Explorations in Film
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: Wayne State University Press
This is the second in a series of Robin Wood’s early books, so important in the history of film studies, to be reprinted as part of the Contemporary Approaches to Film and Television series. It is particularly satisfying that Personal Views has followed the influential work on Howard Hawks, because this is the only book on cinema by Wood never to have been published in the United States. ...
The essays on Tourneur and Mizoguchi appeared in their original form in Film Comment and are reprinted here, revised and (in the case of the latter) considerably extended, with the permission of its editors. Other sections, written for the book, have been serialized in Film Comment, and the essay on Welles has appeared in translation in Positif. ...
Of all my books, this is one of my two favorites, the other being Sexual Politics and Narrative Film. The reason for this preference is simple: the other books are restricted to specific subjects (in most cases directors), and in these two, with their unusually permissive editors, I have had complete freedom, ...
1. Big Game: Confessions of an Unreconstructed Humanist
I have been often challenged, by friends and enemies alike, to attempt a formulation of my critical position; I have hitherto refrained from such an undertaking. It seemed to me at first that I had no position: an absurd assumption, of course, for even critical statement must derive from some position, however implicit or unconscious. ...
2. In Defence of Art: On Current Tendencies in Film Criticism
I have never felt myself a part of any critical establishment, subestablishment or anti-establishment; I have tried to be myself, and to go my own way. Yet I always seemed to get on easily enough with my fellows in different camps—despite my intermittent tendency to insult some of them in print. ...
3. Levin and the Jam: Realism and Ideology
The concept of Realism has been tackled (and attacked) of late with formidable theoretical elaboration; all that seems lacking is common sense, which I shall endeavour to supply. Fundamentally, any attack on Realism must be an attack on narrative itself. The essential features of Realism (and the audience’s experience of it) ...
4. The Play of Light and Shade: The Scarlet Empress
Even the name is ambiguous: Joe Stern, or Josef von Sternberg? The ambiguity, in any case, is singularly appropriate to a director with insistent aspirations to high art and European culture destined to struggle to realize those aspirations within the context of the Hollywood cinema: ...
5. Ewig hin der Liebe Glück: Letter from an Unknown Woman
The foyer of the Vienna Opera; close-up of the placard announcing a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute—an opera that sets beside the “absolute” love of Tamino and Pamina, and their progress through perfect union towards spiritual transcendence, the very earthly and relative desires of Papageno, ...
6. Welles, Shakespeare and Webster: Touch of Evil
From what is known of Orson Welles’s early life and background, one can select certain features of obvious and direct relevance to his films: as a child he knew long stretches of Shakespeare by heart and gave recitations in costume to audiences of doting relatives; ...
7. Images of Childhood
Peter Coveney’s The Image of Childhood (Peregrine Books, 1967), an indispensable work of literary criticism by a historian, traces the development of the figure of the child in English literature from Blake and Wordsworth to the first decades of the present century. ...
8. Reflections on the Auteur Theory
The status of the “auteur theory” as theory has always been somewhat dubious. To Truffaut, who seems to have invented it for the cinema (it is hardly new to the history of criticism, critics having on the whole agreed for several centuries that Shakespeare is the real author of Hamlet), ...
9. Hawks De-Wollenized
Peter Wollen’s Signs and Meaning in the Cinema (Secker and Warburg, 1969) is probably the most influential book on film in English of the past decade. I do not believe its seminal nature has been sufficiently acknowledged in print: the rehabilitation of Eisenstein, semiology, structuralism, the emphasis on Godard: ...
10. The Shadow Worlds of Jacques Tourneur: Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie
The series of horror films (for want of a better term) produced by Val Lewton in the forties can stand as at once a demonstration of the limitations of the auteur theory and its vindication. They are usually regarded, and with some justice, as essentially Lewton’s films. ...
11. The Ghost Princess and the Seaweed Gatherer: Ugetsu Monogatari and Sansho Dayu
A colleague told me recently that he would not feel qualified to talk about Ozu and Mizoguchi; that he would not know how to approach them; that he could do so only in terms of mise-en-scène. In the context of the conversation it was clear that this was a covert reprimand rather than an expression of humility: ...
12. Notes for a Reading of I Walked with a Zombie
With this, the third issue of CineAction! it is becoming clearer that the magazine’s position is in certain respects uneasy and problematic. We want on the one hand to remain accessible—or at the least relatively so (we don’t write for people who just want to be entertained). ...
13. Creativity and Evaluation: Two Film Noirs of the Fifties
This article began as a very modest project, both in length and ambition: during a course on film noir I screened, in consecutive weeks, The Big Heat and Kiss Me Deadly; I became interested in the many parallels between the two films, and, as a direct consequence, in what seemed the importance of making certain discriminations between them; ...
14. Reponsibilities of a Gay Film Critic
First, my title. I intend equal emphasis on all three terms: Gay Film Critic. Critic: one concerned in problems of the interpretation and evaluation of art and artifacts. Film critic: one who makes the central area of that concern the cinema. Gay—not just the word and the fact it points to, but the word and fact asserted publicly: ...