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April 10, 1967 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1967-04-10
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:# At

JOHN: "So Pauline Kael says...

MARSHA: «Who says?"

JOHN: "Pauline Kael, the film critic
with a chip on her shoulder"

"... Strack feels his squad
"ill be tough by mid-season
so the rebuilding job could.
be a quick one...
Basketball, 1966-67

The movie reviewers in America
today hold a tyranny over the distri-
bution system of films. Unless sup-
ported by a mammoth Hollywood
advertising campaign, a movie can't
hope to get out of New York without
good reviews. Instead of engaging in
serious reflection of films and dia-
logues with the reader, movie re-
viewers spend their time busily poli-
ticking for their special favorites.
The biggest tyrant and poorest
reviewer is Bosley Crowther. While
his paper, the New York Times, is
respected in most ways, the Times
movie reviews are the perennial joke
in movie discussions, usually quoted
to demonstrate fallacious argu-
A politicker who doesn't want the
job is the New Republic critic, Paul-
ine Kael. She would prefer a mutual
dialogue with the reader. But the
deadening effects of the other re-
viewers and the changing tastes of
audiences force her to be a crusader
for common sense. "If you see a film
alone," she says, "you'd never think
it was important.' But the ooh's and
ah's which certain bad films elicit
force her to react sharply to the film
and its followers, hoping to trn the
tide of its following. She vigorously
rebels against the fashionable, arty
cliches for movies she thinks are
just plain no good.
Although Pauline Kael is compro-
mised into "fighting the enemy you
shouldn't have to bother with," she
avoids the 'preachins-to-the-sheep'
style which is found in most poli-
ticking reviewers. Her whole battle
is directed at ending the preaching
syndrome of grovelling "art" con-
sumers, to break down the authori-
tarian structure of prescribed tastes.
She is the most passionate and bitter
of the maior critics, and her vision
of the future of cinema is most pessi-
The movies have been moving in
two opposite directions in the last
few years: to the left, towards a con-
centration on "form" and texture; to
the right, towards saccharine ro-
mances and action movies. Raising
a despairing hand of warning is Miss
Kael. She is, of course, considered too
intellectual by the right and too re-
actionary by the left. But, in spite
of the strong responses she elicits,
she is one of the most articulate and-
exciting critics around.
Before working for the New Re-
public, she wrote reviews for a num-
ber of magazines and did radio
broadcasts. "I Lost It At the Movies,"
a book containing a number of her
reviews and polemics, was released
in 1965, another book is anticipated
at the end of this year. Her position
with the New Republic makes her a
member of the National Society of
Film Critics (which was formed last
year to offset the stifling effect of
the newspaper-oriented New York
Film Critic's pronouncements).
But even here, with the reviewers
from the "Village Voice," "Saturday

Review," "New Yorker," among oth-
ers, Kael remains a maverick-never
in agreement with her fellow critics.
They selected "Blow-Up" as best film
of the year and Antonioni as best di-
rector while she voted for "Mascu-
line-Feminine" with Jean-Luc God-
ard as best director; they considered
Sylvie the best actress for "Shame-
less Old Lady" while she preferred
Joan Hackett for "The Group;" they
voted Michael Caine the best actor
for "Alfie" while she chose Olivier
for "Othello."
She is a singular character, often
quite vicious in her appraisals, who
well deserves her reputation as one
of the hardest critics around.
Kael ascribes a good deal of the

has moved into. A safe profit seems
to be assured if the masses can be
lulled into passive acceptance. The
producers search for the widest pos-
sible range of Pavlovian response-
turning on laughs or tears at the
right moment-for the best profit.
Pauline Kael lost her job with
"McCall's" for her attack on "The
Sound of Music" which was too
harsh for the housewife readership:
"And we may become even more
aware of the way we have been
used and turned into emotional and
esthetic imbeciles when we hear our-
selves humming those sickly, goody-
goody songs. The audience for a mo-
vie of this kind becomes the lowest

"When movies, the only art which everyone felt
free to enjoy and have opinions about, lose their
connection with song and dance, when they become
cinema which people fear to criticize just as they
fear to say what they think of a new piece of music
or a new poem or painting, they will become anoth-
er object of academic study and 'appreciation', and
will soon be an object of excitement only to prac-
titioners of the 'art'." - P.K.

