violence, etc.) are adapted so effectively to a very different context, rendering the Vietnam War as an expressionistic nightmare rooted in reality rather than in genre tropes. 35mm widescreen. (MR)
Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com called Kael's review of the film "the greatest one-off movie review ever written for a mainstream publication." You can read his appreciation in this link.
Band of Outsiders
Bande à part
1964, Jean-Luc Godard, France, 97 min.
With Anna Karina, Sami Frey
"This lyrical tragicomedy is perhaps Godard's most delicately charming film...It's as if a French poet took a banal American crime novel and told it to us in terms of the romance and beauty he read between the lines."—Pauline Kael
BAND OF OUTSIDERS’ resonant mix of wintry melancholy and high-spirited digressions (including the Louvre dash and the famous “Madison” dance) has made it one of Godard’s best-liked films with audiences, critics (“Perhaps Godard’s loveliest movie”—Charles Taylor, Salon.com), and filmmakers (notably Quentin Tarantino and Hal Hartley). Two guys (Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur) compete for a girl (Karina) in their English class and concoct a movie-fed scheme to burgle her aunt’s villa. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
In the documentary WHAT SHE SAID, Quentin Tarantino reveals that reading Kael's review of BAND OF OUTSIDERS led to his discovery of his own aesthetic. You can read that review in this link