Dear Ray Carney,
Hello Ray, my
name is Javier Alan Garcia. I'm 21 and a student at Brooks
Institute of Photography in Ventura. I am relatively new to
Cassavetes, i bought his box set a year ago understanding
who he was and what he stood for. Being a film student I either
A. Spent my time writing or B. Spent my time doing everything
else so needless to say i never got around to watching them.
I spent today and yesterday watching his films for the first
times, eating them up like spaghetti one after the other in
reverse sucsesion. Ending today with Shadows, i spent the
rest of my time finding articles about the films and various
stories and I landed on yours and your first version of Shadows.
HOLY SHIT! NO WAY!
I know you get
this a lot. Could i get a copy for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY?
I would be happy to reimburse you for however much it costs
for a copy of it on DigiBeta.
Oh and by the way,
you ARE protected under the copyright laws to distibute it
in anyway shape or form. I learned all about it in business
law. It's elementary copyright laws, she doesn't have the
rights to it, and she doesn't have the copy of it. You do.
What you need to do is copyright it under YOUR name. Therefore,
it becomes property of you. For example, a musician makes
music under a label, unless it's in the contract that the
artist keeps all copyright to his or her songs, the label
does. The artist doesn't have to give away her or his copyrights,
but do many times because they don't understand how that works
or it's the only way for them to get heard and distributed.
I'm sure you already
know all this but if you don't now you do.
But anyway, i know
what your answer will probably be, and if it is. I just hope
and pray you distribute it. You have to! Even if it's exclusively
just off of your website.
Thanks again for
all your fine work,
Javier Alan Garcia
Re: a question
from Cassavetes' Shadow
Dear Mr Carney:
I am a student
from China, my majoy is film study. Now I am Preparing for
my thesis. By the way, the theme is about rebel youth in American
film.I know you are an expert of Cassavetes' film and I have
read your essay about "Shadow" and "Pull my
daisy" in the net. So I want to ask a question. In the
film, Bennie was so depressed that he escape from the party
after fighting. he standed outside the bar and said "Mary
had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow. Everywhere
that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go." what does this
mean? I mean what did cassavetes want to express?Does this
sentence quote from somewhere,for example, a children's song
or a fairy tale? Look for your answer! May you mid-autumn
festival happy .(a traditional China festeval)!
from Nanjing China
to hear from you! Tell a Chinese publisher I would give them
the rights to translate any of my work cheap if they were
interested. I own most of the foreign rights myself.
your question: Ben's statement is from a children's nursery
rhyme about a girl who takes a pet to school. The content
of the rest of the rhyme is not important. It is his way of
saying that he is not "white," that he is a "black
sheep" in his world, out of place and weak like a "lamb."
Most importantly it is a reference to him not being white
like the lamb. "White" is both a color and a racial
type (Caucasian) in English.
that's the "racial" meaning. But to my mind the
content of his statement is less important than its self-pitying
tone. Ben is feeling sorry for himself. The subsequent music
scene and preceding party scene show this also. So the moment
is one of self-dramatization. (A little like Lelia's moments
in the film.) That is how you should think of it. That will
take you much further than focusing on the racial allusion
in the words. Critics love to focus on meaning but they miss
tone and tone is always more important. Connotation over denotation.
Feeling over thought. American criticism in particular is
visual in its emphasis, not aural, and misses or downplays
the self-dramatizing feelings in a line like this to focus
on its racial meanings. It's why the same critics don't really
understand Faces either. Or What Happened Was.
You have to listen to them like music. Not watch them like
Hitchcock's visual metaphors. And you have to understand a
lot about life. Another thing critics don't seem good at.
(I have more on the subject of visual versus aural, and metaphoric
versus tonal understandings of film in my "What's Wrong
With Film Study...." packet. Click
here to obtain it.)
Cassavetes on Cassavetes book has Cassavetes' thoughts
on why Shadows is misunderstood if it is viewed chiefly
or exclusively as a racial drama. American critics have never
been able to understand what he was getting at, but the preceding
comments should help you do that.
