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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.
here for best printing of text
To read the story of Ray
Carney's discovery of a new first film by John Cassavetes (the long-lost
and believed destroyed Shadows I ), and about Carney's
struggle to save the film from destruction or suppression, click
here. To read about Gena Rowlands's attempt to confiscate the
film and retaliate against Professor Carney for not suppressing it,
here and here.
Hello, Professor Carney:
I wrote to you once before, and received a kind response, and wouldn't
bother you again if I didn't feel compelled to by having just read the
story of the first version of SHADOWS on your web-page.
First, I should say that it
is one of the most compelling pieces of writing I've read about a personal
quest, suspenseful and funny and with
a (largely) happy ending. If only more people put such writing out on
the Internet! You're right about how Jamesian the obsession must have
gotten. I remember the scene in "The Figure in the Carpet" where
the narrator briefly considers marrying the woman who might have the
secret, and then pulling himself together says something like "Down
that road madness lies." I'm only glad you didn't need to compromise
yourself in such a way!
I am obviously horrified that the re-release of this early version of
SHADOWS is being suppressed, as I am at the suppression of other definitive
or alternate versions of Cassavetes' films. To this day I've deliberately
avoided trying to hunt down the video of Love Streams, as I hope to see
it first in a complete form. As you say, the treatment of these films
has to do with the status of film, particularly in North America, as
a mere entertainment which doesn't warrant the close consideration of
other art forms. Something close to criminal prosecution would take place
if ANYONE suggested throwing out Matisse sketches for a painting, simply
because the sketches didn't properly represent his final vision. I recently
read The Ivory Tower, complete with James' working notes, and all I can
say is thank heavens we have this document, for the art contained in
the fragment, and the insights into his artistic process.
The fact of an artist not necessarily being certain about where revision
of a work should end is hardly new, and is something any sophisticated
audience should be able to deal with. Few 19th century orchestral composers
are more highly lauded than Bruckner, and in many cases he left an original
version as well as a revised version. Somewhere in the liner notes it's
usually stated which version the conductor is using. No one has suggested
a definitive answer to the problem and no one has suggested one set of
manuscripts should be disposed of because they misrepresent his best
intentions. Bruckner Symphonies haven't suffered for it.
As a Bostonian and literary
enthusiast I'm sure you're aware of the recent publication of Robert
Lowell's Collected Poems, edited by Frank
Bidart. One of the reasons it took 25 years to collect this work is the
fact that so many of Lowell's poems exist in a number of versions, and
often each version has it's own virtues. When asked about the problems
of having two versions of a poem in different publications Lowell answered: "But
both versions exist." How simple. Similar problems exist with W.
H. Auden and we've dealt with that too.
Having read many of your books
on Cassavetes, it would seem that this is the kind of situation we're
dealing with. The films of John Cassavetes
don't have smooth edges; they don't make final statements, they don't
have the answers, they aren't "perfected". He knew that life
didn't have those qualities. He didn't "know" exactly what
he was doing. That's part of the reason he was such a great artist.
All this is perhaps overstating
the case. The advent of the DVD has made it possible to see "The Directors Cut" of
any Hollywood schlock, at little extra expense to the distributors.
In most cases we
get self-indulgent additions to a commercial product that hardly needs
to exist in the first place. Why then is it such a problem with Cassavetes
where almost any strip of celluloid he left is going to contain some
This brings me to the main point of my E-mail, regarding Rowland's attitude
to alternate versions. The fact of estates exerting control or repression
over works of art is hardly new. What's alarming is her wish to have
these versions destroyed!
Perhaps I'm missing some information. I'm reminded that when Alban Berg
died, having not quite completed the opera Lulu (now a good candidate
for greatest operas of the 20th century) Helene Berg forbid any use of
the third act, saying that it existed in an uncompleted piano score with
large gaps, and that any use of it would harm the reputation of the composer.
When she died in the 70s the manuscript was found to be nearly complete
even in terms of orchestration, and with substantial notes on the gaps
in orchestration, leaving little guesswork for a competent arranger with
a good idea of Berg's musical vocabulary. It seems a good deal of the
opera was inspired by a relationship with a woman Berg was close to for
years. Helene's bitterness at her lack of involvement in his life at
that point was the real motive for sabotaging the opera.
It's obviously none of my business, but for the sake of the films I
wonder if there's extra-aesthetic agenda in terms of Ms. Rowland's attitude
to your work and the integrity of Cassavetes' work in general. Most of
what I know about Cassavetes derives from your books, so you probably
have as much of an answer as anyone. That's neither here nor there though.
