Monday, October 8, 2012

Five best classic works of movie criticism

David Denby is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author, most recently, of Do the Movies Have a Future?

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of classic works of movie criticism, including:
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
by Pauline Kael (1968)

Most people know Pauline Kael's work from her 22-year stint at the New Yorker. But this early collection, consisting of magazine pieces from all over, has some of her funniest and most startling writing. The New Yorker gave her more space, and she became more descriptive, more detailed, richer in language, smoother. The early criticism, by contrast, is abrupt, enraged, staccato and fiercely contrarian. (Of the wholesomeness of "The Sound of Music": "Wasn't there perhaps one little Von Trapp who didn't want to sing his head off, or who screamed that he wouldn't act out little glockenspiel routines for papa's party guests, or who got nervous and threw up if had to get on a stage?") Kael enjoyed turning on what she took to be the complacencies of her audience. Not only did she attack "The Sound of Music" when she wrote for women's magazines, she attacked Antonioni's "Blow-Up" and other "art" movies (although she was a champion of the early Godard) when she wrote for the high-minded New Republic. Again and again, she cuts to the core of what a movie is about, questions its value, turns it inside out. She has a fondness for paradox, the rug-pulling punch-line, the bullying rhetorical question. Of Yves Montand's aging communist hero in Alain Resnais's "La Guerre Est Finie": "Can we go along with his glamorized melancholy (and the assumption that his political activity was once useful though now out of touch), or do we see it as a Frenchman's Hollywoodization of a lummox of a party hack?" It was a style that revolutionized movie reviewing.
Read about the other entries on Denby's list.

Also see Christopher Bray's five top books on film.

--Marshal Zeringue