Robin Wood, 1931-2009
Film criticism has lost one of its giants: Robin Wood has died. He was 78. Catherine Grant has assembled a wonderful collection of links as a tribute to him. Armen Svadjian summarizes Wood's career and interviews him in a piece from 2006. David Hudson collects links to reactions around the film blogosphere.
Wood was a prolific and impassioned critic with a broad range and deep convictions. He was an inspirational writer and yet he was sure to provoke occasional disagreement and exasperation in even his most loyal followers. Most notably, he declined to keep his criticism at a remove from his personal life. (A well-known instance is his piece "Responsibilities of a Gay Film Critic" [pdf].) When Hitchcock's Films Revisited was released in a revised edition in 2002, he included a 33-page preface that was pure autobiography. Joe McElhaney's review of the book is a wonderful example of the deeply felt, searching, and sometimes ambivalent response that Wood was often capable of provoking.
My one memorable encounter with Wood occurred about 10 years ago at a limited Hitchcock retrospective in Toronto. He wrote the essay accompanying the series, and appeared in person to lecture on Marnie immediately following the screening. I suspect most of the audience had not read him and didn't know who he was, but nearly everyone stayed--electrified--for an hour while he held forth on the film. At the end, someone asked him about the T-shirt he was wearing. He swelled his chest out and pointed to it so everyone could see. It had a picture of a crystal ball with a photograph of Barbara Harris on it. It was, he explained, a protest shirt: he was wearing it in defense of Family Plot, which had been left out of the retrospective.
In addition to the Hitchcock book, my own favorites among his work include his writings on Howard Hawks (the book he wrote in 1968, the more recent BFI Film Classics monograph on Rio Bravo), and his collection Personal Views. But really, the moment I put that down, I realize how unfair and inadequate my selections are. It's impossible to winnow down his enormous contributions to just a couple of titles.
So, your reflections on Wood and his work? Any favorites among his writings? Please feel free to share them.