Trash, Art, and the Movies  

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"In her 1968 essay “Trash, Art, and the Movies,” Pauline Kael devotes a great deal of copy to extolling the rather scandalous pleasures of American International Pictures’ hippie schlockfest, Wild in the Streets (1968), at one point judging it more interesting than that year’s achingly important 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). No doubt to the calculated shock of her Harper’s readership, she goes so far as to defend the right of teen audiences to prefer Wild in the Streets over the era’s allegedly more sophisticated art cinema."--Sleaze Artists (2007), introduction


"I did have a good time at Wild in the Streets, which is more than I can say for Petulia or 2001 or a lot of other highly praised pictures. Wild in the Streets is not a work of art, but then I don’t think Petulia or 2001 is either, though Petulia has that kaleidoscopic hip look and 2001 that new-techniques look which combined with “swinging” or “serious” ideas often pass for modern picture art."--"Trash, Art, and the Movies" (1969) by Pauline Kael

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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"Trash, Art, and the Movies" is a long essay by Pauline Kael originally featured in the February 1969 issue of Harper's Magazine and later collected in the book Going Steady: Film Writings 1968-1969.

In the essay, Kael dissects, compares, and contrasts the merits of "trash" films that are nevertheless entertaining, as well as "art" films.

In doing so, Kael lambastes "art" movies 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 pretenses of those who deride movies deemed to be "trash" on the basis of dubious aesthetic concerns, notwithstanding the entertainment appeal a particular "trash" film might possess.

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