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Ray Carney's Mailbag -- This section of the site contains letters written to Prof. Carney by students and artists, announcements of news, events, and screenings, and miscellaneous observations about life and art by Ray Carney. Letters and notices submitted by readers are in black. Prof. Carney's responses, observations, and recommendations are in blue. Note that Prof. Carney receives many more letters and announcements than he can possibly include on the site. The material on these pages has been selected as being that which will be the most interesting, inspiring, useful, or informative to site readers. Click on the first page (via the links at the top or bottom of the page) to read an explanation of this material, why it is being posted, and how this relatively small selection was made from among the tens of thousands of messages Prof. Carney has received.

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Subject: Gena Rowlands at UCLA

hi ray,

this is david chien from los angeles. how are you? how was that film festival you flew out to? which one was it - any good movies to look out for? thanks for writing back a little over a month ago... i've since been able to get some work going. i do some part-time radio announcements at a local station, and i've been trying to get a position as an assistant to an art school near LAX. all of which seem to be promising.

your advice was helpful, and i can't thank you enough. you've been one of the few voices of reason - and in a way it has been redemptive for my well-being.

in a week, there's a screening of a 35mm print of Faces. and gena rowlands will be there, along with seymour cassel. i'm very tempted to ask about the Shadowssituation, but i don't want to make a needless scene. besides, i fear going only because i gather that the audience will be mostly there to cater to this live appearance of gena and seymour (and curtis hansen, who's moderating) - but it won't really be about the movie. or john.

anyway, thanks for listening. please keep in touch and let me know how everything is in boston. in these crazy times with senseless political intrigue (i.e. korea, lebanon, iraq), and terrible movies about them (i.e. world trade center by oliver stone), it becomes ever more important to focus on the little things.

the little things which, in fact, are the most important: friends, family, love, brotherhood, work, art, food, truth.



Ray Carney replies:

Subject: Telling the truth


Since I have had absolutely no success on the telephone or in many pleading letters I have written attempting to persuade Gena Rowlands to allow me to screen the prints of Shadows and Faces that I discovered (and she has only sicced her lawyers on me in an attempt to confiscate the film in response), I think the best way to proceed is to show her that other people care about this issue too (and it is not just me). Therefore it is critical that people ask Rowlands or Al Ruban or Seymour Cassel or any of the other figures connected with Cassavetes' work about this situation at public events they attend. That's the way to make her realize it matters. If enough people ask about it, it is sure to make a difference. I'm convinced that it would help VERY MUCH if you and everyone else who cares about Cassavetes' work raised a few questions about my Shadows and Faces finds and why Rowlands will not allow them to be seen. Or a question or two about the stewardship of his work after his death. Appropriate questions:

1. To Gena Rowlands: Three years ago, after almost twenty years of searching, Boston University professor Ray Carney re-discovered the legendary lost first version of Shadows. Why won't you let him show it at film festivals or in movie theaters?

2. To Gena Rowlands: Just a short time before that, Professor Carney found an alternate print of Faces. Why won't you let it be screened? Why did you tell him that he was forbidden to announce the discovery and write about it?

3. To Rowlands: Why did you have Professor Carney fired from the Criterion Cassavetes DVD box set project after he had put six months of work into it and done his voice-over commentary, which you prevented from being included in the set? (By the way, I really would like to know her answer to this question, since when she had me fired, she gave no reason and has refused to respond to subsequent requests that she explain why she did it.)

A related question in terms of Ray Carney's absence from film events. Why have you banned Prof. Carney from being invited to Cassavetes events? Why is he not at this event? He has said he is willing to go anywhere to speak about Cassavetes' work or show the films he has discovered. Why have you told programmers not to invite him? Why are you trying to censor and control him? What are you afraid of?

4. To Seymour Cassel: Why do you say on the British DVD of Shadows that there was no first version when Prof. Carney has found it? Don't you have the obligation to know what you are talking about when you offer commentary on a DVD, specifically when you attack Professor Carney's work and discovery, and get the facts all wrong?

5. If time allowed, after the above questions: Gena Rowlands should be asked about why she told UCLA that she didn't like the Leola Harlow scene in Husbands and that they should shorten and cut out some of it, which they did when they restored the print. (Click here to hear the audio of twelve minutes that were cut at the end of the singing scene and the beginning of the men's room scene in Husbands.) And why has Rowlands allowed other cuts and defacements of her husband's film by others? Both film and video releases of more than one of her husband's films have been shortened or re-edited. Scenes are missing. Shots are changed.

Note that it isn't an adequate answer for her to plead ignorance or to say that she didn't know that these cuts or changes were being made to Cassavetes' films. Not to know about these things, not to carefully supervise or speak out against cuts and changes, after they are pointed out (as I have pointed them out for years) is to collaborate in them. To keep silent in the face of artistic mutilation. To put money ahead of artistic integrity.

