Thanks for everything, man. You are largely responsible for
my group of friends' insane diggin' of cass! (we are pretty
phony, we talk like Zelmo when we talk to girls just for the
fun of it!)
I got a question I hoped you could answer.
Do you know that scene in Minnie and Moskovitz, in the start,
where Timthoy Carey is at the restaurant with Seymore, and
Timothy goes "I know lots of things! I know lots of things!!!!
I know where my wife is buried!!!!"
U know, that scene can kill an entire population, genocide
really, its too much, maybe the high point of cinema! I wondered
if u think Cass wrote that rant from Timmy or if he wrote
it himself? (considering his Greatest Sinner movie and all).
point, but who are you? Well, whatever.... You're right about
the simply amazing Tim Carey. More than half of this scene
was improv'd. At the point you cite, JC had simply scripted:
"My wife died. You didn't know her, did you?" And
Tim took it from there. What a riff. What chops. Blow, man,
blow! Swing, swing, swing..... What a great guy he was. I
miss talking with him.
Dear Mr. Carney,
Hello, how are
you? My name is Ian MacLeod and I'm an actor/writer/director.
I'm a film grad student at Art
Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. I am a huge fan
of John Cassavetes and have been supremely
affected by his work. And aside from his films, you are a
large reason for this enlightenment. I have read several of
your writings including that of "Shadows" and my
favorite being "Cassavetes on Cassavetes." It was
a God-send book and opened my eyes (and I'm sure many other
filmmakers) to the opportunity and lure of what film can be.
The reason I am writing is because I will be moving to NYC
in August to finish some writing, before I shoot my work in
2006. I will be there from August to December and was wondering
if it would be possible to
take one of your classes at B.U. I understand the complications
involved in out of state tuition, enrollment, etc., but I
would love to take only one class and that would be one of
your classes. I don't even need to recieve credit, I would
like to even sit in on the class. I am not sure if you are
even teaching a Cassavetes class in the fall, but i wanted
to get in touch with you early to find a way to be in your
class. My desire is to hear the extended thoughts you shared
in the documentary "A Constant Forge." Being as
busy as you are, I completely understand if I do not hear
correspondence quickly, but I am patient and am willing to
wait to hear from you. Whatever the outcome, I want to thank
you for your dedication and commitment to bring the real truth
to one of the greatest American Filmmakers that ever lived.
R. Ian MacLeod
Sorry. No Cass
class in your time frame. I would be delighted to have you
attend and participate in discussions since I am sure you
would bring a level of seriousness and intensity that I am
always in quest of, but it just won't work out for your schedule.
don't feel bad. Of all of the subjects in the world that you
might be interested in studying with me, Cassavetes is the
one that you can most dispense with sitting-in on a class
to learn. Most of my thoughts are in my books. If you have
read them, you really have as much as you need. Of course,
there is always more to say, but that's true of all of life,
all of art. There is always more to say.
But, can I give
you some advice, assuming you'll take it in a friendly vein?
Read the final sentence in my Cass on Cass book. The final
quotation by JC. Translation: Break free from this desire
to "sit at the feet of...." "to study under....."
"to learn from....." anyone, anywhere, about anything.
Make or find your own truth, your own knowledge, your own
insights. It's what's wrong with school and most of America
too. People want to be told what to think or feel. Break free
of that. Work to formulate your own independent reality! Nothing
based on my view or anyone else's. Anything else is courses
with Robert McKee or some other fako pseudo-guru.
P.S. (on the web
only): If you want an example, read the crackpot wonderful
letter that precedes this one. That's someone who has done
it, wacky, weird and wild as they may be.
All sincere best
Subj: Robert Kramer
I work as a researcher
for Michael Vertucci, who teaches various film classes at
the Adult School of the Chathams, Madison & Florham Park
(NJ). The courses are for lay people, but he is meticulous
& thorough in his preparation.
He will be conducting a course this fall on certain films
of the 1960's, & is interested (read desperate) to get
a copy of Robert Kramer's "Ice". Would you have
either a copy of this film or a source I could use to locate
it? Your knowledge & resources make you the obvious &
only (& last) avenue I can pursue.
