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November 11, 2011


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Michael Dempsey

Just wanted to say that I was part of a group of UCLA studens who spent parts of two days with Pauline Kael during a visit she made to the campus film department during the late Sixties.

She couldn't have been more generous with her time, ideas, or encouragement. There wasn't a trace of any desire to convert us to Paulettes. I provoked her most acerbic moment myself by mentioning John Simon. "He's an asshole" was her entire response, which was certainly different from someone I knew then who worshipped him because "he uses such big words."

She and James Agee launched my love of film during my teen years. My first encounter with her writing was a blurb in a 16mm catalog touting Fritz Lang's "M", which was previously unknown to me. Even this snippet had such verve, conveyed such a sense of intelligent excitement, that I eagerly anticipated a chance one day to see the film(not very likely in the Hartford, Connecticut of that time)and was pleased to see how the film justified her praise when I finally see it for the first time.

Whatever her shortcomings as a critic and a person (I'm just starting the Kerrow biography), I'll always be grateful for what she wrote and will never accept the blanket contemptuous dismissals of her that some others are always meting out these days.

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