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Reeling (1976)

af Pauline Kael

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1051255,611 (3.54)2
A fiddler who went into seclusion after his wife's death agrees to play at a wedding. When he finds that only sacks of grain are around to listen, he goes in search of company.
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Pauline Kael was a respected film critic who was most active during the 1960s- 1980s. She's a sassy, opinionated woman, and for the most part her reviews are fun to read. The book that I checked out from the library includes her reviews from 1972-75. In my opinion, a pretty good time for American films especially. I'm into a lot of what Kael says because she expects movies to be thought-provoking, and has a strong aversion to the saccharine. However, she doesn't seem to understand pulpier fare. I also found her focusing too much on acting and casting...I watch a lot of films, and would say that unless the acting is so bad that it's distracting, then I really don't think much about it or whether the person was a good choice for the role.

I wasn't expecting too much out of a book like this, and overall it is an entertaining read if one jumps around and picks out the movies that are familiar or that one has been wanting to watch anyway...it's also fun to read about some movies that I have never even heard of before. Mrs. Kael made me want to watch a lot more Altman films than I had already planned on, however, she talked some shit about "Closely Watched Trains" (and other Czech New Wave) and Nathanael West, so for that, she gets knocked down a notch. ( )
  araridan | May 2, 2008 |
It offers a critic who can write; who has a vast and visceral knowledge not only of movies but of books, music, history and politics; who combines a desire to understand the constant shifts in fads, fashions and social beliefs with remarkable sensitivity to questions of value; who has a sense of humor; and who has a shit detector that is beyond belief. Kael is also our most valuable critic of cheap, fraudulent nihilism in popular culture. (She proved long ago that she knew, and respected, the real thing for what it is, with her reviews of Forbidden Games and Fires on the Plain.) Kael is perhaps more effective in this role in Reeling than before, probably because she thinks such attitudes are more dangerous, and audiences more vulnerable to them, than in other times. She is unsparing with movies that exploit the public cynicism created by Vietnam and Watergate, and devastating when she confronts the sadism and brutality that have, along with facile cynicism, become so fashionable.
tilføjet af SnootyBaronet | RedigerRolling Stone, Greil Marcus (May 6, 1975)
 
“Reeling” ultimately grinds you down. It is always an entertaining book, and piece by piece a brilliant one, but taking it in large doses, you may get frazzled by all the feverish energy, flashing like St. Elmo’s fire, around so many ephemeral works. Perhaps because the movies are a sensual medium, they are more likely to provoke hot opinionated responses than cool, disinterested ideas, and without sufficient intellectual substance, the continual play of even such a fine sensibility around an impure object eventually gets tiresome.
tilføjet af SnootyBaronet | RedigerNew York Times, Robert Brustein
 
At the heart of these reviews, smack in the middle, is her ambitious retrospective-cum-prescription, ""On the Future of Movies."" The theme is that Hollywood's artists are being systematically subverted by the businessmen who now more than ever control the industry--a theme that is hammered home again and again in the reviews. For the last few years, our screen fantasies have been dominated by Eastwood-style super-violence and mindless blockbusters like Papillon, The Exorcist, Airport 1975, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno. Kael's controversial raves of Last Tango in Paris, Godfather II, and Nashville point up some exceptions, but more often, she says, the fine little movies slipped by the public despite her passionately partisan recommendations. Her reviews are emphatic and knowledgeable--she's seen everything--even if her opinions tumble out in such a helter-skelter fashion that her syntax is dizzying.
tilføjet af SnootyBaronet | RedigerKirkus Reviews
 

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It's easy to say why you think a movie is bad, but elements of embarrassment sneak into praise, and, besides, in American studio-financed movies, in which the director must often squeeze blood from stones, there is an element of the mysterious, plus fantastic luck, when the infinity of things that could go wrong go right, or when what goes right overwhelms the disasters.
Foreword: Movies — which arouse special, private, hidden feelings — have always had an erotic potential that was stronger than that of the live theater.
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The hatred of the moneyman for the ungovernable artist is based on a degradation that isn’t far from that stripper’s hatred of the audience — furious resentment of the privileged people who, as he sees it, have never had to stoop to do the things he has done.

As in Mordecai Richler’s exultant novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (which really enables one to understand what makes Sammy run), and the teeming, energetic Canadian film based on it, the entrepreneur is, typically, a man who has always been treated like dirt. And even after he’s fought his way up, finagling like crazy every step of the way, a profligate director with the world at his feet may not only threaten that solvency but still treat him like dirt, as in Peter Viertel’s thinly disguised account, in the novel White Hunter, Black Heart, of the relations of John Huston and Sam Spiegel during the making of The African Queen. There are few directors who feel such disdain, fewer still who would express it so nakedly, but the moneymen keep looking for signs of it: they tap phones, they turn employees into sneaks and spies — all to get proof of the disloyalty of those ingrate artists.
Isn’t it a little late in life for Robert Redford (who has turned almost alarmingly blond — he’s gone past platinum, he must be into plutonium; his hair is coördinated with his teeth) to be playing a raw kid, a novice con artist, and isn’t it a little early in life for Paul Newman to be playing an old-pro trickster coming out of retirement for one last score?
Milius, who wears a gun and adds to his gun collection by getting a new one as part of each movie contract, is having a flamboyant success in fantasyland. A hunting enthusiast, he had it written into his contract with Warners for Jeremiah Johnson that he would get to shoot the numerous animals that his script (later modified) required be slaughtered. He has already directed his first feature, from his own script, on Dillinger; if it’s a hit, he can probably get a contract to shoot the actors in his next one.
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A fiddler who went into seclusion after his wife's death agrees to play at a wedding. When he finds that only sacks of grain are around to listen, he goes in search of company.

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