In terms of all five questions: don't let Rowlands, Cassel, or a guy named Ruban who is sometimes at these events get off with evasions or lies or misrepresentations in their responses. Read the relevant pages on my site, especially the page that is in the "legal issues" section. There IS a "first version" of Shadows. Cassavetes talked about it and said he had no objections to having it screened. It is a complete, perfectly edited, final print completely different from the second version. And Rowlands and Cassel can view it anytime they come to Boston at a screening I have offered to arrange. (But of course I can't send the only print in the world to them in Los Angeles. First because Rowlands has said she has no intention of showing it and might well destroy it. And second because of its fragility.For a brief taste of the film, click here to view three video clips.)

Bring friends and ask them to ask the same question or to follow up on yours, if Rowands or Cassel tries to lie about the film or how she has prohibited its screenings and come after me with lawyers to stop them.

Any audience member who cares about these films and ever seeing these prints, owes it to him or herself to ask both of them these questions. This is not about me or about you. It is more important than either of us. It is about the fate of John Cassavetes' work and the care (or lack of care) to present and preserve it. That is what matters. Not my ego or yours. Not Gena Rowlands's feelings or mood. It's about caring about the films and trying to make sure that they are preserved for another generation to see, preserved in their true, original state, I mean. Not edited or changed or hacked up or suppressed.

If audience members say (as you suggest) that the event is just a "celebrity love fest," then they are part of making it that. If no one ever questions the outrageous positions Rowlands and Cassel have taken on these films, they will have no incentive to change their positions, nothing will change, and the films will never be seen. If you treat this as a "love fest" and avoid asking tough questions, you'll have collaborated in making it a "love fest," just as much as the reporters who don't ask George Bush hard questions about the invasion of Iraq or the suck- up journalists who don't ask people like Curtis Hanson why they make such junky exploitative movies.

Each filmgoer who believes that Cassavetes' work should not be suppressed or censored must stand up to her attitude. Not to ask the question--over and over again if necessary, at every event she attends--is the irresponsible thing to do. To say that it will "spoil" the love fest is just being afraid to "speak the truth" to the rich and famous. It's just to play the Charlie Rose, UCLA, film festival suck-up game.

For what it's worth. Those are the principles I've based my life on.


PS. FYI: Seymour Cassel is a complete "bullshit artist" and will say more or less anything that he thinks will please a crowd--anything!--so don't expect much from him. But it is still worth asking him the questions, since he bashes my work on the British DVD and should be held accountable for his words and actions.

P.P.S. A note about the Oliver Stone movie, since you mention it: It is beneath contempt. Stone was clearly terrified of offending ANYONE. The movie plays like a pork-barrel congressional bill: One scene after another inserted to please everyone, flatter everyone, pander to everyone. Careful: Make sure there's something in it to please and not offend the fire department, the Puerto Ricans, the mothers, the sons, the wives, the husbands, the Arab Americans, the Italian Americans, blah, blah, blah. All the more ironic in a movie that is supposedly about human courage, as a filmmaker Stone shows himself to be the biggest scaredy-cat coward on the block. I go to movies to learn things, to be taken beyond the cliché view of events and emotions, to be forced to see things and think about them in new ways. In World Trade Center, Oliver Stone shows he is as stupid as Karl Rove or Donald Rumsfeld.


hi ray,

good to hear from you. i got both e-mails. you know, i am now very motivated to bring these matters up. i think i was otherwise lethargic about this. i am glad that you are a constant reminder of the very sad and terrible things that happen to art based on money, ego, and insecurity. and with the time you invested into researching and promoting john's work, it's high-time that others be as adamant about knowing the truth.

besides, they are good questions and worth probing for anyone interested in the movies and cassavetes.

i'll let you know how the screening goes on saturday. i doubt i'll be getting any direct nuggets of truth, but even their lies and their efforts to showboat in front of a crowd will be telling and (in its own way) a form of truth-telling...however unintentional it may be.

btw...any good work to look out for? i was curious if you saw drawing restraint 9, since i know you were a fan of the "cremaster" series.

take care, ray. thanks again.

- david.


Ray Carney replies:

Haven't seen the the Matthew Barney film, since it hasn't made it to Boston as far as I know, but NYC friends say it is great. Keep up the good fight. It's always worth it.


Subject: Question about the prints used for the Love Streams and Minnie & Moskowitz DVDs Allow Subject


I received a copy French 2-DVD set of A Child Is Waiting and Love Streams yesterday, and while the presentation of A Child Is Waiting looked very good, I wanted to ask you about the print used to make the Love Streams DVD. Specifically, I was wondering about the dream sequence at the pool near the end of the film. There are one or two spots where the screen goes black for a second or so (yet the soundtrack is still present...this happens once right at the beginning of the sequence, when Seymour Cassel enters, and once when Gena Rowlands offers the "popcorn" to Seymour), as well as the sudden appearance of the daughter in the frame at one point (it is difficult to describe, since I have only seen the film once so far). Is this how the film was originally edited, or is this a technical flaw with the transfer? I've noticed missing frames here and there in Cassavetes' other films, but this is quite a bit more jarring.

