Michael Wood

Michael Wood is an emeritus professor at Princeton. He has written books on Yeats, Nabokov, Stendhal, Hitchcock and Empson, among other things.

At the Movies: ‘The Zone of Interest’

Michael Wood, 22 February 2024

Jonathan Glazer’sZone of Interest seems stately at first, even stolid, and a bit too restrained to raise real questions. Once it’s over we realise that its discretion is part of a careful, risky plan. ‘Based on the novel by Martin Amis’, as a credit line says, the film converts a cruel virtuoso performance of literary voices into a sort of belated act of espionage....

At the Movies: ‘Poor Things’

Michael Wood, 25 January 2024

The great​ Alasdair Gray novel on which Yorgos Lanthimos’s film Poor Things is based is clearly dated and located: the 1880s, Glasgow. The film is more oblique, offering a guessing game made up of costumes, travel by coach and horse, and a reference to Oscar Wilde. The last item is more informative than it sounds, more attentive to cinema and refraction, and a nice touch on the part...

Ala recherche du temps perdu​ is founded on a gesture so famous that it’s hard to retain the idea of its risk. The narrator (and to some extent Proust himself) decides to build a whole long novel on an involuntary memory. Involuntary here means not only unintended but barred from the realm of intention. Whatever it is, it won’t happen if you try to make it happen. There is an...

At the Movies: ‘Napoleon’

Michael Wood, 14 December 2023

Much of​ Ridley Scott’s Napoleon feels like an unintended essay on the art of cinema. The good bits, and there are quite a few, make up a silent film with some noise. The terrible bits are over-simplified soap opera, where people talk and are supposed to have feelings. Critics and scholars have complained about ‘historical inaccuracies’, but the most interesting deviations...

In Martin Scorsese’s​ new film, Killers of the Flower Moon, a man asks another man to ask another man to kill another man. This sounds like the beginning of a joke, and the degree of delegation verges on the comic. The last man is killed, so the rest of the story is not funny. But then why are the first and second men screaming at each other in a farcical quarrel about back and front?...

Pirouette on a Sixpence: Untranslatables

Christopher Prendergast, 10 September 2015

On​ the face of it a Dictionary of Untranslatables looks like a contradiction in terms, either self-imploding from the word go, or, if pursued, headed fast down a cul-de-sac in which it is...

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It took a very special kind of invention to get an awareness of the ‘erratic truth of death’s timing’ into a medium of mass entertainment.

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I told you so! oracles

James Davidson, 2 December 2004

I don’t believe in astrology, but I also know that not believing in astrology is a typically Taurean trait. When I first caught a bright young friend browsing in the astrology section of a...

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And That Rug! images of Shakespeare

Michael Dobson, 6 November 2003

Above the entrance to the saloon bar there is a picture of Shakespeare on the swinging sign. It is the same picture of Shakespeare that I remember from my schooldays, when I frowned over Timon...

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Unspeakability

John Lanchester, 6 October 1994

Musing over Don Juan, Byron asked his banker and agent Douglas Kinnaird a rhetorical question: ‘Could any man have written it – who has not lived in the world? – and tooled in a...

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