Metropolis premiered in Berlin on January 10, 1927. As all good silent movie devotees know, the film was then tinkered with, re-edited, and god knows what before it received wider distribution. Hard to know now.
Mordaunt Hall, film reviewer for The New York Times, gave that revised version a less than glowing treatment, calling Metropolis a “technical marvel” with “feet of clay.” Read the original review here. Maybe he was just bitter cause his mom named him Mordaunt?
To be candid, I haven’t read much of Pauline Kael’s work. Her retirement from The New York predates my own reading of that magazine by a few years, so I didn’t have the chance to encounter her work organically. As someone who cares about movies and writing about movies, I dutifully procured battered copies of Reeling and I Lost it at the Movies, but… well, I didn’t get very far. To hear about Paulien Kael or to read about Pauline Kael gets me very jazzed to read her work, but when I sit down to actually read, it falls apart for me.
From what I have read, I don’t dislike Kael or her writing style, per se. It’s just that, ultimately, I’m not very involved in the movies she writes about. For a laundry list of reasons, I cut myself off cinematically sometime around 1967. Which is not to say that object to post-1967 movies, nor that I’ve never seen any, but it’s not where my interests lie. The laundry list of reasons for my post-1967 ban, some arbitrary, some justified, is probably the subject of another post. But suffice it to say, this is why I’ve largely missed out on Pauline Kael.
I do feel like I’ve missed out, though. Again, what I know, what I hear, and hell, even what I’ve read intrigues me. With the publication of the new critical biography Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark by Brian Kellow and a new Library of America collection of Kael’s work The Age of Movies, I’m once again intrigued. Maybe reading about Pauline Kael is an entree into her work? I’ve been reading some reviews and toying around with buying the bio, but I wonder… has anyone read it yet?
- Here’s Dana Stevens review from Slate, “When Pauline Kael was Wrong.”
- “What She Said” in the Critic at Large section of The New Yorker.
- “The 70’s, As Dramatic as a Movie” at The New York Times.
- “The Perils of Reading About Pauline Kael” from Time.
- A brief excerpt from the bio at Indiewire.
How do you guys feel about Pauline Kael’s writing, in general? Have you read this book or are you thinking of reading it? Know any good reviews? Let me know if the comments!
I would like to use this column about moving pictures as to honor and discriminate the subject through interesting and serving you who are reading it. Whether I am qualified to do this is an open question to which I can give none of the answers. (…) As an amateur, then, I must as well as I can simultaneously recognize my own ignorance and feel no apology for what my eyes tell me as I watch any given screen, where the proof is caught irrelevant to excuse, and available in proportion to the eye which sees it, and the mind which uses it. – James Agee, “The Nation,” December 26, 1942
If you’re not reading James Agee’s film criticism, you should be. The man was a true wordsmith and a keen mind. He brings all the poetic power of the English language and sharp observations to bear on a medium that he obviously loved very much. As someone who writes about film, I can only hope to be a fraction as relevant as James Agee always was.The above quote, from Agee’s first film column for “The Nation,” is a good a mission statement for a film blogger as any.