Any help to a fellow graduate of Rutgers (NCAS '68) would
it's not currently available from one of the standard New
York releasers, I don't know what to tell you. Sorry. Robert
Kramer was a good friend and eight or nine years ago I persuaded
the same video company to release his work that I had earlier
persuaded to release Mark Rappaport's. VideoActive was the
name of the company. It was founded by two friends, Mike Lamb
and Maya Smuckler. I put them in touch with Robert and put
Robert in touch with them. Meetings were held. I did what
I could to make it happen. I offered to write program notes
or do a voice over commentary. But they lost their shirt on
Rappaport and went under before the Kramer project was issued.
So that was the end of the story. I tell it as a cautionary
tale to my students about the dangers of being an idealist.
And keep in mind it's not just Ice we are lacking.
There are also Starting Place, the astonishing Route
One, Milestones, and many others. Just another
example of what America cares about (and what it doesn't).
Commerce being in the former category, and art being in the
latter. Sorry I can't be of more help.
An afterthought: I am assuming you have already tried Filmmaker's
Cooperative, Kino, and all of the other usual art film distributors.
I clearly remember that Filmmaker's Co-op used to have Ice
and Kino used to have Starting Place/Point de depart.
I forget who used to have Route One and Milestones,
but rented both of them in both 16 and 35mm a number of times
from someone in New York City. So try those places if you
haven't. I was just assuming that in my reply. Don't hold
your breath for the videos though.
I was reading the
letter you received from Daniel Duque-Estrada recently. Just
a few thoughts to share with you in response to his questions.
Artist: a person
whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination
Does a person's
creative work show sensitivity and imagination? Does it come
from who they uniquely are? If so, that person is an artist
whether he is successful commercially or not. One can view
oneself as an artist without making a dime from it. And enjoy
the creation of it just f! or the joy of creating. If someone
is an artist in their soul, they cannot NOT create!
I met a woman in Milwaukee the other day who was 88 years
old and used to create "displays" in her youth in
the Playboy Club in Chicago (she was attractive enough to
be a bunny, but waitressing was boring to her). She flashed
a huge grin and said, "I used to be quite a looker but
I'm UGLY now!!!" But her face lit up, her eyes twinkled
and she was beautiful when she talked about her art. She doesn't
paint mu! ch anymore, but a few years ago made a mural of
a sunset out of carpet fibers - and got $30,000 for it! I
believe that you can never take the artist out of the artist.
Whether you get paid for it - or not - or make a living from
it - or not - is another matter. If you are in the mood to
create, create! Every artist is I know does it for their own
satisfaction... including me! : )
Be and do what you are... what you love... and don't wait
for someone else to validate it. Claim it and be proud of
it! To be or not to be... are you or aren't you? Those are
Thanks for the
soulful meditation. I agree with everything you say. I know
people who play the church organ for the choir who could have
been composers in another era. I know of people who tend their
gardens who could have been landscape architects. I know of
people who cook or fix up their house who could have been
great interior designers. We find the ways we can. We make
art in the ways that are available to us. We do what we can
with what we can. The impulse will find a way out no matter
how or where or what form it takes. The artist cannot be suppressed.
Art will find a way. And anyone who complains about not having
enough money to be an artist, or not having the support, or
not having the equipment, is not an artist, but a businessman,
a bureaucrat, an organization man. If we are orginal, nothing
can stop us from being original. If we have the ideal of freedom,
nothing can stop us from being free.
Re: ... Wondering
Into the filming
... feelings, feelings, feelings just sometimes overwhelm
all of us ... pure professionalism is the death of involvement
... I don't know how long this film is going to be ... I don't
know where this film is going ... I'm
just trying to keep going ... I'm extremely bullheaded and
stupid ... I'm crossing lines I never thought I would ...
It's so difficult to balance to achieve that what the mind
can accept the heart can take and the soul can live with ...
Thank God the actors are slowly getting it ... been thrown
a curve, after June 20th, we'll be down to Fridays and the
weekends. That's all one of my primary actors can give me
till she leaves the country for a new chapter in
her life in September ... Perhaps it's for the best ... John
said that limitations were part of the process ... This film
might go all the way up to the airport departure area ...
I wonder what John
would be doing if he were alive? I know it's so forward of
me. Calling him by his first name. I never even knew the man.
But I just feel so close to him for some reason. Maybe I'm
just romanticizing ...
... I wish he were
alive ... With the way technology has changed budgets, he'd
be making films like mad I bet ... Oh I pity the actors. All
the more I have respect for the actors. It's a damn difficult
and potentially humiliating job
that they have to do. But they do it nonetheless, and when
they're open, just open, it's AMAZING and HUMBLING to behold.
