Losing It At the Movies: Pauline Kael at 100

In the golden age of film criticism, no reviewer was more fierce and more opinionated than Pauline Kael. A Berkeley dropout and single mother, Kael began writing about film in the early 1950s. Happy to buck popular wisdom and go her own intensely personal way, by the mid-1960s, she was writing for top magazines and her reviews were collected in suggestively-titled books (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Taking It All In). When Kael joined The New Yorker in 1968, she soon became the most influential voice on an exploding art form, staking a position that often privileged “trash” over “art” and dismissed the auteur theory (although she could be as auteurist as they come). Feuds and rivalries with fellow critics followed over the next 23 years, but through it all, Kael boosted filmmakers’ reputations, questioned classics, poured scornful cold water on overheated or self-serious movies, mentored and inspired screenwriters and younger critics, and stirred passionate discussion among legions of readers who, like her, lived for and through the movies. The Quad celebrates Kael’s centennial—it would have been her 100th birthday this June 19—with 25 movies that she championed as well as a few that she dismissed, reviving debates that she stoked… and still can.

Past Screenings