Going Steady

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For the album by Steady B, see Going Steady (album).
First edition (publ. Little, Brown,
cover art by Seymour Chwast)

Going Steady: Film Writings 1968–1969 is the third collection of film reviews by the critic Pauline Kael, comprising the years 1968-1969, when she first began her film-reviewing duties at The New Yorker and which covers, " a crucial period of social and aesthetic change at the end of the sixties."[1]

The collection for the most part consists of reviews of individual films, but includes one long essay, (which appeared originally in Harper's Magazine), entitled "Trash, Art, and the Movies ", perhaps the closest Kael comes to a manifesto defining her personal aesthetics in regards to films. In the essay, Kael dissects, compares, and contrasts the merits of "trash" films that are nevertheless entertaining, as well as "art" films that are uninteresting. In doing so, Kael lambastes "art" films such as Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, concluding her treatment of that particular film by declaring: "If big film directors are to get credit for doing badly what others have been doing brilliantly for years with no money, just because they've put it on a big screen, then businessmen are greater than poets and theft is art." The essay is divided into ten parts, ranging from discussions of The Thomas Crown Affair to Petulia. Kael's overriding theme is to dismantle the intellectual pretences of those who deride films deemed to be "trash" on the basis of dubious aesthetic concerns, notwithstanding the entertainment appeal a particular "trash" film might possess.

Other notable reviews include Kael's treatment of the Norman Mailer film Wild 90, its relation to cinéma vérité, and the implications of that particular film-making technique.

Movies reviewed[edit]

