Pauline Kael on the joys of watching foreign films

“Movies are used by cultures where they are foreign films in a much more primitive way than in their own; they may be enjoyed as travelogues or as initiations into how others live or in ways we might not even guess. The sophisticated and knowledge able moviegoer is likely to forget how new and how amazing the different worlds up there once seemed to him, and to forget how much a child reacts to, how many elements he is taking in, often for the first time. And even adults who have seen many movies may think a movie is “great” if it introduces them to unfamiliar subject matter; thus many moviegoers react as naïvely as children to “Portrait of Jason” or “The Queen.” They think they’re wonderful. The oldest plots and corniest comedy bits can be full of wonder for a child, just as the freeway traffic in a grade Z melodrama can be magical to a villager who has never seen a car. A child may enjoy even a movie like “Jules and Jim” for its sense of fun, without comprehending it as his parents do, just as we may enjoy an Italian movie as a sex comedy although in Italy it is considered social criticism or political satire.”
–Pauline Kael, “Trash, Art, and the Movies,” Harper’s, February 1969

Posted by | Comments (2)  | October 21, 2013
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

2 Responses to “Pauline Kael on the joys of watching foreign films”

  1. Carl Parkes Says:

    I was fortunate to be both a student and projectionist at UCSB way back in the 70s and took all the film history classes and showed all the films, so I got both paid and got credit, one of my greatest college scams.

  2. Peter Korchnak Says:

    I find foreign films to be a fantastic way to prepare for a trip to the country of their origin. For example, I am writing this from Istanbul, Turkey. The handful of Turkish movies (“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and “The Edge of Heaven” to mention two of the better-known ones) I watched before the current RTW trip were not only a joy to watch but they also helped me get an inside look into a culture I would otherwise be seeing ‘only’ as a traveler.