Holding My Own in No Man’s Land

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The retirement of Paulene Kael from full-time film criticism not only removed the most influential voice in America from the field but also left a significant gap in the area of discussion of the cinema from the perspective of feminine experience. Molly Haskell, whose groundbreaking FROM REVERENCE TO RAPE: THE TREATMENT OF WOMEN IN THE MOVIES (1974) was one of the first serious studies of film in terms of the manner in which women were depicted throughout film history, has addressed this situation with what she calls “ruminations” on the “images of people and characters who have had an influence on our lives.” Drawn from the essays and reviews she wrote for several prominent national journals since the early 1970’s, Haskell challenges both doctrinaire academic/feminist readings and conventional masculine positions in a linked series of expanded essays which indicate her love for and deep insight into film as an artistic construct and as an important cultural expression of American life.

Haskell’s introduction in HOLDING MY OWN IN NO MAN’S LAND: WOMEN AND MEN AND FILM AND FEMINISTS is a striking declaration of her “movie love” (to use one of Kael’s titles), setting the tone and direction of the volume. Speaking with a kind of genial defiance, Haskell enthusiastically accepts as a credo what one critic described as a defect, her stance as “an uncritical celebrator of heterosexual romance,” but asserts as a corollary her fondness for...

(The entire section is 458 words.)