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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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A note from Ray Carney: I have been asked by a major film archive and exhibition venue to make recommendations for a festival of American independent films that "flew under the radar" in the past year or 18 months. The focus will be on films that did not receive major press coverage, did not get widespread distribution, did not win a lot of awards at festivals, or have not yet moved into the distribution cycle; however, a few better-known or higher-profile titles might also be included if they truly deserve attention. (Translation: Little Miss Sunshine and its ilk need not apply; but Crispin Glover's It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE or his earlier What is it? might be the kind of thing I would be interested in showing.)

The festival would take place in the week of July 4th (in line with the "declarations of independence" theme). I only have a few weeks before I have to submit my list of recommendations. I invite readers to send me suggestions. What are the best, somewhat-off-the-beaten-path works, the best low budget films that the media hasn't already flogged to death in the last year and a half? Send the names of directors, titles, and (if possible) contact information so that I can try to obtain tapes or disks to:

Subject: The definition of cool

Good Afternoon Prof. Carney,

I trust all is well with you. I know you are very busy. Since that first visit to your website, I find that the books and movies I loved all along I love now even more, and the ones I was always doubtful of, I know why now. That is the definition of cool to me; freedom to feel as I feel without apologizing for it. It takes great courage to speak your heart and soul, which I admire and appreciate. This is not a business for sissies, that's for sure. Or maybe it is. I suppose with the right angle anything is marketable.

Anyway, would you be so kind to allow me to add a link to your website to my website? This would be a tremendous honor for me, and a blessing to those who visit my site. I realize you already receive so very many letters, yet, you receive those letters due to the uniqueness of your voice, which I feel is so much needed right now in our world.  Please check the links I've added and then decide if you wish to be added too. I am compiling links I feel will benefit people the most, considering the space I have. Certainly hundreds if not thousands are out there also with so much beauty, grace, gift to offer, but I don't have enough room. I trust that each person will be led as I am where they need to go. Many good things have happened since I talked with you last. One thing I know for sure and have always known and will always hold to is that there is much, much good in this world. I seem to run across a whole lot of it, and for that never ever can I be grateful enough. Please visit my site, for I am donating 100% of my net profits made on March 22 to The Little Red Door Cancer Agency, a non profit United Way Organization devoted to helping many, many people through the trials of cancer. They helped my mom and me greatly.

Blessing be yours. Have a wonderful weekend. 

Susan G. Cline

author/editor: Dance of the Rising Sun
The Legend of Night Wolf
Path to Sierra

RC replies:

Dear Susan,

I know your site and think highly of you and of your work. You call us all to better, truer selves. I would be honored to be included in your postings. Thank you.

And may we meet in person some day!

--Ray Carney

A note from Ray Carney:

They say that every divorce and remarriage represents the triumph of hope over experience. In a similar fashion, optimism about the launch of a new film magazine in America represents a "hope springs eternal" view of film journalism. So many film magazines have let us down. So many have sold their souls to Hollywood values. So many have tried to stoke up their circulations by featuring interviews with and feature stories about the stupid, the rich, and the famous. (I am alluding to American movie stars, of course.) So many have gone belly-up and bankrupt.

But once more into the fray. Up again, old heart. Fare onward, voyager, going forth for the millionth time in the hope that some journal will actually forge in the smithy of its soul the uncreated conscience of our race, that some journal will actually remain true to the mission and art of film.

In that spirit, I include an excerpt from the text of press release I recently received concerning the launch of Cahiers du Cinéma in English under the editorship of Jean-Michel Frodon. I wish the new magazine success. --R.C.

"Cahiers du Cinéma" now available in English!

Cahiers du Cinéma will launch their own online version
in English on Friday March 9th, 2007

e-Cahiers du cinema avaliable online at

The "'e" stands for "electonic," as well as for "English.", the March 2007 will be the first to be published simultaneously in French on paper and, in its entirety, in English at

This issue will arrive on newsstands on March 7 and on line March 9. The double evolution of Les Cahiers (the paper magazine plus the magazine on line, the French magazine plus the English edition) comes in response to the two great movements of our times, toward digital distribution and toward the globalization of the media. The Internet version of the magazine will give us access to a new mode of distriution as well as a new approach to criticism, by opening up the possibilities of hypermedia. To publish in English, of course, is a way of reaching a large number of new readers, but we hope it will also be a way of making a different voice heard in the world–a way of proposing a fresh, rigorous and contemporary approach to the cinema and its place in present day culture.

A note from Ray Carney: My email account seems to be flooded with press releases this week. I received the following from Chester College. I don't know Bill Mosher, the Director of the program, and therefore can't personally recommend what he is doing, but I admire his mission statement. We all know that America is a drug culture -- not in the pharmaceutical sense, but in the society's addiction to sensation, stimulation, and spectacle (in the news, on television, and in movies), as a way of rendering the populace passive, uncritical, and disengaged from reality. We all know that America is a culture of deceit, hypocrisy, secrecy, and -- to put it most generally -- unreality. We all know that America is not really a democracy and that it cultivates states of ignorance and obliviousness in the people (where sports teams get a larger readership and viewership than a congressional hearing). We are all aware of these problems; but nobody does anything about them. University film programs, in fact, shape their courses of study to cater to the students' limitations rather than trying to lift them out of them. They show films by Alfred Hitchcock and the Coen brothers rather than ones by Andrei Tarkovsky and Abbas Kiarostami. They communicate the importance of technological skills rather than the virtues of moral and ethical expression. So I am in favor of anyone and any program that aims to effect "positive social change."