:: .
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much of the Modern European cine-
ma. Her articles on "La Notte," "Last
Year at Marienbad," and "La Dolce
Vita" is entitled "The Come-
Dressed - As-The-Sick-Soul-of-Eur-
ope Parties."
Because of her strongly social ap-
proach to criticism, discussing the
viewers and reviewers, there is often
a noticeable lack of substantive an-
alysis of a film she may strongly
condemn. But her approach is so
spirited, such delightful reading,
that even the art-house audiences
read her avidly - gaining a fresh
look at themselves. It is more in-
structive to hear Pauline Kael make
fun of a film than to hear Bosley
Crowther or "Time" try to swing and
like it.
To the surprise of her detractors,
however, she does have preferences:
most notably, the films of Godard,
Truffaut, and Kubrick, to name
three contemporaries, and such past
films as "To Have and Have Not"
And "Singin' in the Rain." She find
the narrative dexterity of many of
the older directors and a few con-
temporaries appealing. While her
preferences are not merely for "film-
ed drama," she believes that drama-
tic situations, classical categories
such as satire and tragedy, and
character studies are most appropri-
ate to the medium of film. She is not
lost, however, with the tools of the
"new criticism" such as visual tone
and use of color in making a case for
or against a film.
What she cares about are good
ideas and convincing action. She ob-
jects to what she considers mushed-
up ideas and, even more importantly,
intellectual affectations-the sort of
thing found in a high school human-
ities course which has just discover-
ed existentialism.
But, in her categorical rejection of
people who talk about "cinematic
language" and "form," she often
goes overboard. As a zealous enemy
of the "art of cinema," she raises
complaints against any film which
leans in this direction on the basis
of a prejudice rather than analysis
(this is not to say that her prejudice
cannot be analyzed or is not found-
ed on legitimate fears). Even of the
films she likes she cannot give her
attention enough to permit a new
approach to narrative. After a bril-
liant praise of Satyajit Ray, explain-
ing why his films are most engross-
ing, she finds it necessary to raise'
the complaint: "Ray is sometimes
(for us Westerners, and perhaps for
Easteners also?) a little boring, but
what major artist outside film and
drama isn't?"
Pauline Kael has a great concern
for what reaction the audience has
to a movie. She spends a good deal
of her reviews teasing and prodding
the readers, making fun of the atti-
tude she discerns in the theater,
making fun of the cocktail party af-
fectations of the views. Her style is
one of a personal dialogue with the

"... Dave Stra
bottom by any
there will be r
Russell and O
around like las
mer Mic
one yea
"We 1
when I
Strack E
I played
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has turr
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". .. seniors Dennis Bankey and Craig Dill could steady three
sophs well enough to make Michigan force its abdication
down to the wire. Coach Dave Strack put Michigan back on
top in the Big Ten and possibly Stewart, Clarence Adams and
Bob Sullivan can lighten the blow of losing Cazzie Russell. ."
January 1967

. " ".'.

failing of popular movies today to
the deadening effects of television
viewing-with slick ad techniques
and little visual information convey-
ed. Television productions are often
conceived with little more than sim-
ple emotional reactions desired, and
executed with one-point-of-atten-
tion, action-oriented narration.
In her article on the "Function of
a Critic" in "McCall's" of February
1966, she notes "Audiences who have
come to depend on these cues and
prods (and television-bred audiences
are given almost nothing but cues in
place of characterization) may have
no mechanisms for response without
them,' She believes that more re-
cently this method is being intensi-
fied: "Movies are now being made
even more like television shows."
When people are reduced from the
status of "audience" to that of "con-
sumer" for the big investment in-
dustries, any sublety or quality takes
second place to the "sell." In 1936,
William. Paley, then owner of CBS,
noted: "Too often the machine runs
away with itself ... instead of keep-
ing pace with the social needs it
was created to serve." This is the
limbo that the mass-audience movie

common denominator of feeling: a
But if she attacks the big money-
makers as straight pablum she is al-
so harsh on arty films of the 'left'!
Her attacks on the big action pro-
ductions, are overshadowed by the
relentless onslaught of prose against
what she calls a kind of creeping
Marienbadism: "What I think are
Drnnesses of structural disintegra-
tion are at work in all types of mo-
vies, and though it's obvious that
many of the old forms were dead
and had to be broken through, it's
rather scary to see what's happening
-and not just at the big picture
palaces. Art-house films are even
more confusing."
There's no giving an inch for Paul-
ine Kael.
If a film-maker tries to make her
look at a face for five minutes, in
hopes of teaching you something
new about the possibilities of seeing
in the cinema, she is sure to walk
out in a "fit of boredom." She will
not allow the film-maker to create
his single frame of reference, but de-
mands adherence to traditional con-
ventions. The titles of her articles
often reflect her amusement with

