Pauline Kael, the unusually brilliant, sometimes infuriating film critic (and champion of ’70s cinema), died in 2001, a decade after retiring from her post at The New Yorker. Kael’s influence was everywhere (not least in the writing of Davids Denby and Edelstein, Stephanie Zacharek, and James Wolcott, all of whom had learned at Kael’s feet). But her books, with their slightly porny titles—Taking It All In, Deeper Into Movies—had already become hard to find, or gone out of print entirely.
This was strange: Kael’s books were wonderful in ways that made you run right back to them, even if you’d just thrown them across the room. But that makes the Library of America’s generous anthology, The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael, all the more welcome. You’ll find all of the critic’s greatest hits: reviews that made reputations (Penn, Altman, Scorsese, De Palma) or started battles (Eastwood), and appreciations of the filmmakers and stars Kael held to an especially high standard (her long mash note to Cary Grant is especially good, and we’ve linked you to it below). This isn’t the first anthology of Kael’s best work—For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies came out in 1996; it, too, has gone out of print. And the best way to read Kael might still be to look for old paperback copies of her original collections. But if there’s a film buff or two on your holiday shopping list, The Age of Movies looks like a no-brainer.
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