Only today (following a screening of Robert Kramer's Milestones), I had a wonderful discussion with one of my former students, Alex Lipschultz, who came back to my classroom to sit in on the screening, about when or whether the younger generation of filmmakers in America (Duplass, Bujalksi, Ross, et alia) will ever broaden their view of life to take in the social and imaginative systems that Kramer does in Milestones, Route One, and Starting Point, and that Cassavetes does in Faces, Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night. In other words, when they will discover that the problems of the world are not merely personal, but systemic? That's the diffference between Shadows and Faces. Shadows is a good movie, but Faces is an important one. When will they realize that they need to broaden and deepen their view of life to include the larger institutional and imaginative problems in our culture? When will the "group hug" and "coming of age" movie not be sufficient? When will its fundamental narcissism be detected? I don't know when that will be. I don't know if that will happen. But I hope, I dream that this New Hampshire program may help young people to see beyond the ends of their noses, to find ways to take in, and grapple with, the issues their culture presents them with that involve more than how to get along with their girlfriend, how to deal with their college roommate, or how to get beyond their loneliness. There are larger issues than those things. There is much more for film to deal with. I extend all best wishes to Chester College. May they fulfill the promise of their mission statement.

“It’s not just about making better media. It’s about making a better world.”

Master of Arts in Socially Responsible Media: Visionaries Institute International at Chester College of New England

Open House/Information Session:
Thursday, March 8
5:30 – 7pm
Wednesday, April 4
5:30 – 7pm

Chester College of New England
40 Chester Street
Chester, NH 03036

Learn more about a graduate program designed to teach a new legion of digital storytellers how to use media as an instrument of service and a tool to effect positive social change.

Talk with Bill Mosher, creator of the acclaimed Visionaries public television series, and meet your award-winning professors and filmmakers who have produced more than 140 nationally broadcast documentaries shot in more than 50 countries around the world.

For more information visit us online at

Subject: recent indies....

Hi Ray,

On your request for recent American indies (though you've probably thought of them all already)

---Frank V Ross' new film HOHOKAM is a must; I saw an early cut when he stayed with me in Ireland and thought it was even better than QUIETLY ON BY. Maybe QUIETLY ON BY is recent enough to be included also?

---One of the dozen or so features Rob Nilsson has made over the past few years surely deserve inclusion. I've only seen two so far, but was pretty impressed.

----David Ball's HONEY; flawed, but worthy of inclusion.

---Joe Swanberg's third feature, HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS, which is premiering at SXSW soon, sounds very interesting, and Frank says its very very good. (In fact, Joe or Frank would probably be good people to ask for suggestions, since it seems like every second one of their friends is an indie feature filmmaker.)

---Some other friends of mine, Jacques Thelamaque and Diane Gadry, have a feature they're self-distributing at the moment: THE DOGWALKER. Sounds strong, and they're previous short film, TRANSACTION, was very interesting indeed.

A few more I haven't seen yet but have heard good things about: Arin Crumley and Susan Buice's FOUR EYED MONSTERS (whatever about the film, they've been doing some groundbreaking things with their self-distribution efforts), and something called DANCE PARTY USA, I think by another friend of Frank's. Is OLD JOY too big for inclusion? Pity you're limited to the past 18 months.

I hadn't heard of those Crispin Glover films you mentioned, by the way---in fact, I didn't know he's directed. I must seek them out....



RC replies: Thanks, Donal! All great choices. And I'm not strictly limited to an 18 month period. That's just an ideal. Anything in the recent past or present will do. What matters most is quality and being ignored or slighted by the stupid, superficial, buzz-obsessed media--not the exact release or production date.--Ray //P.S. As a starting point for the Crispin Glover films, see:

Subject: Portrait of Jason

Hi, Ray.

I wanted to let you know about a serious problem with the new DVD of Shirley Clarke's PORTRAIT OF JASON.  I am using this for my class and I noticed that at least one significant scene has been deleted from the film.  There is a scene in which Jason stares at the camera for an extended period of time and then the film cuts to a black screen.  We then hear Jason in conversation with Carl Lee.  Jason pleads with Carl to smile at him and Carl dismisses him.  This exchange continues for a couple of minutes with a black screen until they cut to a shot of Jason in which Carl asks him if he has ever been in love.  On the Second Run DVD release, they cut from the shot of Jason staring silently at the camera to the shot of Jason talking about love.  This is a crucial omission since it is one of the few moments at which we get any insight about Jason's feelings for Carl.