people by nature are winners and
others losers."
Strack has had four winners at
Michigan. Big winners. 16-8. 23-5.
24-4. 18-8. Three Big Ten champion-
ships. Three NCAA tourneys. A third
place anld a second place in the post-
season classic.
But all came during the Buntin-
Russell era. Michigan's wealth of
talent approached the point that
potential stars were sitting on the
bench. John Clawson and Jim My-
ers, who averaged 15.8 and 13.1 p.p.g.
respectively during the 1965-66 sea-
son, were but spot performers until
their senior years.
"I think that in winning there's
room enough to give credit to every-
body," Strack contends. "Coaching
plays a very important part. But
maybe most guys could have done
the same thing with that team, who
In other years at Michigan, Strack
has posted marks of 6-18, 7-17, and
this year's 8-16 total. Two finishes in
the Big Ten cellar, one eighth place.
In his one-year head coaching stint
at Idaho in 1959-60, Strack's squad
posted an 11-15 mark.
"There's really no in-between be-
tween winning and losing," Strack
has said in refuting the beneficence
of a moral victory.
But ironically Strack's entire ca-
reer has paralleled just that axiom.
"Actually this is the first year
I've coached a team that hasn't done
as well as was expected. The year I
was at Idaho they thought we'd be
lucky to win a game. And when I
came to Michigan the next year I
had to start from scratch. I've been
a very lucky coach until now."
Strack, like all coaches, has been
criticized for using particular coach-

ing methods and game strategies.
"But strategy and mechanical things
aren't the most important part of
coaching," Strack points out. "In
stead it's molding a group of young
athletes into some kind of an effi-
cient unit which will play hard and
with enthusiasm. Any coach knows
how to employ offenses-the idea is
to get a cooperative effort. Playing
hard makes up for a lot of strategy
and can help overcome mistakes."
But there is the 1966-67 squad.
"Our problem was that we lacked
a cohesive unit 40 minutes a game
like we've had in the past. Every-
body played hard all year, but being
sophomores just made too many
OFF-COURT disciplinary problems
also plagued the Wolverines
this winter. Strack was forced to
temporarily suspend three players
for skipping practice, and one team
member was dismissed from the
squad for academic deficiencies.
"I don't think the suspensions
hurt the team any," Strack sug-
gested. "We have rules and if the
players don't abide by them the
coach has to take stern disciplinary
action. It's one of the unfortunate
circumstances that occur in coach-
ing, but a suspension can bring
home the facts of life to players.
If the kids are tough enough they
can take it."
With the three suspended planers
in the Yost Field House stands,
Michigan rallied to stifle Purdue,
86-74, for their second Big Ten vic-
tory. It was their last, however, as
they proceeded to drop the final
eight games of the season with the
once-suspended players in and out
of the line-up.

It is difficult to single out one all-
powerful factor in the demise of
Michigan basketball this season.
Strack has pointed out several:
"poor defense" . . . "undue pressure
from fans and other teams who
haven't forgotten the past" . . .
"sophomore mistakes' ... "catching
opponents on hot nights" . . . "cir-
cumstances . ."
"This has been a very humbling
year for me," Strack acknowledges.
"But these kinds of years accrue to
you. No coach has a lock on winning
every year. Maybe there's something
to the law of averages, but if you
ever start thinking you can rational-
ize any loss, you might as well quit.
"Every coach learns something
each year. And I hope I've learned
enough this year to keep me in good
stead for quite a while."
Strack has had the opportunity
to learn the head coaching business
for eight years, but served as assist-
ant basketball coach at Michigan
for eleven seasons before accepting
his first major coaching job, at
"I was going to quit coaching after
my eleventh year here if I didn't
get a head job," Strack reveals.
"Then I got the opportunity to go to
Idaho, which was the greatest pro-
fessional break I ever got. Then in
the last seven or eight years every-
thing's fallen into' place for Se,
although I've had to work hard for
Strack, who attended basketball-
conscious Shortridge High School in
TIdiana before starring for Michigan
1943-46, (Cazzie and I are' the only
two basketball players in Michigan
history to have our numbers retired.
We both wore number 33") never
planned to enter coaching until for-

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