Also, while I realize (thanks to your site) that there is an entire scene chopped from the Minnie & Moskowitz DVD, there's something else that strikes me as odd. After the initial burst of credits, we settle into the film for about ten minutes or so, only to have the credits re-appear after Seymour Cassel meets Irish. Is this the way that the credits originally appeared? It seems bizarre to me that Cassavetes would intentionally disrupt the film like that.

I realize that you are a busy man, but if you have the time, I would really appreciate your answers. Also, good luck to you with the battle over Shadows. History has a difficult enough time surviving without man's desire to destroy it.

While I'm thinking about it...Regarding your tidbit about Orson Welles fans balking at the prospect of a re-mixed soundtrack for Citizen Kane [I'm sure I just killed any credibility that I might have had by mentioning Orson Welles in an e-mail to you...though I'm inclined to ask you if you have ever watched a decent print of Chimes At Midnight, which is far better than Kane]...well, something worse than that has already happened, thanks to Beatrice Welles-Smith. Back in 1992, a copy of Orson Welles' film adaptation of Othello was found in a warehouse in Jersey, and BS (excuse the pun) decided to invest over $1 million in a "restoration". Though the print wasn't completely worthless, there were better prints in existence [Criterion issued a LaserDisc in the mid-90s using the Library Of Congress print], yet they didn't try to locate any of them. They decided that the original, post-synched soundtrack was mostly worthless, so they hired somebody to transcribe the score by ear [I'm not sure how much you know on this subject, but let me just say that transcribing an orchestral score by ear is an imperfect prospect, to say the least], without even bothering to track down a copy of the original manuscript [which still existed], re-recording the foley effects in stereo [mono is a no-no, you know], and made speed adjustments to the dialogue in an attempt to "correct" the synchronization problems [while deleting a few pieces of dialogue for whatever reason while leaving the film you get to see actors speaking without actually hearing them]. Of course, since this "restored" version has been produced, all subsequent releases [aside from the Criterion LD] have been based on this "restoration"...

If you do have time, I'd like to know what exactly you mean when you say that Ruban re-mixed the soundtracks for Woman and Bookie...was he at least using the same elements? How exactly does it differ from the original soundtrack? (also, what is the missing seven-minute portion from Woman)

Thanks in advance,

Kevin Loy

Ray Carney replies:


One of my new books, an intellectual biography of John Cassavetes: John Cassavetes--A Life Lived in Art, will have detailed answers to all of your questions and thousands of others I am often asked. So this will have to be the Reader's Digest Condensed Edition:

1. The Love Streams effects you describe are in the film. They add to the "dream" aspect of the scene, so that's good news, but ..... (there's always a but) most film prints and video transfers have small changes and elisions (missing sections) in the scene precisely because the video transfer folks use the same logic that you do and try to "correct" the print! (Shades of Beatrice Welles.) I will have a complete description of the differences between JC's original release print and all subsequent video transfers in my book, second my second, shot by shot.

2. Credits to M and M are correct as they stand. JC moved material around after the credits had been inserted and never had the credit sequence re-done. He ended up thinking it was "funny" the way it was. And it is. A series of credits more delayed than a James Bond movie.

3. Your description of Beatrice Welles's butchering of Citizen Kane and the video company collaboration with her butchery by releasing it is important for everyone to contemplate. That is exactly what Gena is doing or trying to do with John's work and is the reason I am refusing to go along with her on it and "blowing the whistle" about it. The Beatrice Welles story is proof that this sort of thing can take place and almost no one object or notice. That is why I have to fight for the integrity of John's work in every way I can: with lawyers, with appeals on my web site, with appeals to film archives and video releasers. But the Welles story shows how, even with artists like Cassavetes and Welles, "money talks." The rich and powerful almost always get their way and principled appeals by people like me are ignored. In the case of JC: UCLA collaborated with Gena in cutting Husbands. (Click here to hear the audio of twelve minutes that were cut at the end of the singing scene and the beginning of the men's room scene in Husbands.) Criterion collaborated with her in releasing the prints she wanted. And not one American film magazine has stood up for my attempt to preserve the first version of Shadows from destruction. It's a lonely fight, but all the more important since if I don't do it, who will? It is shocking to me that when Gena Rowlands makes public appearances, no one cares enough about Cassavetes films to ask her about any of this stuff. It says a lot about our insane, movie-star suck-up culture that I am apparently the only "nut" to object to the mutilations of these works of art when it comes to Cassavetes. Others have tried to raise questions about the Welles re-edit and the other ways she has prevented scholars from having access to Welles's work, but when it comes to Cassavetes, no one else seems to give a damn. No one but this fool. Your Life is a Movie cover

By the way, the New Yorker had an interesting piece sometime in the spring of 2006 about the way one of James Joyce's heirs has prevented scholars from working on his material or writing about it, so I guess you could say that this goes on in other arts as well. But at least when it happens with James Joyce, the New Yorker takes notice. To the best of my knowledge, no magazine or newspaper has written about the Cassavetes situation.