My God, what incredible things you've created! Emotions, thoughts,
... I wish he were
alive ... That story about 52 takes on simultaneous film cameras
running for FACES would be nothing. He'd probably finish each
1 hour mini DV tape every take. His raw output would be monstrous.
He'd probably be filming nearly forever. He'd be editing forever
... I wish he
were alive ... Would they listen? Would they be listening
to him as some of them so hypocritically do now? Or would
they still treat him as such as before? ...
... I wish he
were alive ... Maybe the changes, some of them, would come
... for the better ...
... But he's not
alive. I know. We learn from him. We move on. We continue.
Thanks for the report. Keep going. You are doing the impossible but only you can do it. Keep going. Don't give up. Don't let yourself stop or quit. Keep going. Only you can do it and only you can prevent yourself from doing it. Keep going. It matters. Keep going.
Subject: The Real
independent Movement - Beyond the Hype Book
Just to say how
have enjoyed your writings, and i guess i'm the 1.2 zillionth
person to ask, when do intend to publish your latest book
"beyond the hype"
Look forward to
But, at last count, you're not the 1.2 zillionth person, you're
the 2.1 zillionth! See my reply on page 22 of the Mailbag
Subject: The Tango
Hi Professor Carney,
Miss class? How are you enjoying your time off? I recently
caught Sally Potter's "The Tango Lesson" on the
Independent Film Channel and I needed to tell you about it.
By its summary, I assumed it would star two beautiful spanish
dancers: a more artistic "Dirty Dancing." Part documentary,
Sally Potter is a struggling filmmaker, trying to make a film
on Pablo Peron, an up-in-coming tango dancer. He is charismatic,
handsome, and graceful; she is insecure and uncertain. It
seems an unlikely romance. Thankfully, the romance was not
the focus of the film, because I would have changed the channel.
Somehow, these mismatched artists flowed together when tango
music played. In her dance lessons, he teaches her to loosen
up and stop thinking. He says that tango is about feeling
the music and letting the body move as it pleases. But Potter
is too preoccupied with precision and form, and Pablo becomes
frustrated. Throughout the film and their tumultuous relationship,
the couple's tango becomes more about power shifts and defense
levels. Who leads, who doesn't want to follow, how can't seem
to feel the music, who is overwhelmed by the music.
Five days later, there are two scenes that still stay with
me. First: Pablo grows more and more frustrated with Sally.
She can't dance in the moment, she is too frigid. He criticizes
her for her voyeurism and her obsession with filmmaking. They
sit next to each other, in a dressing room, looking at each
other through a mirror. Then, the camera pans left, from the
couple in the mirror to the real couple. So great!
Then in another scene, Pablo, Sally, and two other choreographers
are exhausted and frustrated from an unsuccessful rehearsal.
Sally decisively stands and pleads for one more exercise.
For the first time, she isn't afraid to really direct and
she orchestrates the three in a tango. Then, she leads them
through the doors of the small rehearsal, dark space into
an enormous hall with luminous windows and marble pillars.
She joins the three in a four-way tango, unexpectedly gorgeous
and graceful. I felt that break-through. She was in control:
she was creating something beautiful for her film and filling
her role as a director. Yet, she was out of control, out of
her body. She stopped thinking. She trusted her body to move
with the other three. She was no longer preoccupied or conscientious
of form. She let go. The camera follows her as she flies in
and out of frame, hiding behind the marble pillars. It's breathtaking.
So, I am sure you have heard of the director, Sally Potter.
I think she made a pretty well-known film called "Orlando,"
although I know nothing about it. Especially with your love
of dance, I think you will like it. Anyways, I just wanted
to keep in touch. I hope you are enjoying your time off! Speak
to you soon.
to take so long to reply to your kind and thoughtful email
about Sally Potter. Yes, I know her work, but confess ignorance
of that film in particular.
you're watching "the good stuff" and not American
Idol, The Bachelor, or the equivalent: 20/20, Dateline, and
all the rest! : ) I don't even know if those shows are still
on now. I'm so behind the curve. Got a letter the other day
from a young producer on Extreme Makeover saying how much
my writing meant to him---probably as an alternative to his
awful job on that awful show. I'm glad to be an antidote to
the poison the system squirts into the world.
been travelling a little. Doing research in Ohio and in NYC.
