17 January 2010

Robin Wood on Michael Haneke

At the end of the his life, Robin Wood was, according to various biographical notes accompanying his later essays, working on a book about Michael Haneke's films.  I don't know how far along that book was at the time of Wood's death last month, but knowing that he had written some essays about Haneke's work through the years, I fired up the ol' Google to see what of Wood's writings on Haneke were available online.  Quite a few, it turns out, and they're very much worth reading:
Those all come from issues of CineAction that are available via Findarticles.com, and you'll discover plenty of other essays by Wood therein (sometimes bylined with his full name, Robert Paul Wood, by Findarticles) as well as other CineAction essays on Haneke, especially from the Summer 2006 issue.

[Update 18 August 2011: Alas, it seems CineAction is no longer available via Findarticles, so the links above will no longer work.]

For more on both men, Film Studies for Free is the best single place to check, with posts on Wood and Haneke.

I've seen all but one of the Haneke films available on DVD in the U.S., and thus all of his major feature films except his latest, The White Ribbon.  The one I have not seen is the American version of Funny Games, mostly because the original is my least favorite Haneke, and Wood gets close to my feelings about it, calling it a "minor work", lamenting how it has tainted people's perceptions of Haneke, and pointing out the nonsense in the statements Haneke has (repeatedly) made about punishing his audience for sitting through the film.

As for Wood, you can ignore his bizarre statements about Kafka at the beginning of the excellent "Beyond Compromise" essay -- when not writing about film, Wood was sometimes embarrassingly obtuse, but his sensitivity to film was astounding.  His essays and books are particularly valuable when he writes about what he sees as successful and meaningful in particular films, and that is especially so of Haneke, a director who can be very difficult to appreciate -- read Wood on The Seventh Continent or Code Unknown (my own favorite among Haneke's films).  Let's hope that someone is putting together a collection of Wood's uncollected essays and/or that, before his death, Wood was able to finish the manuscript of his book on Haneke.  Either would be a treasure; both would be bliss.