from Ray Carney:
Bujalski is the writer, director, and star of two of the most
important low budget independent films of the past three years:
Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. He
kindly provided an essay on the art and business of indie
filmmaking for posting on the site. I highly recommend it.
It's screamingly funny, as well as being wise. Just like his
here to read it.)
Hey, I don't know if you remember who I am, but a little while
back I wrote to you regarding something I had figured out
about the nature of logic. In the time since then, I've read
a little more into the subject; although not very deeply,
I've at least read superficially the ideas of several other
thinkers in this area. Have you heard of Ludwig Wittgenstein?
Based on browsing a few articles that other people have written
about him, I think he came to largely the same realization
that you hinted at in your reply to my previous email (correct
me if I'm wrong in reading your inference), that the structure
of language makes it impossible to describe, with 100% precision,
a good accounting of the facts that occurred during a given
event. I think this is largely due to the constraints of our
ability to recall information, but then again, I'm not neurologist,
nor have I read through the primary works of Wittgenstein
Anyways, I just finished watching Bob Rafelson's "Five
Easy Pieces" - have you heard of the movie? It starred
Jack Nicholson and was shot in the seventies, around the time
he did "Chinatown" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's
Nest." I really liked the movie; there was a dearth of
a musical score, little to no technical intervention on the
part of the director in the shaping of the atmosphere, none
of the "cheap parlour tricks" you mentioned in that
essay of yours, just a movie with a realistic, but intricate,
theme and story, and actors who could make the storytelling
come alive. I saw the first part of Cassavetes' "Faces",
and even though "Five Easy Pieces" featured much
less in the way of freelance acting, I noticed that the focus
was more on the story being told and much less so than on
Of course, I think this heavily contrasts with the way movies
are produced now, with a heavy emphasis on sweeping movements
and intricate fantastic plots that require an amazingly high
suspension of disbelief. I went out with my friends last night
to see "Flightplan" - afterwards, I felt robbed
of both 2 hours of my life as well as the $5.75 I had paid
to get in, the movie was so bad. The acting was atrocious,
the plot unbelievable, and the premise and setting totally
unrealistic in terms of believable sequences of events; most
of the movie took place in a transatlantic passenger plane
that must have been the size of a military cargo jet, based
on the amount of space shown within it (ironically, the size
of the plane played a large role in the plot). I felt as though
the director and writer of the movie didn't have the artistic
vision to harmonize anything truly creative, so instead they
slapped together a few loose ends around a ludicrous plot
and smeared the bricks together with the slime of slick production
and shitty acting (pardon the French). UGH!
Why do you think
directors do these kinds of things? Is the presence of truly
gifted acting, directing, and producing talent so lacking
within the filmmaking community?
Subject: wong kar
I am pleased to
see you've discovered this magical filmmaker (Click
here to read Prof. Carney's comments.) I assumed you never
wrote about him because he has already achieved a good deal
of critical acclaim. With 2046 tanking with the critics,
though, I was pleased to see someone step up to the defense.
I haven't seen the film yet, but I definitely plan to. He
is genius. Also, are you familiar with Taiwanese director
Tsai Ming-Liang? His "Vive L'amour" is terrific.
Everything good seems to come from overseas. Sad.
P.S. Stuff I'm
currently reading: "Agamemnon" by Aeschylus, the
book of Ezekiel, Dagoberto Gilb's "Woodcuts of Women"
Just saw your recommendation
for Phil Morrison's "Junebug" (Click
here to read Prof. Carney's comments.) Great to see that
you appreciated the film. I've seen it twice now, as well
as convinced a good dozen others to catch it as well. It's
really a beautiful film, and I'm anxious to see what's next
from Morrison and his screenwriter, Angus MacLachan. If nothing
scholarly is published on the film within the next month or
two, perhaps I'll attempt something.
is going well!
between Phil Morrison, director of Junebug, and Ray
Dear Mr. Carney,
I was so pleased
and moved to read your comments about Junebug on
IMDB. I have known of you ever since Dave Doernberg, Junebug's
production designer, was your student at Boston University
in the late 80s. I remember him speaking intensely about you
and your class. It was very clear that you had influenced
him greatly. So you contributed to our movie. Thanks!
Never expected to hear from you directly, but I'm honored
to receive your email. Your film is really strong. I mention
it on my web site also.
I ask you something? I know everyone I talk to keeps telling
me that Leigh and Ozu are in Junebug in the "pause
points" (the static shots) you insert and of course I
can see that, but the connection seems pretty trivial to me.
The real deep emotional connection for me is to Charles Burnett
and To Sleep with Anger, in the "parallel scene"
editing and the narrative structure. Is there anything to
that? I know "influences" are hateful (and would
deny most of them in my own work too!!!), but I am just damn
curious if I am imagining this or if it ever occurred to you.
It could of course be an unconscious, unintended similarity.
course the secret of influences is to have the right ones.
There is nothing wrong with learning from masters like Burnett
(or Renoir, or Ozu, or Leigh for that matter). Even a wild
man like Cassavetes borrows many times from others (e.g. Visconti
and Renoir and Jerry Lewis) in his work. The only time influences
are bad is when an artist picks something stupid to borrow.
Like DePalma mimicking Hitchcock's shooting and editing. That's
just dumb : )
you clarify another thing too? I saw the acknowledgement of
the North Carolina School for the Arts at the end of Junebug
and wondered if that was where you went to school or if they
were involved in the production in some way. I had a passing
relationship with them about five or six years ago. They wanted
me to share their 35mm film collection (to screen at Boston
U.) and they wanted me to come down to lecture. I was busy
and neither ever came to pass but I was wondering what you
think of their school and program, if you went there or know
people who do.
hi to David D. from me. I still remember him. But tell him
that Boston U. has changed a lot in the years since he left.
