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Yogerst: Important Leftist Film Theorist Dies

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Posted on January 4 2010 6:32 pm

I wrote a piece discussing the work of the late Robin Wood, who was an influential film theorist. His politics went from right to left as he got older, but his work is essential to the understanding of not only aspects film, but also aspects of the left. See part of my post from Big Hollywood below:

Anyone who has formally studied film certainly knows Robin Wood, who was a pioneer of the academic study of film as we know it.  One of his most famous essays, “Ideology, Genre, Auteur,” is one of the most important and influential essays in modern film theory.  In it, Wood provides a bridge between auteur theory (director is author of film and drives its content) and genre theory (genre characteristics drive film’s content) in a way that doesn’t try to disprove the other (which many theorists tried to do).  Wood lays out a good approach to both theories:

“One of the greatest obstacles to any fruitful genre is to treat the genres as discrete. An ideological approach might suggest why they can’t be, however hard they may appear to try: at best, they represent different strategies for dealing with the same ideological tensions.”

He provided a deep understanding for each school of thought and put them together in a way that continues to help students of the discipline over thirty years later. A good overview of his life and work can be read in this recent New York Times post.

Wood’s views over the years have varied, but those who have read his work know that even if we disagree with him we dare not ignore him.  Wood has a sort of realism about himself, and his views.  As he aged, he came out as a homosexual and his politics turned sharply to the radical left.  However, he remained realistic in acknowledging that any kind of socialist world revolution was out of the question even though his colleagues refused to see it that way.  Even if we disagree with his politics, we can respect that he admitted his complete shift in his life’s focus to be “single-mindedly concerned with sexual politics.”  On some levels, he allowed his early work on film to be appreciated as it is.

Read more from Big Hollywood

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