"RETURN OF THE REPRESSED" CRITIC VIEWED SISTERS AS FEMINIST FILM
Robin Wood, author of the influential book Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan, died Friday of complications from leukemia. Wood was 78. In the above mentioned book (the title of which can be seen as a direct inspiration to the core of David Greven's new book, Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush) Wood devotes a chapter to Brian De Palma subtitled "The Politics of Castration," in which he states that De Palma's "interesting, problematic, frequently frustrating movies are quite obsessive about castration, either literal or metaphorical." In the chapter, written before Body Double was released, Wood cites Sisters and Blow Out as De Palma's best works. Of the former, Wood wrote, "Simply, one can define the monster of Sisters as women's liberation; adding only that the film follows the time-honored horror film tradition of making the monster emerge as the most sympathetic character and its emotional center." Of Blow Out, Wood concluded that for him, "no film evokes more overwhelmingly the desolation of our culture."
In his 1983 book on De Palma, Michael Bliss interviewed the director, discussing Wood's analyses of De Palma's work:
Bliss: There's a piece on Sisters by Robin Wood that says that Sisters is the first feminist film to come out of Hollywood; it's a psychological and structuralist reading of the film. It talks about the knife as a phallic object.
De Palma: I don't like to get into that kind of reading into things. I remember talking to Robin and asking him questions about this. I finally said, look, that wasn't what I was doing when I made the movie; you may see these things but it's beyond me. But I do feel in a sense that I deal with contemporary feminist characters... Most of my women characters are very active, very strong; they dominate the action for the most part. In Sisters all they do is dominate the action. In Dressed To Kill all of the men are practically like women in normal films. So whether they're prostitutes or girls making money on the side by setting up candidates or actresses or newspaper reporters-- to me they are contemporary women and are aggressively pursuing their goals.