4. About the Ruban re-edit of Woman: It was not from the same elements. He made a new edit.

5. About the other films' cuts and versions, you'll have to read my book when it is out. I have extensive detailed descriptions of thousands of pages and hundreds of hours of unknown Cassavetes material: the play versions of Faces and Woman Under the Influence, the Husbands novel, screenplay drafts of Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night and Love Streams that are significantly different from the released films, sections of other people's films he re-wrote, previously unknown works he wrote and directed, and too much more to list.

All best wishes,


A note from Ray Carney: A new book Your Life is a Movie has an approximately 100 page interview with me about the state of film study in our universities and the state of film reviewing in our newspapers and magazines. It is available at the following Amazon link. Click here.


Subject: A Woman Under the Influence-35mm

Dear Prof. Carney,

We traded notes back in the late '90s when I was publishing my little 'zine Cinecism. Since then, I have been actively involved in film programming and lecturing here in the D.C. area. I am currently consulting with a non-profit organization that is planning to host a film series, and they have expressed interest in A Woman Under the Influence . Do you offhand happen to know what distributor is handling 35mm print rentals of that title these days?

I was very sorry and quite appalled to hear about the shabby way you were treated over the whole Shadows situation. I am glad you held your ground and am confident that you will have an opportunity to screen the original version without fears of intimidation from the filmmakers' estate.

In any event, I hope this note finds you well, and I appreciate any information you can share on Influence.

With every good wish,

Kindest regards,

Max Alvarez Washington, DC

Ray Carney replies:

Max, Good to hear from you after so long! I LOVED your "Cinecism" publication. Good stuff. To rent any of the following five films by JC: Shadows,Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, Killing of a Chinese Bookie, or Opening Night--contact Castle Hill Films in New York City. I don't have their address or number handy, but I am sure they are either on the internet or in the phone book, area code 212. Make sure you inspect the print you rent before screening. I have dealt with them dozens, nay hundreds, of times over the past twenty years and when it comes to Cassavetes' work, they have sent me every form of incomplete or mutilated print: prints with missing or mislabeled reels, prints with bad sound, prints with bad color, prints for one film misplaced in the box for another, etc. etc. It's really a disgrace the way these films have been treated and are being distributed, but as I have said a thousand times, no one seems to care or notice. So be careful! But they are the ones to get those five prints from. Just for the record, good quality 35mm prints of Minnie and Moskowitz, Husbands, or Child Is Waiting are even harder to come by. And a 35mm print of Love Streams is virtually unavailable altogether. There was a new one struck early in 2006 for a few screenings in Canada and the US, but wouldn't you know, it was a re-edited version with a slightly different shot selection from the release version of the film. No one seems to be supervising these things. Stay well and stay "cine-cal"!!! Best wishes,

Ray Carney


Subject: Looking for Kramer's ICE

Dear Ray

I am teaching an American Indies: the first Wave course at NYU in fall -- and really want to show ICE by Robert Kramer. NYU will not pay for film copies or projection -- so am forced to show everything on DVD or video.

I cannot find any mention on the web of the film available in DVD or even on video -- and thought you would know.

Your essay on your website is terrific -- and I will use it for part of the Readings.

thanks in advance for any help with this.

wanda Bershen

Red Diaper PRoductions

Ray Carney replies:


Good to hear from you, but sorry bad news: Not only Ice but the monumental Milestones, surely one of the indisputable classics of indie film is not on tape or disk. Alas--most all of Robert's work is still not on video. I tried to port it over about a decade ago with a company called VideoActive that one of my students founded but the deal fell apart when Robt. wanted more money than the company was able pay.

Tell your chair to "ante up" for a film print. (I sometimes pay out of my own pocket when I rent things like this, but it's just too important not to do.) Tell him or her that, even at this late date in the video revolution, a lot of the best indie work falls into this category. How about Mozart in Love and Casual Relations? How about Lovestreams? How about Crazy Quilt and Funnyman? But I better stop since I could go on forever.

Thanx for the nice comment on the site. It drags in hundreds of emails a week, which is why you would do best to use this other email address in the future. The web site one is just overwhelming for me to keep up with and your messages will not be noticed.


P.S. Give me a report on whassup down at NYU. I've lost track of who's still there. And, by the way, if anyone is interested, I'd love to come down and show both versions of Shadows back to back to students, and talk about Cassavetes. It would be a real draw since the first version hasn't played in the city yet. You'd get a crowd for sure.

Subject: PhD help

Dear Professor Carney,

I am not sure that you will even read this or whether you are contactable on this address. My name is Anna Rogers and I am a current PhD student in film and philosophy at Edinburgh University. My thesis is on modern, independent, American film (Jarmusch, Van Sant and Coppola (Sofia))...I am not sure how you would feel about me labelling these diverse filmmkakers as 'independent'; it certainly seems to be a fluid term that is rather 'trendy' to use these days. Anyway, suffice to say, I love your writing which brought me to the great, great gift of John Cassavetes' work. In my quest to 'define' what the term 'independent' might mean these days (I am indebeted to your website which will be fully acknowledged) I am trying to see as many of the films you mention. Unfortunately, websites such as amazon are rather fruitless when it comes to trying to buy works by Clarke, May and Rappaport. I wondered if you knew of a good american site form which I might try to purchase these films?

