The Lens: Robin Wood, 1931-2009
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 22, 2009 - He was the most provocative and stubborn (read: argumentative) of film critics, yet so broad-minded in his tastes that he could nail a favorite filmmaker to the wall for stooping down to the mainstream (he loved Richard Linklater's films, but came close to foaming at the mouth in his hatred of "School of Rock") even while acknowledging his own weakness for teen comedies.
Born in Britain (where he was involved in the publication of "Movie" in the early '60s) but situated in Canada for most of his career, Wood was radical in his ideas, yet refreshingly old-school in his aesthetics, and he spent roughly 50 years opening new avenues for film criticism. He moved from one enthusiasm to another - Auteurism, Freud, Marx, gay issues - often burning bridges behind him, but you never got the sense that he was writing simply for the sake of hearing his own voice. In rece
nt years, he stopped teaching film studies in disgust, threatened retirement, pursued a career as a novelist, but remained a towering presence in the pages of the journal "Cineaction." If you're not familiar with Wood's work, you can find a bibliography here , but the bast place to start would be with his groundbreaking 1965 book on Hitchcock - revised many times and still in print - and his wide-ranging "Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan", which includes his most ambitious project, a wide structural re-reading of the horror genre circa the late 70s. Though very little of his work can be found online, it's hard to imagine anyone becoming seriously interested in film now or in the last 40 years without somehow feeling his influence.
You can find a good obit/tribute here .
The Lens is provided by Cinema St. Louis.