It's still difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend that we lost our dear colleague and Critics at Large co-founder David Churchill a year ago today. For David was not only my best friend, he was also my counsel. If I tried to recall the number of times this past year I wanted to pick up the phone to get his advice on a piece, request an idea for one, or hear him come up with a brainchild for a series to run, I would quickly lose count. Never mind that every day I went to edit and post a piece, I would look at our homepage and be reminded that he was here and not here.
I've been wanting to keep his presence on Critics at Large continuous despite mortality making that task next to impossible. Fortunately, his wife, Rose, lent me a box of his writing – both published and unpublished – that allowed me to at least try the impossible. And it was quite a trip dipping into the volume of his work and going all the way back to his film reviews from his university days. Perhaps the bonus was finding in the box the notebook he kept in the mid-Eighties. In it, I discovered handwritten comments he had compiled at a number of screenings we went to together. Sometimes he even had very precise notes to counter my own opinions on pictures we would ultimately disagree on when we finally reviewed them on the radio at CJRT-FM's On the Arts. Reading them today quickly stoked those moments on air when I heard those views for the first time. Reading his quickly scribbled assertions had an alchemical way of bringing his voice back into the present.
Today I want to reach back to his university reviews where I found it bracing (and not terribly surprising) to discover that David's conversational voice was indeed as recognizable as it became years later on Critics at Large. Last week, Rose commented to me that David was all there right from the beginning. She was saying that he didn't grow into his voice. Judging by the pieces below, I would have to agree. To prove the point, I've decided to include film reviews first published in 1979 from the newspaper, one of the University of Toronto's journals at that time. David's temperament and wit are easily recognizable to anyone who knew him. Since I also want to treat these pieces as if they were copy he just e-mailed me this morning, they are presented as edited from their original source.