Many thanks for everything,

Anna Rogers

Ray Carney replies:


Good to hear from you. Get the Edinburgh film fest. to invite me next year and we could meet!! (A friend of mine, Dena DeCola, is showing a short there right now and another friend, Paul Cronin, has shown his documentary work there in the past, but they've never asked me to sit on a panel or be present, so put in a good word for me. I'd love to show the first version of Shadows there.)

Re: the films you request: There are still many great indie films that are just not on American video. John Korty (you don't name) and Mark Rappaport (you do) are two of the best. Their work is just not available (though I show my own personal copies in class and Mark Rappaport has given me many things connected with his work).

I just remembered: I helped to issue about four or five of Rappaport's films on video about ten years ago. They almost bankrupted the company that issued them! They have long been out of print, but you might look for them on eBay in old videotape copies. The company was videoactive and the titles were Casual Relations, Local Color, Scenic Route, Chain Letters, and one or two more.

If you are in the US or I am in Edinburgh, I will let you see anything I have, including the first version of Shadows, but I don't know what else to suggest.

All best wishes and please stay in touch.


PS. Tell me more about your work or studies. I am interested. And definitely let me know if you are ever in the area.

My goodness!

This really is such an honour. I honestly never envisaged receiving a reply from you! I just watched Mikey and Nicky and was thinking about it in connection to the present moment and the metamorphosis of the body. My research is a melange of my own interests in European philosophy and my love of film. I am using Gilles Deleuze's two books on cinema as well as Sartre's Being and Nothingness, Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception and the the work on the ritual process by Victor Turner and Arnold Van Gennep as an approach to film. My working title is 'The Crisis-Image in modern, independent, American cinema'. Deleuze seems to dismiss much of American film in Cinema 2 and frankly, this upsets me (although he does talk at length anout Cassavetes and litlle bit about Clarke...I am sure you've read it). I decided to use his theory as an approach to films that I love and see what comes out of it. Basically, I am trying to show how moments of crisis can initially precipitate a sense of alienation but can also guide us back to the world through the body, perception and modes of choice as well as encouraging more open ways of thinking about film. I am trying to focus on 'liminal' figures in film, those characters who are between two states, between choices and don't have fully formed identities. It's all very much a work in progress and I constantly feel like it's not something I am ever going to finish, it will have to finish me (if that makes any sense). The Edinburgh film festival is rather curious this year. They have this season called 'They Might Be Giants' season which are lost gems of 70s American cinema that are hardly ever screened. I have seen Milos Forman's Taking Off and am going to see Arthur Penn's Night Moves next week. I was really surprised that there was no mention of Cassavetes or Clarke. Portrait of Jason was screened at the London film festival last year so I was kind of shocked that no one had spread the word further up north. I know that the curator is changing this year so next year may have an altogether different flavour. I would so love to see 'Shadows' on the big screen; in fact, any Cassavetes would be a treat as I have only seen them on DVD. One of my fellow PhD students is quite 'in' with the festival 'people', I could suggest to him about you coming over?

Sorry for rambling, I am so excited that you actually wrote back to me! Anna

Ray Carney replies:

RC replies:

Dear Anna,

Thanks for the good report. Sounds like an interesting project. I wish you well.

But be careful about the French approach to American film. It's ne sais quoi.... so French, I guess I could say. Not at all American.

The Shadows print I was referring to was the "lost" first version. I wasn't sure that I made that clear.

I could have given the fest. some lost masterworks of the indie movement that are really forgotten, not just the pretend forgotten titles you name. But they should have asked me.

Sure, tell your friend to mention my name to the current and the next curator. Can't hurt.



I know, the French approach can be a little obscure...i am trying to steer clear of as much jargon as possible!

I am going to contact the admin department of the filmhouse (the home of the festival) to see if I can get in touch with the programmer. I will let you know if I make some progress.

Is it the original improvised version of Shadows that you have?


Ray Carney replies:

Yes to your last question. Only one print ever existed. It was lost for the past fifty years. I found it in an attic. JC's real first film.


Mr. Carney;

It's a pleasure to be posting you. Please allow my introduction. I'm 26 and I make films here where I live in rural Missouri. I'm currently finishing my third, self-funded feature, entitled Sinner Come Home. It's a sort of fable story, with religious undertones, about a young marriage on the brink of collapse, set to the backdrop of a rural, weather-beaten town.

It was recently suggested to me by Jon Jost's former producer, Henry Rosenthal, that I should consider approaching you (and Jonathan Rosenbaum, if I can reach him) in regard to taking a look at my film. I'm well aware of your words on indie film and on Cassavetes in particular. I'm not sure just what you could do outside of letting me know what you think, but it'd be a pleasure to hear any such comments.