Dear Prof. Carney,
I was reading an
interview on your website and felt a little surge of unease
when I finished this paragraph: "I should say, tried.
Those days are past. I recently tendered my resignation as
director of the program. I'll step down this summer....."
I am in the midst
of getting a packet together to apply for BU's graduate film
studies program for the Fall 2006 semester, and my primary
reason for applying is your work and the filmmakers and other
artists you champion and teach. I haven't found any other
programs where my enthusiasm for Cassavetes, Tarkovsky, Bresson,
Ozu, Noonan, May and lots of other artists in lots of other
arts would be even slightly rewarded. With you gone, will
the BU program become business as usual? What are your future
plans, and will those plans involve teaching? I guess that
last question is none of my business and too vague in scope
to be answerable, anyway, but please keep at it. Academia
needs people who don't think "art" is a dirty word.
Do you have any recommendations for someone who wants to study
what you teach?
I'm still teaching in the program. I just resigned as Director of it. It was over a number of issues, mainly connected with lowering of admissions standards, the cutting back on the number of film courses required for the film studies major, and the shift in emphasis from the teaching of "artistic/personal" films to "mainstream/Hollywood" work. That is unclear because part of the interview is cut before that that explains the situation.(Click
here to read an excerpt from this interview.)
for the kind words. But my world involves constant struggles
for excellence. That's just the way life is. I'm used to it.
Proof that you're doing something valuable is that you meet
with resistance. Anything else is entropy. What's Blake's
aphorism? No progression without contraries. I think that's
it. Translation: Take the path of greatest resistance. Nothing
excellent comes easy. If it was easy, the world wouldn't need
my work. Someone else would be doing it. In this instance,
I'm a minority of one in the program. I guess people should
be told that. The most popular course we have this semester
is in Hitchcock! One of the most popular last semester was
in the work of David Cronenberg. And as a counter example,
last semester, almost none of the students (grad or undergrad)
was interested in viewing films by and learning about the
work of Bresson, Ozu, and Leigh. Their work was the most under-enrolled.
So what's the moral? It's not hard to figure out and it's
true at every university in the United States. We live in
a culture of celebrity and most faculty teach and the overwhelming
majority of students want to study the work of the super-star
celebrity figures everyone is already familiar with, the names
that draw, the stars and star directors who have box office
appeal. And faculty are only former grad. students, which
means that in ten years the students now fighting to get into
a Hitchcock course will be offering one as faculty members.
touch on this issue higher up on the same page. See the mention
of Yoda earlier in the interview. I am not the Boston U. Film
Studies program. There are others with other values. Both
faculty members and students.
link on the same page for some (partially tongue in cheek)
reactions to the way academic film production programs are
run. The dumbing down is just as pervasive there.
Thank you for responding.
I'm glad you will still be teaching there. I'm going ahead
with my application, though I do realize you aren't the BU
film program, just a part of it. At 28, I'm still young but
too old to look for a Yoda. I agree with most of your ideas
and opinions, but part of what I enjoyed about my undergrad
days was the exposure to new ideas and people, many of whom
I disagreed with vehemently. I don't think of you as a Svengali,
just as a teacher and writer whose books and recommendations
have consistently made me a better thinker.
A couple of quick
questions. Will you still be on the admissions committee?
Also, you mention being a minority of one in the department.
After seeing one of the professors in the catalog list "Baywatch"
and "Beverly Hills 90210" on his resume, I see what
you mean. However, are there any other profs in the film department
whose classes you recommend? I've been able to find some of
Roy Grundmann's work, but I haven't had much luck finding
writing or information from some of the others.
Thanks for your
I appreciate your kind words about my work.
to your question about books and publications: Save your time
looking. Assistant Prof. Grundmann is the only Film Studies
teacher who has published anything beyond a brief film review
or some such. He has a book on Andy Warhol's Blow Job.
