Today was quite emotionally taxing on me again, yet despite the emotional drain I felt, I managed to watch 3 films. Two of them were feel good re-watches, Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso (1992) and The Wind Rises (2013), so I won’t be delving into them other than to reassert that The Wind Rises is my favorite Miyazaki. Thankfully, I had in a bit of clairvoyance managed to sneak the viewing of a documentary in earlier in the day for today’s entry.
What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael (2019, Dir. Rob Garver)
A day that I’m emotionally drained and mostly trying to survive another day while keeping my streak intact is a daunting day to choose a film about one of if not the most prolific film writers of all time, but here I am. Kael almost intimidates me if I’m being honest. Her tendency to be the dissenting opinion on so many films considered part of the canon is a trait of someone so assure of her convictions that no outside pressure could dissuade her. It’s a level of self-awareness that everyone should strive for.
Thankfully, I don’t have to put my writing up against the master’s. The only ask on me is of my own giving and it’s just to write about the film I watched today. Evaluating documentary films has a level of trickiness to it. I’ve definitely fallen down the trap of calling a documentary a good film when what I really meant was that I was interested in the subject matter. A personally interesting subject can make a mediocre documentary seem great in the moment, but a great documentary can make dull subject captivating. Unfortunately, What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael is a mediocre documentary about a fascinating subject. The clips of great films, and the near constant inclusion of Kael’s prose provide a lot of spark to the film, but devoid of it’s subject, what remains is nothing but a by the numbers talking head film.