Pauline Kael chewed bubble-gum while giving lectures. Sass with authority.
It is her confidence, her intellectual defiance that perplexes and invites pleasured readings. She is the Caesar to the intellectual majority, enticing and challenging. The review of “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” is superscripted and whipped-lashed back to what could be considered her peers “Excerpt From Fantasies Of The Arthouse Audience.” She becomes a plebeian philosopher who aims to defend the ‘hum-drum,’ ‘the pretty,’ and the ‘seductive.’
Kael writes with the authority of someone who has been denied voice in the Curia for too long--the geek picked on in school all grown up and running the local bank. She quickly parcels out opinion in a clear fashion--an assertive fashion, and dares readers either to enjoy or deny her presumptions. And if that isn’t believable, by golly she’d say otherwise, and that’s that.
But her language and focus are out on the basketball court with the popular kids--prettiness and sex hold priority over everything else. Body parts are given precedence over all other on-screen entities in her film reviews akin to Ben Brantley’s lewd theatr quips.
She develops a sensuality that is unseen in normal reviews. Limbs are some fresco cobbled together to represent a sheen of sex present in all films--almost forcibly found. “Top Gun,” is a “homoerotic commercial” with fighter pilots with towels “hanging precariously from their waists.” “My Left Foot” is features a Christy Brown, or a Daniel Day-Lewis, whose “sexual seductiveness” is paired with “lolling head and slitted eyes.” Sexuality seems to be synonymous with engaging in Kael’s lexicon.
What’s reassuring about this is the fact that Kael’s seem to spend more time on the screen than on her notebook below, taking in and regurgitating scenes in a manner that feels like a completely autonomous story is being re-written for the reader. Kael is a storyteller rather than an accountant doling out advice on where best to spend one’s dollar.
Her own words and perplexities fill pages of her lengthy inner dialogue--only referencing characters in grand schemes of the movie as a whole, or going about comparing actors and pondering roles that could have been.
She is as much outside of the film as she is in. Quotes and scripts are often-times entirely ignored in favor of scene summary. Senses for Kael are not so much tools for detail but receptors for waves of pleasure and inundation.