And writing a lot. That always feels good. Like deep diving
to find my soul, remind me I have one, I mean. So much of
the world seems devoted to taking it away. The great evil
of our time is distraction: to take our attention and divide
it up into a thousand different pieces. The focus on writing
is my personal antidote, my alternative way of being.
well and keep watching good films. But don't forget about
good composers and writers too. Alice Munro is one of my favorites
for the past few years. Her "Dance of the Happy Shades"
is an ideal place to start if you haven't given her a try
before. The stories are very very short and some are very,
very beautiful. (Try the title story or "Walker Brothers
Cowboy," or "Images," or "Postcards"
in the category of non-fiction, if you're interested, I'd
recommend: Noam Chomsky, Neil Postman, Ben Bagdikian, Todd
Gitlin, Robert W. McChesney and Danny Schechter on the media.
Very, very smart, all of them. They explain why television
puts on shows with idiots like Donald Trump or Martha Stewart.
And why shows like The Bachelor and Extreme Makeover and Dateline
and 20/20 and all of the other pieces of stupidity on TV exist.
And why there aren't more films like the kind Sally Potter
makes. Or more news broadcasts that actually ask you to think
or learn anything.
enough of the sermon!!!! Have a great summer!
I appreciate you
getting back to me. I completely understand that you're too
busy to read the scripts. Absolutely no problem.
I just want to
let you know I've been going into Mugar here and there when
I get a free day to check out some of the films you have on
reserve there - Elaine May, Su Friedrich, Carl Dreyer etc.
It's a goldmine. Those films are so hard to get anywhere else.
Speaking of Dreyer,
below is a brief note I posted about "The Passion of
Joan of Arc" on some Internet Dreyer forum. I must admit
I have not yet read your Dreyer book (I'm really just getting
into the filmmaker now) so I don't know if my response has
been said already, but I still figured you might be interested
in reading it.
Thanks again for
getting back to me,
I was watching
part of Joan of Arc for a second time and I noticed something
else very interesting.
During the trial,
we see the judges and priests and theologians talking amongst
themselves for several moments before one of them actually
builds up enough confidence to place a given question "on
the record" (i.e. what everyone in the court hears, as
well as what we, as viewers, see as intertitles). We can tell,
just by looking at their facial expressions and gestures,
that there is much doubt and insecurity within ther minds,
yet they keep these feelings repressed and off the court record
in fear of contradicting themsleves and (more importantly)
looking like fools for doing so.
In effect, everything
that goes "on the record" in the courtroom has been
sent through a sort of filtration system - a network of minds.
This means nothing that actually goes on the record is very
real. Instead of being a fresh question born from the mind
of an individual, it is a politically and theologically safe
question born from a collective mentality.
So what goes on
record as the reality of what happened during the Joan of
Arc trial is fitered and, thus, false. And seeing that the
court's record is what will be referred to for centuries later
as being the "reality" of the courtroom proceedings,
all future historical perception of the trial will unavoidably
This man-made molding
of reality that we see at Joan's trial is, to me, a microcosm
of what goes on in the world in general. It is very rare that
our freshest thoughts and our freshest emotions find their
way out of our minds and onto the record, so to speak. Before
we say something in a public forum or write something in a
newspaper or film something for a general audience, we filter
our feelings through a sort of inner checks and balances system,
making sure everything we say is safe, or, to use a more contemporary
term, politically correct. In consequence, the history of
our world, of our culture and of ourselves becomes an illusion.
True reality rarely makes it into the history books.
Along with playing
it safe, we also make a conscious effort to create a reality
that is free of doubt, preferring a state of existence composed
of objective truths and absolutes. But, as we can learn from
Dreyer's film, a reality like this is hell; it is a prison
to our souls that want nothing more than to express feelings,
no matter how incomaptible these feelings may be with what
absolutist society defines as "normal."
One possible lesson?
Only when we get our unfiltered feelings and emotions "on
the record" and learn to embrace doubt (instead of avoiding
it) can we free ourselves from this 'prison' we have created
love your Dreyer point. So true. We live in an artificial
world of man-made truths (falsities) but can't see them because
they are everywhere and everyone mouths them and frowns if
we say anything that is not in the script. See my recommendations
to Julie in a letter above this one about reading Noam Chomsky,
Neil Postman, Ben Bagdikian, Todd Gitlin, Robert W. McChesney
and Danny Schechter. They all talk about the "filtration
system." The more you watch (or listen) the less you
know, as Jackson Browne put it.