  • China is Near - " Bellochio's talent - so distinctive that already it resembles genius - flourishes within the confines of intricate plot. China Is Near has the boudoir complications of a classic comic opera...Bellochio uses the underside of family life for borderline horror and humor. His people are so awful they're funny."
  • Wild 90 - " the worst movie that I've stayed to see all the way through...Basically Mailer uses cinéma-vérité methods as a shortcut - a way of making a movie without going to too much effort, and of providing the raw look of 'life'. "
  • How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life - " The dialogue has the desperate, strained sound of burned-out gag-writers' dialogue; the wisecracks come out sourcracks - nastiness pretending to be low-down wisdom."
  • Sebastian - " a trivial little movie, a London-set comedy-thriller..with not much in the way of comedy and less in the way of thrills. It's just classy pulp, but the whole thing goes by before one has time to begin to hate it."
  • Poor Cow - " The trouble with actors when you hardly know they're acting is that they don't hold your attention. Several of the minor players show a more theatrical zest for their roles, and, seen against the stolidly modulated, undramatic acting of the principals, these conventionally acted bits stand out like music-hall turns.."
  • The Fox - " is monumentally unimaginative, but it certainly has been mounted; the color photography is banally handsome, and there's a tricky Lalo Schifrin score to supply excitation...It's easy to sink into and soak up, and it may be a popular success, because many people will enjoy the sexy romance.."
  • Planet of the Apes - " is a very entertaining movie...It isn't a difficult or subtle movie; you can just sit back and enjoy it...Franklin Schaffner has thought out the action in terms of the wide screen, and he uses space and distance dramatically. Leon Shamroy's excellent color photography helps to make the vast exteriors, (shot in Utah and Arizona) an integral part of the meaning."
  • Sweet November - "Sandy Dennis spews out such wisdom as People must be remembered, Charlie. Otherwise, they were never here at all. All we are the people who remember us. She's an icky little rabbit Babbit..I'm sure pictures like this give people pimples."
  • Doctor Faustus - " Burton gives a dead, muffled reading.."
  • Intolerance - " one of the two or three most influential movies ever made, and I think it is also the greatest...crosscutting back and forth to ancient Babylon, sixteenth-century France, the modern American slums, and Calvary...Intolerance is like an enormous, extravagantly printed collection of fairy tales. ..The movie is the greatest extravaganza and the greatest folly in movie history."
  • Charlie Bubbles - " The movie is glum Charlie's life seen through his eyes..This unfertile ground was already plowed to dust in La Notte (and Michelangelo Antonioni managed to do a few other things besides).."
  • The Two of Us - " there's so little going on in The Two of Us that one has to begin thinking of it as an idyll-fable, which has never been my idea of a good time."
  • Bye Bye Braverman - " Though the movie isn't meanspirited, it isn't very satirical either; it's crudely affectionate, and often rather gross. ..George Segal may try a little too hard, but it's good to see him in a role that gives him a chance to stretch himself "
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - "everything is made vast because Europeans love the wide-open spaces in our Westerns... if a man crosses a street in Sergio Leone's Santa Fe, the street looks half a mile wide; a farmer's hut has rooms opening into rooms into the distance, like the Metropolitan Museum..The bad men must then be enormously, peposterously evil - and each wound inflicted is insanely garish. Yet, stupid as it all is, and gruesome, the change of scale is rather fascinating."
  • A Matter of Innocence - "On paper, Pretty Polly probably looked like a winner...But it's a mess..[though] Hayley Mills is surprisingly good, and, as the gigolo, Shashi Kapoor reads his parodistic lines with lovely comic inflections."
  • We Still Kill the Old Way - " Based on Leonardo Sciascia's A Man's Blessing , We Still Kill the Old Way is a thriller with a theme..probably influenced by Kafka..The director Elio Petri keeps one tense and uneasy, wary, expecting the worst at each moment. His method is indirect, and he exposes entangled social relations without comment...Gian Maria Volontè is one of those rare actors who are so believable on camera that one is caught up in the character rather than in the performance."
  • The Secret War of Harry Frigg - " a stillborn service comedy.."
  • 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia - " the whole damned thing looks like a television commercial. Dudley Moore, one of the Beyond the Fringe group, had seemed to be a funny man - and in Bedazzled he was funny. Now he has become one of those awful multiple talents - cavorting like crazy...Some of the jokes aren't bad, but they don't further the plot.. "
  • Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush - " Banal when it's tender and when it focuses on the hero..the movie is rather charming when it's absurd and farcical, and there are several amusing little girls, especially a blank-eyed kewpie named Adrienne Posta.."
  • The Producers - " Mel Brooks as writer relies upon wild ideas, but he doesn't yet know how to join them and make them grow into a comic structure...That's not screenwriting;it's gagwriting...Terrible as this picture is, I enjoyed parts of it, because I love satire of the theatre. And for satire of the theatre as good as Brooks' gags at their best, one can endure even the rank incompetence and stupidity of most of The Producers. "
  • Up the Junction - " The material is based on the writer Nell Dunn's experiences: the upper class heroine takes a factory job and goes to live among the working class, seeking the vitality that is missing in her own inhibited group...She believes that in the working class, you're free to be yourself ...if we can forget this drool and project into the picture, we can make it a little more interesting..The boy's role is well written and is exceedingly well played by Dennis Waterman; as a little factory girl who gets pregnant, Adrienne Posta's as lively as a baby Bette Davis. "
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream [filmed ballet] - " remarkably modest and unpretentious...photographing the dances fluidly within the limited space, with unobtrusive camera shifts cut to the musical beat. The result is lovely..The dancers, fortunately for the camera, are extraordinarily beautiful - especially the principals (Arthur Mitchell as Puck, Suzanne Farrell as Titania, and Edward Villella as Oberon).."