With final work on the sound mix drawing close, I hope to make some decent festivals with this film, but I haven't had much luck with exhibition in the past, and at this point, distribution seems a near impossibility. Several producer reps have seen the film, several even liking it (that was sort of surprising), but nobody will run with the film. As Ronna Wallace (producer of films including Reservoir Dogs, Bad Lieutenant, and Bob Roberts) told me just recently, "I liked your film, was never bored, but I can't do anything with a film like have no stars and it's black and white. I could send this to 150 distributiors around the world and none of them would touch it. But, good luck, I really liked it." Luck...I need more than that. I'm happy to let anyone willing take a look at this film that I feel "hits it." Although just exactly what "it" is, I'm not sure. Maybe just a ring of authenticity, but even still, I'm probably biased.

If you're obliged, I'd be most happy to provide a screener for your review.

May I hear from you?

Very truly yours,

Blake Eckard

Ray Carney replies:

Dear Blake,

If Ronna Wallace can't do anything, I doubt I can either. She's more powerful than I'll ever be. And of course I can't promise anything in advance (even liking the film, which puts her ahead of me on that count as well). But if you want to send me a copy, feel free. The address at the bottom of this email or on the web site is the best one.

Sorry to hear about your distribution woes. The most I can say to console you is first that you are not alone, and second you are in very good company. The best films of the past forty years have all had problems getting widespread distribution and some of them still haven't succeeded. Sad but true. That's the way America works: massive misallocations of funding, attention, and critical promotion. Sorry to hear about it one more time.



Subject: Vertigo: A Visual Romantic Poem.

Dear Professor Ray Carney,

I am a teacher of Mathematics living in Athens,Greece.I would like to say that I am an admirer of Hitchcock's Art and i consider Vertigo,not only, the Master's masterpiece,but a work of Art with strong connections to Romanticism on the one hand and to Pre-Raphaelities-Symbolist Painting on the other.Inspired from the subject of Professor Richard Allens' forthcoming study "Hitchcock's Romantic Irony",i would like to say that Vertigo is a visual poem full on Romantic Irony.Its a crush between Romantic Idealism and Skepticism.At once a celebration of the creation of a Romantic Ideal,of the beautiful illusion of timeless Beauty,that is Madeleine and an Ironic closing of the Gap,the Abyss between Subject and its Object of Desire.Ultimately the Destruction of Romantic Ideal.

A scene from Hitchcock's Vertigo that made a great impression on me, was that of the mirror image of Carlotta's jewel that gives Scottie the key to the mystery and of course that extrardinarily beautiful scene gives and "means" much more.I would like you to explain,if you like,the game profound game of representations that is being played in that scene.I think that it is one of those scenes that signal the culmination of Hitchcock's visual design in the film.The themes of life-death,the doubles,mirrrors-portraits,forward-tracking movement versus backward-tracking movement and the themes of the original and the replica.In other words Scottie recognizes not in looking directly to Madeleine,but looking to the mirror image of Judy tranformated as Madeleine for a second time.I first saw Vertigo as a student of Mathematics in 1990.And from that first time i had that question in my mind.I always knew that this moment of illumination and the starting point of the final moments of the film,was not a moment of chance.It had to do,of course,with the previous scene,the transformation and the return of both Madeleine and past time. The connection in the "mirror scene" of the both the reflection on the mirror(the double),the portrait and Madeleine suggests that we have again a scene in which time is in "stasis",in infinite present as you wrote of the previous scene in the hotel room.

Inspired from Richard Allen's essay on camera movement in Vertigo,i will suggest that there is another pair of camera movements,the combination of forward-tracking with backward-tracking in the scene at the art museum and its "mirror image" ,the mirror-recognition for Scottie scene after the transformation.The first created the beautiful illusion of Madeleine and her connection with Carlotta, and the second destroyed(for Scottie) the beautiful illusion of a ghost coming to life,of the Eternal Beauty,that is Madeleine.

I would like to have your profound thoughts on that subject. Are you preparing a book with a chapter on Vertigo? It would be great pleasure for me to read your thoughts!

Yours sincerely!

Minas Aziloglou.


Ray Carney replies:

Sorry. You're asking the wrong guy. I'm not big on crossword puzzles and rebuses and acrostics. As I said in a recent interview, the problem with the approach you and Richard Allen take is that you are so delighted with what you can do to and with Hitchcock that you never get to the more important question of what Hitchcock can do to you and for you (beyond giving you the sensation of having solved a puzzle or a math equation I mean.)

Note to my readers: To be fair to NYU Professor Richard Allen, I include a link to the piece about Vertigo written by him that I am referring to. In my view, it is symptomatic of so much that is wrong with film criticism in our colleges and universities, and so much that is wrong with our technocratic culture in general, where technological sophistication attempts to take the place of wisdom. Click here to read it.

