#PaulineKaelSez - Straw Dogs
*The following is the second in a series of posts highlighting one of the twentieth-century’s finest and most controversial film critics, Pauline Kael, and features selected criticism from her collection 5001 Nights at the Movies. Previously: Blade Runner.*
Pauline Kael on Straw Dogs (1971)
“Dustin Hoffman plays a weakling mathematician who finds his manhood when he learns to kill to protect his home, and Susan George is his snarling, pouty wife—a little beast who wants to be made submissive.
Machismo, sold under the (then) fashionable guise of the territorial imperative, and directed by Sam Peckinpah in a way that apparently affects many men at a very deep, fantasy level. Probably one of the key films of the 70s. Its vision is narrow and puny; Peckinpah sacrifices the flow and spontaneity and the euphoria of spaciousness that have made him a legend—but not the savagery. The only beauty he allows himself is in eroticism and violence, which he links by an extraordinary aestheticizing technique. When the wife is raped, the rape has heat to it and what goes into that heat is the old male barroom attitude: she’s asking for it…Adapted from the novel The Seige of Trencher’s Farm by Gordon M. Williams.”
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