The title is doubly misleading--because it doesn't suggest the fragmentary nature of this posthumous collection (mostly reviews, a few essays and interviews) and because Bazin himself rarely refers to ""cruelty."" (Mostly when discussing Bunuel--with the word in ironic quotation marks.) Still, there are marvelous passages from a great critic here. Brief sections offer reviews of some films by: Erich von Stroheim, unarguably violent and cruel, but esthetically important (""He assassinated rhetoric and language so that evidence might triumph""); Carl Theodor Dreyer; and Preston Sturges, whose ""films protracted American comedy because of its negative message."" (Bazin's qualified praise here--he aptly compares Sturges at his best to Moliere--never involves ""cruelty"": the operative words are rather ""subversion"" and ""satire."") Then come the longest sections--on Bunuel and Hitchcock. ""It is absurd to accuse Bunuel of having a perverted taste for cruelty,"" says Bazin: his ""cruelty"" is ""no more than lucidity, and nothing less than pessimism""; it is also ""the projected shadow of his tenderness."" There are studies of a half-dozen middle-period Bunuel works--plus a long, fascinating interview. As for Hitchcock, Bazin's well-known reservations are on lavish display through a dozen or so reviews and one interview: ""a fairly vain talent in its cruel refinement. . . . Each of his films is a journey to the outer limits of film technique from which we return dazzled, as if by fireworks. What there is beyond this remains to be seen."" (Bazin's odd, telling favorite is Lifeboat--which doesn't exactly support editor Truffaut's introductory comment: ""If Bazin could have seen Vertigo, Psycho, and Marnie, I think his feelings about Hitchcock would have become increasingly favorable."") And finally there's a brief survey of the esthetic contribution of early Japanese filmmakers. A miscellaneous gathering, then, but alive with Bazin's deservedly legendary eloquence, warmth, and un-stuffy intelligence.