What does any of what you (or Allen) have written about Hitchcock tell us about our lives? How does it help us to understand them differently? How does it help us to live them? What important new ways of feeling (the feeling of solving a puzzle is not an important one) does Hitchcock give us? How does he reveal important truths about life that we have forgotten or neglected?

Eternal Beauty, Dopplegangers, Mirror Images, Forward tracking movements contrasted with backward tracking movements, Originals and Replicas, the Stasis of Time--what are these but ideas, abstractions, theories. Ideas have nothing to do with the complexity and sprawl of life. Nothing. Theories clean up and straighten out life's "strange, irregular rhythms." Abstractions are releases from life's mess and duration. That's what is wrong with both Hitchcock's films and the essays about them. They take us away from life. Like Hichcock's camera, they glide ABOVE life, never touching it, never sullying themselves with contact with life. That's why Hitchcock's work is a lot like a math equation. I'm not surprised that a mathematician would love his work. All that brilliant ingenuity arrayed in the service of a set of formal procedures and manipulations. He makes films that are a lot like math equations (or chess games). But I don't go to mathematics or chess to understand life. They are not arts. Like math and chess, Hitchcock's films are displays of intellectual cleverness and ingenuity and elicit immense answering efforts of cleverness and ingenuity on the part of the viewer (or a critic like Allen). Another word for cleverness and ingenuity is entertainment. In other words, Hitchcock is an entertainer. I see that he gives a great deal of intellectual entertainment to you and to Allen. But art does more than that.

I leave aside the cynicism, the cold-heartedness, the brutality, the self-satisfied smugness, the narcissism, the life-denying formal chilliness of Hitchcock's cleverness. That would take me too far. And I am sure I have lost you (and Allen) several paragraphs before this point, in any case.

For life,


P.S. Please do not take the above as a personal attack. I am not attacking you; I am attacking Hitchcock (and, equally, the "cult of Hitchcock"--in critics and viewers). I think it has done irreparable damage to film studies, to the history of film (what films are made), and to our culture. I cannot remain silent about that damage, that distortion of values, that perversion of our humanity. But if you disagree (and I am sure you do), the way to respond is to write your essay (and for Richard Allen to write his essays and chapters) and show me and anyone who agrees with me where I am wrong. How has Hitchcock inspired us, educated us, shown us new and wonderful possibilities of life? How has he raised us up to become better, more perceptive, more aware people? How has he enlightened us and encouraged us to improve our lives and our world? If you and Richard Allen show me that I will retract my words and bow down in awe, wonder, and humility before his work. But don't show me complexity for the sake of complexity, and cleverness for the sake of cleverness, and cinematic wit and jokes as ends in themselves. Those things are hateful. They are no different from the atomic bomb builder's delight in the intricacy of his achievement or the politician's satisfaction with his own verbal cleverness at avoiding the issues. Those things are what are destroying our culture and eroding human relationships. Those things are forms of mental illness--of letting our minds take the place of our hearts. And, make no mistake about it: our culture and our emotions in these United States are in big trouble. We are heading toward a very nasty fall. My point is that my revulsion from Hitchcock (and the cult of Hitchcock--which includes all those essays about and tickets bought to see the works of Tarantino and the Coen Brothers and so many similar others in contemporary cinema) is fueled by the recognition that these phenomena are contributing to the problems we will face.

Advanced Seminar: Vertigo
H72.0700 Seminar 4 Credits
Instructor: Richard Allen

This seminar will provide the opportunity for advanced undergraduates to study an individual film in great depth. Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) is widely perceived as one of the greatest achievements in the history of film. It has had an enormous influence on the work of other film-makers as well as being the subject of countless critical articles. The seminar will approach Vertigo in several ways: By examining the cultural origins of Vertigo as a work in the romantic idiom through study of the work of romantic poets such as John Keats, Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and writings of the fin de siecle such as Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray; by examining the film in relationship to Hitchcock's oeuvre as whole, but with particular attention to Rebecca (1940) (and the influence of du Maurier), and Rear Window (1954); through close study of the forms and structures of the text, including its transformation of the source novel by Boileau and Narcejac, D'Entre les Morts; and by examining the influence of Vertigo on films ranging from Jordan's The Crying Game and De Palma's Body Double, to Lynch's Blue Velvet. Course requirements will be a group project of close film analysis and a final, longer research paper.


A follow-up note from Ray Carney:

I try to be fair. Therefore I want to include an email I received from the previous writer after he read my reply. After the above posting was on my site a few weeks, he wrote me the following response to what I had written. There is really too much to say on this subject--and it is too important--for an email correspondence--or a series of brief web site postings--to deal with it in any depth. All I will say in conclusion is that I completely stand by my previous comments. I wish Minas and Richard Allen and I and all of the rest of the Hitchcock fan club had a chance to debate this subject at length. As much as ever, I truly believe that Hitchcock's work is trivial and unimportant in the final analysis. He is just not good enough. Even more than that, even more importantly, I believe that the "cult of Hitchcock"--those dozens of books and hundreds of essays about his films and those tens of thousands of filmgoers who adore his work reveal something deeply flawed in our emotional and intellectual culture, something symptomatic of much larger cultural problems, problems that play themselves out in realms far beyond the realm of film.

