I remember there was a collective awe about being taught by the great V.F. Perkins in my year group, but Victor broke that wall down almost immediately after playing the Looney Tunes’ cartoon Duck Amuck at the end of one of our first lectures, which with beautiful misdirection he introduced as “a short film about authorship”.
Victor’s love of animated comedy informs many of my memories of him in those years. After all, we were still in the heyday of South Park and The Simpsons. They’re also informed by his incredible kindness, which seemed to know no bounds. I only had to mention my postgraduate research on Rod Serling to one of his colleagues for Victor to appear at my office door like an academic Father Christmas with a handful of DVDs he had made from laserdiscs of Serling’s Playhouse 90 and Studio One dramas… just for me! I was a regular attendee of Victor’s Digital Cinema Club, where his selflessness was truly tested by his agreeing to screenings of movies I’m sure he knew full well he would despise. Sometimes he flunked, like the time he confessed to “having a little sleep” during a screening of a rare Tarantino short. But, mostly, he was gracious and open-minded while sticking to his rigorous rules of quality, which incidentally remain the best in film criticism.
I sat with Victor when Warwick Arts Centre cinema showed Sweet Sixteen, having already encountered his published attacks on Ken Loach. He confided to me that he found some moments compelling, which I’m sure drained all his resources of diplomacy. Victor loved hearing opinions other than his own, almost as much as he loved arguing against them. He truly cared about colleagues and students, even those he didn’t know that well, and I’ll never forget his generosity.