  • Benjamin - " harmless, rather pretty little nothing of a movie...It's the kind of movie in which the dashing, devastating Don Juan (Michel Piccoli, glowering romantically) is - oldest cliché in the sophisticated-sex business - conquered by the girl who pretends to be indifferent to him ( Catherine Deneuve, who is given stupid, stilted lines..) "
  • No Way to Treat a Lady - " basically crummy stuff, entertaining at some degraded level - maybe because it isn't as bad as it might be. It's bad enough...Except for the flashback scenes in The Pawnbroker I've never seen Rod Steiger so bad, so uninventively, ordinary bad as he is in his undisguised role in this movie, and he's only a little better in his disguises, acting high on the hog. "
  • La Chinoise - " Jean-Luc Godard is, at the moment, the most important single force keeping the art of the movie alive - that is to say, responsive to the modern world, moving, reaching out for new themes...Véronique (Anne Wiazemsky), is a new version of Godard's unreachable, perfidious girl...La Chinoise is a satire of new political youth, but a satire from within, based on observation, and a satire that loves its targets.."
  • Funny Girl - " one of the great pleasures of moviegoing: watching incandescent people up there, more intense and dazzling than people we ordinarily encounter in life..The end of Funny Girl..is a bravura stroke, a gorgeous piece of showing off, that makes one intensely, brilliantly aware of the star as performer and of the star's pride in herself as performer. The pride is justified."
  • Week End - " When Godard is viciously funny, he's on top of things, and he scores and scores, and illuminates as he scores..his fervor and rage are so imaginatively justified that they are truly apocalyptic. It is in the further reaches - in the appalling, ambivalent revolutionary vision - that Weekend is a great, original work...the barbarousness of these bourgeois - their greed and the self-love they project onto their possessions - is exact and funny...The excellent score, by Antoine Duhamel, is ominous and dramatic; the pulse of the music helps to carry us through some of the weaker passages..."
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade - " an ambitious, desperate, flashy movie that can't seem to find an appropriate emotional tone. Trying for Goya-like scenes of the miseries of the poor and the floggings and humiliations of the common soldiers, Richardson achieves careful clichés - the illustrated suffering of that age. "
  • Les Biches - " [an] empty attempt at classy eroticism...The movie looks like those imitation Marie Laurencins in hotel powder rooms. This vulgarly exquisite style gives the show away; the intentions of the movie are as vacuous and enervated as the characters."
  • You Are What You Eat - " an ugly , stupid instant movie..the aesthetic equivalent of mugging the audience."
  • Duffy - " a cheat at every level.."
  • Charly - " this cheap fantasy with its built-in sobs...Charly may indeed represent the unity of schlock form and schlock content - true schlock art."
  • Romeo and Juliet - " Franco Zeffirelli's version is lusty and rambunctious, and busty, of course, and he provides a fashion show in codpieces....the luscious Nino Rota music is poured on in emotional torrents...It's a new development, in a way - teen-agers as grand and passionate. The movie gets so theatrical, in a nineteenth-century melodramatic fashion, that it begins to be rather fascinating. "
  • I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! - " Toklas is thin - no more than an extended television situation comedy - but it has some of the appeal of the Harold Lloyd comedies (especially one that Preston Sturges wrote for him), and it makes you laugh surprisingly often. It's the best of Peter Sellers's recent vehicles. Sellers turns stereotypes into characters; he embodies the stereotype totally, so that we see the man."
  • Finian's Rainbow - " a socially conscious whimsey-fantasy operetta...this big, clean family musical isn't so bad...and Petula Clark is lovely in her fist big number - though the spectres of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy hover over her duets with the stolid Don Francks. "
  • The Subject Was Roses - " although the play concerns a family of three talking together in an apartment, the director never avails himself of the opportunities that movies provide for conversational intimacy ..."
  • Star! - " One gets the feeling that Robert Wise the director, and the writer, William Fairchild, didn't really like Gertrude Lawrence very much, and that, rather than make the usual star-bio, they were trying for a dispassionate look at her ...They've made her a bitch, all right, but they've failed to make her a star."
  • Bullitt - " efficiently made and extremely well-edited but basically uninteresting..Steve McQueen plays the police-officer hero seriously and well, but I prefer the fun and romantic fantasy of his Thomas Crown...San Francisco is used for the interiors as well as the exteriors, and is shown to best advantage in a spectacular chase sequence, with cars bouncing up and down those witty steep streets."
  • The Boston Strangler - " the movie offers no illumination of human conduct, nothing that would help us understand the nature of the crimes or the criminal - only a facile account of split personality that is not only unilluminating but unconvincing."
  • Pretty Poison - " This is a remarkable first feature film by a gifted young American , Noel Black...Black comes from the same film school (U.C.L.A.) as Francis Ford Coppola, but his style is less commercial and less forced..there's not a shot in the movie which doesn't clearly and directly contribute to the theme."
  • Secret Ceremony
  • Barbarella
  • The Lion in Winter
  • The Shoes of the Fisherman
  • The Split
  • Head
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Joanna
  • Faces
  • Oliver!
  • The Killing of Sister George
  • The Fixer
  • The Girl on a Motorcycle
  • A Flea in Her Ear
  • The Magus
  • The Birthday Party
  • Greetings
  • Shame
  • Ice Station Zebra
  • Candy
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • The Sea Gull
  • The Night They Raided Minsky's
  • The Sergeant
  • The Brotherhood
  • The Stalking Moon
  • Simon of the Desert
  • Model Shop
  • Mayerling
  • Hell in the Pacific
  • Stolen Kisses
  • Three in the Attic
  • The Night of the Following Day
  • If....
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

This book is out-of-print in the United States, but is still published by Marion Boyars Publishers of the United Kingdom.



  1. ^ Pauline Kael, Foreword, Going Steady ISBN 978-0-7145-2976-9

External links[edit]