I print the writer's response to my criticisms of Hitchcock's work at full length and unedited below. I will not reply to his response. I will give him the final word.


Dear Ray,

I am sorry not to check at your site for your reply.First i want to thank you for spending your time to read and respond to my message.I must admit that the over-enthusiastic tone of my feelings about Vertigo ,may in fact provoked your rather polemical reaction.I know that it wasn't a personal attack,but it was a radical expression of your (highly respected for me) thoughts on Vertigo and Hitchcock.

I must confess that i am a great admirer of Vertigo and Hitchcock's Art since 1990.Then at the age of 20 and while i was a student of Mathematics at the University,i attended a screening of Vertigo at a "summer" theater in Athens.Believe me ,it was, for me, a life-changing experience.Since then i have seen some 40 of the Master's Films and of course some of them many times.But it was also the starting point for me to become a cinephile,an open-minded film lover and to reach and explore many other prominent film artists.It happened in 1993 to see and buy a book on Hitchcock written by David Sterritt and i noticed for the first time your name.The title belonged to the Cambridge Film Classics Series and you were Series General Editor at the time.As a result when in the following i found your books on Capra and Cassavettes(a Great Film Artist with Greek roots), i managed to read large parts from these at a library.As far as i can make an opinion,these books were original and profound explorations of their subject matter.I noticed ,at this time ,that in order to propose an alternative film canon of rather neglected Film Artists,you sestematically used the work of Welles,Hitchcock and other darlings of the critical Establishment in comparison,often accusing film critics and scholars abiut the current status of Film Studies.So i sent you the message,as to see how you respond to Hitchcock and Vertigo at this moment.I must confess that i didn't expect such a polemical reaction.

My high respect for you as a significant and radical, with strong opinion and arguments, Film Scholar has not changed.Indeed i like your fighting attitude towards what you dislike and i think that your thesis is not a negative one,because you propose as an alternative another system,another canon on Cinema,of what is important and develops humanity through the Arts.I tend to agree with you with everything you say about Tarantino and the Coens. Alos for example Psycho's huge popularity gave birth to many slasher and trash movies.De Palma's Art (or mannerism) is ,at its most parts , a boring "exhibition" of camera movements and full of misanthropy.But the Master's Art did NOT have only those "bad" imitators.Hitchcock's Romantic Poem,Vertigo also inspired some of the most significant films around the world.For example Chris Marker's 'Sans Soleil" from 1983 was hugely influenced from Hitchcock's Masterpiece and it alluded directly to Vertigo and its most profoundly mysterious and poetic scene,the celebrated scene at the Sequoias, the giant Redwood trees.

"Somewhere in here I was born. And there I died. It was only a moment for you, you took no notice."

Those few words accompanied with Hitchcock's visuals and Herrmann's haunting music express,for me,the most profound Philosophical Truth ever depicted(and in SUCH POETIC form) on the Screen. I will put into words,sometime in the future(soon,i hope) my feelings on Vertigo and send a message to your Email.For now,i have to say that my previous message and Richard Allen's were formal and structural analysis for a few particular scenes and not the rich thematic analysis that this film requires.To be fair,Allen's is only a very small snippet of his forthcoming two-volume study of Hitchcock's Art,which would be published by Columbia University Press.The first book will be published next year under the title "Hitchcock's Romantic Irony:Story Telling, Sexuality and Style".Richard is a brilliant Film Scholar and i am sure he will give us a profound and original study of the Master's Art.

Finally i would like to say that, in my opinion, Hitchcock did NOT create either Art or Entertainment.Indeed he is one of the very,very few in the History of the Cinema,who managed to achieve both Art and Entertainment.All i am proposing is that his main aim was NOT to create Art and ,equally, Entertainment.I totally BELIEVE that he, SIMPLY wanted to create CINEMA.He PERFECTLY ACHIEVED to CREATE FILMS that combinedhigh quality Entertainment with the greatest DEPTHS of HIGH ART.In other words he never created Art Films,but ,instead,he created GREAT CINEMATIC ART.He was,after all,not only the Master of Suspense ,but one of the two or three SUPREME MASTERS OF THE CINEMA.

And Vertigo is NOT an intellectual puzzle and mystery.Hitchcock solves the plot's mystery right after the middle of the film.Vertigo's Mysteries are infinitely more PROFOUND and PHILOSOPHICAL than puzzle solving and win in a chess play.Vertigo goes very deep in its exploration of the human condition,indeed it goes to dizzying Depths so as to underlie that Scottie's fear is NOT ,actually,one of heights,but a fear of depths (as the esteemed Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Zizek proposes), with all the vertiginously profound consequences.

I will return to Vertigo in a forthcoming message.Also i do have a plan to read and study deeper your excellent studies on Cassavettes and Capra.

Al the Best!

Minas Aziloglou



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