Not entirely for the better, sorry to say.
An afterthought: Have you seen a low budget indie work called
Puffy Chair? I haven't caught it but have heard it
is quite wonderful. (October 2005 postscript: Ray Carney saw
Jay and Mark Duplass's Puffy Chair shortly after
writing this. Click
here to read his reaction to the film.)
Hello Mr. Carney!
Well, here's one
thing that happened, kind of by accident. Whenever I spoke
about the movie, I was sort of uncomfortable. People had lots
of questions, and I never liked my own answers (especially
when I read them in a newspaper). So I think I would sometimes
change the subject to other movies because they were easier
to talk about than my own. And I meant it, I think, the way
you mean it. Guidance. Since there are those static shots
and quietness, Ozu would come up, and Kiarostami and Davies.
And since there's a family and some class tension, Leigh would
come up. But you are absolutely right about To Sleep With
Anger. That movie is a big big deal to me, and it probably
influenced the heart of the making of Junebug more
than any other film. Meet Me in St. Louis and The
Clock might be next. (Eliot Davis once offered to introduce
me to Burnett, but I was too intimidated!) Here's what may
be an unconscious similarity: the "parallel scene"
editing you mention. Will you tell me more about that? By
guidance, maybe I mean the same guidance a pastor might give
you if you were learning to pray.
And here's the
right time to say I enjoyed that letter to Pressman and Malick
on your website.
I didn't go to
NCSA. There was no film school there when it was time for
me to go to college. I moved from Winston-Salem to NY. (Dave
Doernberg is from Winston as well. We've known each other
since high school.) Angus MacLachlan, who wrote our script,
went there as an actor. We had some interns from the film
school on Junebug. I get the impression it's a very
good program. The interns knew a lot. I'm not sure how much
they cared about cinema. They may. Maybe you can go lecture
them into it!
The makers of the
Puffy Chair are nice guys. I met them at Sundance
and in Edinburgh. I am eager to see their movie.
Let me know about
the parallel scene editing!
all I meant by parallel editing: The way, for example when
the girl is downstairs in the kitchen helping the guy with
Huck Finn (sorry I don't remember the characters'
names at this instant), you cut from one set of characters
to another to another. From one room in the house to another
I mean. You do it all the time in the film. Another time is
in during the hospital scene. Cut from one set of events to
another. OK. I admit it's not unique to Charles B, and you
can even find it in super trashy things like daytime soap
operas on TV, but when it is done RIGHT (which is rarely and
never on soap operas!), it creates this powerful sense of
much happening at once, of intertwined existences, of the
audience seeing connections between things that the characters
don't. Burnett, as I say, is a master of it in To Sleep
with Anger (e.g during the party scene where different
things are happening out on the lawn --Junior's argument with
his father; in the kitchen --the conversation about "life
lines" and "persimmon trees" and "the
night the lights went out" with Harry; in the living
room --Hattie's gospel singing and all of the other stuff
going on there.) Anyway, I take off my hat to you. Intentional
or not, unconscious influence or not, you wonderfully keep
three or four balls in the air at once at these moments and
that was a large part of my admiration of your work. It creates
such an interesting effect.
while I'm dropping compliments right and left, I might as
well add that there is a lot more to like about your film
than "parallel editing." A lot. For example, that
singing scene is one of the greatest moments in all of recent
cinema. I just love it. It opens a door to an inner world,
a spiritual space, as unexpected, surprising, and wonderfully
transformative as anything in Fellini or Rossellini (by the
way, have you seen Voyage in Italy? if not, you MUST!).
Oddball comparison as that may sound! I love it when characters
and scenes surprise me like that, and you are a master at
it. (All the more that the religion in it will surprise those
tough as nails New Yorkers who watch it. Hold on to your local
culture. Don't ever try to play to the sad, cynical New York
enough flattery! Thanks and all best wishes in continuing
your wonderful work.
from Ray Carney:
following is a brief excerpt from a note to me by a close
friend. There is too much to say on this subject (and my friend
says much more of pertinence that I am not including here),
but I wanted to post this brief paragraph as "food for
As for your Bush
comment, I am thinking more and more these days that "religion"
is what's wrong with the world. Guilt and rules, punishment
for not following the drill or death to the infidels. Nothing
spiritual or loving about it. I rebel completely and absolutely...
Do you know an Iranian friend of mine told me that the state
of America now is the way it was in Iran before the ayatollahs
took over? Very scary.
"And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions
of infidels..." The religious zealots just don't get
it... and never will.
from Ray Carney:
received this announcement in my email the other day. I highly
recommend Su Friedrich's work, particularly Sink or Swim,
The Ties that Bind, Hide and Seek, and Rules
of the Road. She is one of America's artistic treasures.
Films at www.outcast-films.com
is pleased to announce the release of acclaimed veteran filmmaker
Su Friedrich's films on DVD. Digitally re-mastered from the
original 16mm negatives, this collection of 13 films is essential
for every library, media center, as well as women and cinema
studies programs. This collection of DVDs includes the filmmaker's
classic works such as SINK OR SWIM, HIDE AND SEEK, THE TIES
THAT BIND, DAMNED IF YOU DON'T, and THE ODDS OF RECOVERY,
as well as EIGHT BONUS FILMS."
< Page 33