The homage kicks off with Edward Cline's The Bank Dick (Nov. 23), a W.C. Fields slapstick comedy about a town drunk turned bank security guard that Kael flippantly advised "respectable people" to avoid. She described Fields as an "unregenerate individualist [who] shakes the whole barrelful of middle class virtues, and says, "Look, this barrel's full of stinking fish.'" Though she had a reputation for ranting, Kael wasn't all piss and vinegar. When she fell in love with a movie, she fell hard. She credited Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando with "alter[ing] the face of an art form" with Last Tango in Paris, for example. The same has been said of Kael: She transformed the field of criticism, inspiring countless imitators -- dubbed the "Paulettes" -- with her sharp tongue and fiercely independent stance.
As a programmer, she unapologetically repeated her favorites until they also became audience favorites. One such darling: Preston Sturges' romantic farce Unfaithfully Yours (Nov. 23), starring Rex Harrison as a jealous symphony conductor. "What is it, anyway, that scares you off -- the stupid title? ... Have you no courage or, even worse, have you no taste?" she wrote in her program notes. Taste was always a matter of principle with Kael, and "Finding It at the Movies" provides a glimpse of her eclectic preferences during the early years of her career. Highlights include a reissued print of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (Nov. 24), a stunning film noir starring Welles as a corrupt police captain who frames his suspect, with Marlene Dietrich, Charlton Heston, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and a pre-Psycho Janet Leigh; Jean Renoir's masterpiece Grand Illusion (Nov. 25); and Ingmar Bergman's sexy morality tale Smiles of a Summer Night (Dec. 7). Such an across-the-board bill was typical of Kael. Whether you agreed with her or not, she still made you want to go to the cinema.