Pauline Kael

Active - 1983 - 2009  |   Born - Jun 19, 1919   |   Died - Sep 3, 2001   |   Genres - Film, TV & Radio

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Portrayed as "the most celebrated critic in the history of American cinema," Pauline Kael played a major role in the development of the field of film criticism. With her forceful, decisive reviews that were not influenced by editors nor the movie industry, Kael created the mythical figure of the flamboyant, strongly opinionated film critic who appeals to the common masses rather than the cultural elite. Beginning her career in the 1940s as a scriptwriter for avant-garde films, she also ran a small art house in Berkeley while freelancing for various magazines. In 1965, she published a best-selling book, I Lost It at the Movies. Moving from California to New York, Kael wrote a weekly column for The New Yorker from 1968-1979. She later worked as a Hollywood producer for Warren Beatty. In her theoretical texts, Kael freely attacked the over-intellectualization of film analysis, in general, with particular emphasis on respected theoreticians such as Andrew Sarris; 20 years later, Sarris himself launched a personal attack on her in The Village Voice. Critic Renata Adler also jumped into the fray with a piece in The New York Review of Books, sharply criticizing Kael's writing style for its cruelty, redundancy, and for know-it-all arrogance. In addition to her writing, Kael appeared in three films -- two documentaries and a drama -- each time as herself. She died in 2001 from Parkinson's disease.