Title: What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Rob Garver
Starring: Woody Allen, Lili Anolik, Alec Baldwin
Runtime: 1 hrs 38 mins
What It Is: Pauline Kael is arguably one of the most (and first) influential film critics, known for her frequently controversial perspectives on taking apart film. While incredibly well-written, thorough, and honest, she garnered a reputation as a no-nonsense and unpredictable voice in the field of criticism We’re given a timeline of events in what led up to her massive career and some of the most affecting and remarkable views she had on films offered by a round of those who knew her and her writing personally (including actors, filmmakers, and other film critics).
What We Think: This was an interesting insight to watch as a film critic. And while I usually take other’s views, writings, and opinions in stride, I need to be a little honest in hearing some of her opinions make me confused about my own strategy in tackling and analyzing film. Which is good, it forcing me to be constructive and challenge myself. Watching her, hearing about her, you can, in turn, receive a taste of this methodical roasting and subsequent third-degree burns. Lady, at least even for today, came down hard on a lot of movies. She didn’t care to be agreeable, which is another thing that I think I find inspiring. It’s always kind of refreshing to hear someone’s “deviant” opinions when they express it with as much articulation as she does. On the other hand, her writings sound kind of terrifying. She not only critiqued film, but also her peers in the field. And, woo, she does not go easy. But undergoing that sort of scrutiny sounds sort of honorable. I find it so fascinating to think someone who tended to be disagreeable enough was able to really make a wonderful career out of it. Not to say that anyone should be rewarded for simply being disagreeable–it’s clear that Pauline was a great writer in the first play.
Now, the subject aside–the film itself was fine. The chronological compositing of this woman’s life and works lends what feels to be a pretty full perspective commenting on her as a whole. We get to hear about the greatness, and then what she did to piss people off, and it’s actually awesome, though the very beginning spent a little too much time just jumping into praising her without any context to who she was or did yet.
Our Grade: B, I certainly recommend this for filmmakers and critics, even people who are just a little more invested in films. It’s a good lesson in observing, receiving, and reacting to criticism as well as the history of the relationship between critics and the movies. It’s a driven profile of a respectable character and her (“right” or not) undeniably well-woven reviews.