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Lindsay Anderson


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Ebert Club

#271 February 22, 2016

Sheila writes: A really fun piece over on Mubi: Adrian Curry, who heads up Mubi's popular movie-poster column, interviews Mondo creative director and poster-designer Jay Shaw. Shaw provides commentary for his Top Ten American Movie Posters. It's an eclectic selection. Some of the designs were not used, ultimately, like the Bill Gold design for "Get Carter" below, but still worthy of appreciation.

Ebert Club

#77 August 24, 2011

Marie writes: the following moment of happiness is brought to you by the glorious Tilda Swinton, who recently sent the Grand Poobah a photo of herself taken on her farm in Scotland, holding a batch of English Springer puppies!


Are Movies Going to Pieces?

View image Pauline Kael.

"I love subtextual film criticism, especially when it's fun, when a guy knows how to write in a readable, charming way. What I love the most about it is that it doesn't have a f---ing thing to do with what the writer or the actor or the filmmakers intended. It just has to work. And if you can make your case with as few exceptions as possible, then that's great." -- Quentin Tarantino, in Sight & Sound, February, 2008

Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of Pauline Kael, who may have encouraged more people to articulate their love for movies than anyone of her generation. She wasn't necessarily all that big on what he calls "subtextual film criticism," but she knew how to write in a readable, engaging and idiosyncratic style. The titles of her collections of reviews and essays, with their suggestive sexual and romantic overtones -- "I Lost It at the Movies," "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang," "Deeper Into Movies," "Reeling," "When the Lights Go Down" -- told you everything about her approach to movies. I don't remember her using the word "film" or "cinema" much, unless it was to deride them as vacuous or pretentious. Though she became most famous and influential while writing for an upper-caste, urban(e) institution, The New Yorker, that reeked of calcified East Coast provincialism, she presented herself as an ardent movie populist. (Kael came from the northern coast of California.)

In November, 1964 -- that would be about 43 years ago, for those keeping count -- she published an essay for The Atlantic Monthly called, "Are Movies Going to Pieces?" in which she asks a lot of questions we're still asking today (see recent Scanners post and discussion, "Moviegoers who feel too much," and Stephen Whitty's column in last Sunday's Newark Times-Ledger," Critic's Choice").

View image "If I say I am a film critic, you will agree."

Standard disclaimer-cliché: I obviously don't concur with all that Kael says here (but at least at this point in her career she was willing to admit to feeling some ambivalence!). One of the things I've always found fascinating about her is that, even when I believe she's dead wrong, she unwittingly includes much of the evidence to make a case against her right there in her review. It's not that she didn't observe what was there, but that she drew such different conclusions from it. Also, her favorite rhetorical trick is the false dichotomy. It's fun to consider her arguments, but are we really forced to make such dramatic (or simplistic) either/or choices: "The Eclipse" or "His Girl Friday"? "Art" or entertainment? Right brain or left brain? Herman J. Mankiewicz or Orson Welles? George W. Bush or Osama bin Laden?

"Are Movies Going to Pieces?" (1964). Most of these excerpts are from the middle and the very end: I trust I won't be mistaken for the sort of boob who attacks ambiguity or complexity. I am interested in the change from the period when the meaning of art and form in art was in making complex experience simple and lucid, as is still the case in "Knife in the Water" [Roman Polanski, 1962] or "Bandits of Orgosolo" [Vittorio De Seta, 1960], to the current acceptance of art as technique, the technique which in a movie like "This Sporting Life" [Lindsay Anderson, 1963] makes a simple, though psychologically confused, story look complex, and modern because inexplicable.

Festivals & Awards

Cannes all winners

The Festival International du Film, held annually in Cannes, France, has become the world's most prestigious film festival—the spot on the beach where the newest films from the world's top directors compete for both publicity and awards.