Pauline Kael is a polemical writer engaged in a lover's quarrel with films. Her reviews come to us almost like dispatches from the front lines; everything seems typed out under fire. Now she's slamming her colleagues (and they can be intellectuals like Dwight MacDonald, institutionalized fuddy-duddies like Bosley Crowther, or those cute, cocktail party moralists of Time). Next she's deflating the ""arty,"" the pondersome and fashionable (this on the N.Y. Film Festival: ""I've never seen so many people sleeping through movies as at Lincoln Center; no wonder there is talk of 'cinema' achieving the social status of opera""). Hollywood is called ""canned Americana,"" Kracauer's social-realist theories are majestically torn limb from limb, the poor pop-culture addicts of the so-called New American Cinema get it every which way (Are they perhaps ""making a comment on our civilization by the suggestion that trash is the true film art?""). Does this irrepressible dreadnought like anything? Yes, quite a bit: e.g. Griffith, Renoir, Kurosawa, Ray, Singin' in the Rain, L'Aventura, Shoeshine. Are contradictions involved? Indeed: she salutes the slam-bang surrealism of Shoot the Piano Player, but not the anarchic stylizations of Resnais or 8 she reads too much into too little (as in Jules and Jim); she misses the point of the later Bergman; at times her reasoning is delinquently flippant. But whatever her faults, her virtues predominate. Never dull, blazingly personal, provokingly penetrating, awfully funny, her collection may well do for film criticism what Mary McCarthy's Sights and Spectacles achieved in the theatre. Miss Kael is a ""find.