"Pauline Kael's I Lost It At the Movies (1965) marked the emergence of a major modern critic: fearless, impassioned, caustically funny, alert to the nuance of the smallest detail. 'Film criticism is exciting just because there is no forumla to apply,' she observed, 'just because you must use everything you are and everything you know.' Between 1968 and 1991, as regular film reviewer for The New Yorker, Kael used those formidable tools to shape the tastes of a generation, enthralling readers with her gift for capturing, with force and fluency, the essence of an actor's gesture or the full implication of a cinematic image. Keal called movies 'the most total and encompassing art form we have,' and she made her reviews a platform for considering both film and the worlds it engages, crafting in the process a prose style of extraordinary wit, precision, and improvastory grace."--Dustjacket flap.
Kael’s mixed, carefully-crafted high-low style, despite the mixed style of Shakespeare, would have offended British norms as much as it did William Shawn. Among British columnists only Clive James—with an Australian’s license, and even (at the time) contrarian requirement, to differ—was making the case for such a style. Such a style suggested a tonic subversion of just those divisions of labor, as did the extensive deep awareness of other arts she had accumulated by the time of occupation of her New Yorker berth: something that rendered her so well-qualified to write meaningfully of that arts-amalgam, film.
What excited me anew about Kael’s work is that, even though she was writing solely about movies, she was constantly inventing fascinating paradigms and templates for talking about the creative process as well as the audience’s imaginative experience of performance. Because most of my career in the classroom has been at art schools (beginning at Bennington in the 1970s), I am hyper-aware of the often grotesque disconnect between commentary on the arts and the actual practice or production of the arts. Kael had phenomenal intuition and gut instinct about so many things—the inner lives of directors and actors, the tangible world of a given film, the energy of film editing.