Robin Wood

  • Tsai Ming-liang

    TSAI MING-LIANG’S previous film, The Wayward Cloud, was almost universally hated; at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival screening there were even walkouts in protest by those who found the work pornographic. It is to be hoped that the hostility and disgust it aroused (which I understand but don’t share) will not deter Tsai’s admirers from seeing I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, arguably the director’s finest achievement to date—and perhaps his most intensely personal as well.

    Tsai has from the start of his career shown a predilection for long takes—from afar, with minimal, diegetic sound


    KYOKO: Life is disappointing, isn’t it?
    NORIKO: Yes, it is.

    —from Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953)

    CERTAINLY AMONG THE HALF-DOZEN FINEST FILMS of the past few years, Climates definitively establishes the Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan as a major presence within contemporary world cinema. Premiering at Cannes last May and making its US debut at the New York Film Festival last month, Climates, Ceylan’s fourth feature, is currently enjoying a limited theatrical release. His previous three feature-length films—The Small Town (1997), Clouds of May (1999), and Distant (2002)—are all available on


    THE ARRIVAL OF L’Enfant (The Child), the fourth in a series of closely related feature films from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, offers a welcome opportunity to consider—and indeed celebrate—the Belgian brothers’ achievements to date. Their films are intimately interconnected, both stylistically and thematically, to the extent that there have been hostile murmurings that the Dardennes have not made four films but the same film four times. This is totally unjust: In certain respects, it is true, the films are variations on a set of themes; but the cumulative effect is that each becomes the richer

  • Michael Haneke's Caché

    I LIKE TO MAKE a simple distinction between a reviewer and a critic: The reviewer writes for those who haven’t seen a film, telling readers whether they shouldn’t and offering a fairly clear idea of what the film is and does; the critic assumes the reader has seen it, making a plot synopsis superfluous, and attempts to engage him or her in an imaginary dialogue about its content, its degree of success, its value. The great literary critic F. R. Leavis summed up very succinctly the ideal critical exchange: “This is so, isn’t it?” “Yes, but . . . ”

    With the films of Michael Haneke, this principle

  • Robin Wood

    American culture generally enjoys cleverness: it is so much easier to grasp than real intelligence, so much less challenging and dangerous. Cleverness doesn’t disturb, it keeps people happy, gives them “kicks,” it’s all slick fun. And Americans are supposed to be happy—isn’t this the land of equal opportunity, so if you’re not happy it’s your own fault, there must be something wrong with you. Cleverness helps you to forget that things might be different, might be better, that a struggle for change might be desirable and necessary: sure the culture’s shot to pieces, but it’s still good for a