ROBIN WOOD, British-Canadian teacher, author, film theorist and critic, born (d: 2009); Wood was an secondary school English teacher who transformed the art of film criticism, especially through his appraisals of Howard Hawks, Arthur Penn, Ingmar Bergman, and in particular, Alfred Hitchcock. A “difficult child” he was frequently taken by the family maid to see movies to get him out of the house. This introduction to the silver screen lead to a life-long infatuation with Jean Arthur, Claudette Colbert and Cary Grant and film in general.
While teaching English, he submitted an article on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho to the celebrated French cinema journal Cahier du Cínema. Wood championed a morally committed, ethical approach to criticism which only became more acute and pointed when he came out as a gay man in the 1970s. His writings were meant “To contribute, in however modest a way, to the possibility of social revolution, along lines suggested by radical feminism, Marxism and Gay Liberation.” The turning point in Wood’s philosophical views can arguably be pinpointed in his essay Responsibilities of a Gay Film Critic, originally a speech at the National Film Theater and later printed in Film Comment magazine in 1978. It was subsequently included in the revised edition of his book Personal Views [Wayne State University Press: ISBN# 9780814332788.]
But his chief fascination, and his reputation, was Alfred Hitchcock. “A lot of people thought it was ridiculous, this idea of taking Hitchcock seriously,” he said. “He was seen simply as an entertainer; one was merely amused by his films…a few shocks, a few laughs and that was it.”
But to Wood, Hitchcock was more. “I think the best of Hitchcock films continue to fascinate me because he’s obviously right inside them, he understands so well the male drive to dominate, harass, control and at the same time he identifies strongly with the woman’s position.” Many of his students, including underground filmmaker and porn star Bruce LaBruce, have gone on to notable careers.
Wood had been married and fathered three children. Wood was Toronto University’s York professor emeritus of film. He died of complications of Leukemia and is survived by his partner, Richard Lippe.