The Best Lover a Movie Could Have

Reviews of the latest films.
Sept. 7 2001 3:00 AM

The Best Lover a Movie Could Have

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There were so many of us Paulinistas—some her devoted friends, others who had never met her but had learned to love movies through her writing. In her turreted manse in the Berkshires she was the anti-Miss Havisham. The world was alive with possibilities. One of the last things I did for her was to water the plants on her wraparound porch. The flowers were growing, the doors were wide open, the phone was ringing, the letters were heaped on the dining-room table. There were books everywhere, paintings, music, television. It sounds cacophonous, but everything harmonized. She was devoted to her wonderful daughter, Gina, and grandson, William, who could do no wrong. (Once, at dinner, she said something to William about a movie and he said, "Duhhhh, Grandma," and she took it, smiling. And I thought, "Andrew Sarris, eat your heart out.")

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When, in her last year, she became increasingly hunched-over, she would never let her eyes stay on the ground. She noticed things and characterized them; her keenness made the world come alive. She was always drawn to the beautiful; I never heard her comment on anyone plain or graceless. She could write harshly, with devastating precision, but she didn't relish badness. (Although we did on occasion have exchanges like: "I dunno, Pauline, Joan Allen is growing on me." "Scrape her off.") She thought the word "humanism" sounded too goody-goody, but she was humanist in the spirit of her idol and friend Jean Renoir. When I started writing plays, she told me never to hold my characters in contempt—to make them smarter than I was, even when they were dumb. Make them brilliantly dumb, she said. Otherwise, what's the point of writing about them?

My friend Stephanie Zacharek wrote a beautiful appreciation of Pauline in Salon, marred only by a headline that read, "R.I.P." As Pauline might say: Balls. She would dread the thought of resting in peace. She wanted to be dancing and drinking, seeing movies and talking about them all night. Don't rest in peace, Pauline. Rest in joy. Rest tall.

David Edelstein is Slate's film critic. You can read his reviews in "Reel Time" and in "Movies." He can be contacted at slatemovies@slate.com.

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