It's not my idea of a great American masterpiece and Warhol
is not exactly my cuppa' tea as a filmmaker, but he is a name
to conjure with in art circles. To the best of my knowledge
you won't find anything else in print by other full-time regular
film studies faculty.
the last cycle I stepped down from the admissions committee
also. Admissions changes were a large part of my decision
to resign the directorship.
sure you keep Film Studies and Film Production separate in
your mind. The faculty are divided into different groups.
Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210 would have
been done by production faculty. That doesn't make the fact
any less embarrassing, of course.
don't know what else to say. USC, NYU, and Columbia have excellent
Film Study programs I am told. I am still at Boston U., still
teaching my heart out, writing like crazy, and trying to help
students in every way I can. That hasn't changed and won't.
I'm not sure how you feel about Errol Morris, but I think
you'll at least appreciate the iconoclasm of this piece. It
was commissioned, but I thought the site editor would reject
it. It's been up for a few days, and I'm taking a lot of heat,
but I've also heard from somewhat shaken readers who were
convinced to abandon "the church of Morris." Always
hoping to "break the monotony of a decorous age,"
as Emerson put it.
for the link. You raise important issues. I'm going to post
it on my site.
Subject: Brief Question
Dear Ray Carney,
My interest in
filmmaking started at an early age, around 7 or 8 when I started
stealing my dad's camera to put into use. At that time I barely
watched any films due to my parents restrictions to films
I actually wanted to see and my loathing of all Disney movies
that every kid my age were 'supposed' to watch. When I hit
an older age, I began watching more 'maintstream' films (apocalypse
now, etc). Before then all my little films were based on what
I thought a film should look like, and after being exposed
to the structure of hollywood films, I found that my films
as well...started to suck. I know I know what am I talking
about I was only 12, but my point is I really respect your
opinion on how filmschool/hollywood brainwashes one with structure
and I experienced at a young age. I haven't gone to the movies
in years, but I continue my pursuit of filmmaking, because
it makes me feel alive. I'm travelling in China right now,
collecting mental souverniers when I thought of a question
for the great Ray Carney. Are there any 'hollywood' films
in the past, lets say 10 years, that you DO like, and feel
exceptionally great compared to the other garbage? Thanks
for your time and reply if time is possible.
garbage? Greater than the rest of the garbage? Slighly un-garbagey
garbage? Recyclable garbage? Tasty savory garbage? What's
this about? Why do you care? That's the important question.
Hollywood is just a term, a mental construct, an imaginative
invention. It's not a fact of nature. Why give it so much
power over your mind? Why measure things, pro or con, in terms
of it? There are good films and bad films made everywhere.
There are more and less interesting films made in Los Angeles
and made elsewhere. There are works that give us hope and
works that make us despair made in every city, every country,
every climate, every week. There are stupid people, works,
events that we can learn valuable things from; and stupid
people, works, events that just waste our time and spirit.
Forget categories. Break free from geography. Think like an
artist. The rest is thinking like a pollster or a businessman.
Study how our imaginations imprison us. Study how the programming
system keeps us in chains. Study how to break loose. Plan
an escape. Talk to the other inmates. Tap on the walls. Listen
at the bars. Palm a key. Dig and tunnel. Scrape at the plaster.
Bribe a guard. Put pillows in your bed. Wear a mask and a
funny hat. Find your way out. Run for your life. Break free
of the old patterns of thought!
note from Ray Carney:
saw an amazing movie recently, and want to spread the word:
Phil Morrison's JuneBug. Really great. The best film
I've seen all year. A bright reflecting pool, with the stillest
of surfaces, apparent calm and peace, but slowly revealed
to be miles deep and dark, with all sorts of wonders swimming
in the depths ... but only visible to those who can look with
averted vision to see through the reflections and make out
the flickers. Try to catch it. Spread the word. Bring a friend.
Tell a friend. We must support the good things to make more
good things possible.
Morrison is a filmmaker worth watching. A quiet, deep feeling,
deep seeing artist in a land of cleverness, entertainment,
here to read Ray Carney's "A Modest
Proposal: Let's Replace Film Production Programs with Majors
in Auto Mechanics"
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