I was able to catch this because I compared the new DVD release with the Mystic Fire VHS release which contains the more complete version of the film.  I also compared running times of each version.  The Second Run DVD is 99 minutes, the Mystic Fire VHS is 104 minutes.  So, there is probably more to find.  (I noticed several jump cuts in the DVD which are definitely not intentional.)  What is even more troubling is that the DVD is supposedly transferred from the "fully-restored film print prepared by the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art."  I am not quite sure what to do about this but I am going to do a more thorough investigation.  I thought you should know about this since I know you use this film regularly in your classes.

Take care.

(name withheld--an important film scholar and historian)

RC replies:

Subj: Art matters

Thanks, XXXXX, for the sleuthing and the information. In fact, I just showed Portrait of Jason in class three or four weeks ago. I used the Mystic Fire VHS (fortunately). I know that you are one of the world's experts on this film and on Clarke's work in general, so you are, no doubt, one of the few people who would be in a position even to notice these cuts. The same as I am with Cassavetes' work. Who even notices the cuts and changes in that case? -- Eleven minutes missing from the video of Husbands, four minutes missing from Minnie and Moskowitz, a remixed soundtrack at the end of Woman Under the Influence (including the Criterion video release), a remixed track on The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (including the Criterion release), a re-cut dream sequence on the brand new 35mm print of Love Streams that was newly struck less than a year ago (and a few other shot changes earlier in the film, just to add insult to injury).

The larger issue, of course, is who is looking out for these artists' interests? In the case of Cassavetes, clearly NOT Gena Rowlands and Al Ruban (the man Gena has put in charge of the distribution and restoration of his work). In the case of Shirley Clarke, clearly not anyone who manages her film estate (and as you imply, clearly no one at MoMA). Maybe some film magazine will do a story on this issue, but in the meantime they are all too busy running around trying to get interviews with Ben Affleck and Beyoncé and Jim Carrey. I wouldn't hold my breath till it appears.

Thanks again.

All best wishes,


A note from RC: The preceding note and letter covers the issue of films that are mutilated in video release. This note touches on an even more important matter: Films that are completely unavailable -- on film or video. This is the case with much of Mark Rappaport's best work (for details search for "Mark Rappaport" and "Paris" in the site search engine). Another instance just came to my attention. I was trying to obtain prints of Bruce Conner's work for screening in my Independent American Cinema course and was informed (by Canyon Cinema, by the Museum of Modern Art, and every other art film distributor I consulted) that Conner's work has been permanently withdrawn from circulation (on film or video). Not just one or two of his films, but all of them. That includes small gems like Vivian, White Rose, Looking for Mushrooms, Cosmic Ray, Permian Strata, Mongoloid, and Breakaway. That includes mini-masterpieces like A Movie, Take the 5:10 to Dreamland, Valse Triste, Marilyn Times 5, and Report. Bruce Conner is one of the most important artists of the past fifty years, and this is the greatest possible loss to film study and appreciation. But where are the articles about it? Where is the weeping, wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth? Nowhere, as far as I can tell.

The silence of American film scholars and critics, the indifference of the American media, is a sad commentary on the sad state of film appreciation and criticism in this country. Why hasn't The New York Times done a piece on this subject? It is equivalent to the complete paintings of Raphael Soyer or Edward Hopper disappearing from all museums and becoming unavailable. But who has even noticed? --R.C.

A note from Ray Carney: I had a conversation with the Senior Programmer of the Harvard Film Archive about the above situation, and he sent me the following graphic in response. I have to share it with my readers:

Dear Ray:

Rest easy.

Ted Barron
Senior Programmer
Harvard Film Archive

My response:

Dear Ted:

To quote Baby Mouse (or Thatcher Hurd): I love it, I love it, I do!!!

And, Ted, on a more serious note: Thank you for sharing this with me. I'm so glad to know it. I feel safer already. I could almost cry. After I get done laughing.


A note from Ray Carney: I subsequently learned that someone else was the source of the graphic--Elizabeth Coffey, Harvard's resident Preservationist/Conservationist--and I later wrote the following note to thank her. To make the file complete, close this case, and put this baby to bed, I include it:

Subject: gems, garages, and garbage


Just talked to Ted B. on the phone about the Bruce Conner graphic, which he passed on to me. I told him I almost peed my pants laughing at it, and thanked him for finding it. He then told me you deserved all the credit. (For the second fact, not the first, I mean.) So, thanks! I'm posting it on my web site. I'm a Conner groupie/junkie I guess you could say, and can't resist. The Devil makes me do it. (He's my inspiration for most of the rest of my life too.)

Anyway, Ted also told me about your interest in "junky movies" (my term, not his!) and now I HAVE TO MEET YOU. For years and years at BU, I taught a course called "garage movies" (which my students re-named "garbage movies"), and had no idea anyone else in the area, heck in the world, had similar interests. Life is beautiful. Pretty photography only makes it ugly. Puts us in our coffins, prematurely, before the undertaker gets his paws on us a second time.

Thanks again for the afternoon chuckle!



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© Text Copyright 2007 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.