Why read about Pauline Kael when you can read Pauline Kael?

 Andrew Gelman has a post up on his blog discussing a new book by Louis Menand that includes the following quote:

"Kael’s contention that serious movies should meet the same standard as pulp—that they should be entertaining—turned out to be an extremely useful and widely adopted critical principle. . . ."

 I'm not familiar with Menand, but I am up on my Kael and I assume he's referring to this passage from the essay "Trash, Art and the Movies."

Keeping in mind that simple, good distinction that all art is entertainment but not all entertainment is art, it might be a good idea to keep in mind also that if a movie is said to be a work of art and you don’t enjoy it, the fault may be in you, but it’s probably in the movie. Because of the money and advertising pressures involved, many reviewers discover a fresh masterpiece every week, and there’s that cultural snobbery, that hunger for respectability that determines the selection of the even bigger annual masterpieces. In foreign movies what is most often mistaken for “quality” is an imitation of earlier movie art or a derivation from respectable, approved work in the other arts — like the demented, suffering painter-hero of Hour of the Wolf smearing his lipstick in a facsimile of expressionist anguish. Kicked in the ribs, the press says “art” when “ouch” would be more appropriate. When a director is said to be an artist (generally on the basis of (Read more...)