In the case of Gena Rowlands the problem is compounded by the fact that
I consider her an important actress and an important player in many of
his films. In a very pragmatic sense, his work wouldn't be what it is
I should say, as a sideline, that your book Cassavetes on Cassavetes , is a model of what artist biographies can be. It doesn't whitewash
the man, nor is it muckraking. It makes him a large, vibrant, flawed
and complex person and most importantly, takes us into the films. It
tells, if not THE truth (an impossibility for any biographer), then A
truth. In an age when I've almost stopped reading biographies of artists,
which so often come across as a revenge of the small person against a
giant, your book aspires to Boswell's Life of Johnston, my gold standard
My questions are, how can I help save these films, and better yet, bring
them to more people? I'm more than happy to write to Ms. Rowlands, in
whatever manner you think would be most effective. To mention you or
not mention you, whichever you feel would be most likely to get results.
I don't particularly want to come across as picking a side in a battle
between yourself and Ms. Rowlands. The side I'm on is the preservation
of the films in all their variants. Is there a way of banding together
with other Cassavetes enthusiasts? I regard Cassavetes to be an American
artist ranking with Henry James or William Faulkner. I think he's the
only North American filmmaker so far who ranks with giants of world cinema
like Dreyer, Renoir, Ozu, Tarkovsky. And Cassavetes' world is very much
the world I've grown up in and to some extent live in. It has helped
me see myself and the particular discontents of my society, sometimes
painfully, sometimes joyously, always profoundly. Is this the argument
I should make to Ms. Rowlands, who's contribution, I'll repeat, I have
a high regard for? I suspect not, but since I don't know what motivates
her, you might be able to guide me here.
I closing I'd like to say that whatever happens, the work you've done
for contemporary art is incalculable. In an age when humanities professors
increasingly insist on being the gravediggers of culture, you've tenaciously
worked at bringing appreciation of difficult works to anyone who cares
to make the effort. Keep up the good work.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Dear Mr. Carney,
I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jordan Ivanov. I am 34 and
live in Toronto, Ontario. I am a great fan (appreciator) of John Cassavetes'
work. Despite the fact that I was very young (in some cases I wasn't
even born) when John Cassavetes made some of his first films, I am greatly
thankful to John for his mind opening work and to you for your long standing
commitment to documenting his life and directorial career.
Like most people, I had always heard of John Cassavetes (the actor) but
never anything about John Cassavetes the director, and I can't tell you
what a shame that has been for myself, and God only knows how many people.
Until I saw the documentary, "John Cassavetes: To Risk Everything
to Express it All", back in 1996, that was my first introduction
to a great man and artist, my life changed. I then discovered two of
your excellent books "The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism,
Modernism and the Movies" and "American Dreaming" which
have become my "bibles" of John Cassavetes. And now your website.
I have been a regular visitor to your site for some time now and I can't
tell you how important your books and site about John Cassavetes are.
I didn't want this to be a typical fan mail type of letter, going on
and on about how great you are and what you are doing (even though it
is..). I have been wanting to write to you for some time now, but I was
never able to find an email address on your site, until now. As your
site is so rich with information, I must have overlooked your email.
Anyway, what I want to tell you is that I have always known that I have
been different from most people, in terms of how I see the world. I have
never been one to go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing.
I never saw the point in that, if I didn't believe in what was going
on. There is a lot of hardship when you don't do what everyone else is
doing, a loneliness and a feeling of low self worth. I have always believed
in doing the right thing, speaking the truth and being truthful to myself
and to others as best as I can. Like John, I hate phoniness and anything
that isn't genuine. As you quoted what John said about himself, he said
that he was the least phoney person in the world (I would like to think
that I am in the top ten).
What I am trying to say is that I really feel that I can relate to John
in terms of having a vision and believing in it so much, that it becomes
a part of you, if not all of you. I have always been a technical person
by trade, but spend a great deal of my time reading and thinking and
observing the world and people. Trying to make sense of it at the best
of times. Photography has been the only kind of medium that I feel I
can express myself with. I have been experimenting in Photography for
years now, trying to devleop a skill at capturing life. Those everyday,
seemingly insignificant moments that most people would overlook. I believe
in the drama of everyday life, living the day to day existence and I
have such a desire to capture it and show it in new, fresh ways. John
Cassavetes and your books about him have been such an inspiration to
me. They have given me hope in that there are people out there that can
see what is wrong with the world, i.e. The Hollywood system, mainstream
films and the public's gravitation towards them, and can speak out against
them. I really can't think of another voice out there other than yours
that is taking a stand and fighting to bring truth to people's eyes.
Hollywood and the studio system are really not unlike things such as
politics in the workplace, shallow friendships, materialism, and other
everyday challenges that make life into its own soap opera. Like John
and yourself, I have been speaking out against these things that kill
our souls and our individualism. I have learned from you that life and
art can intersect. How art can make life more interesting and abundant.
How it can bring beauty and hope into this trying existence. However,
I have also learned how much it hurts when people can't see what you
see. When they can't see the freshness and beauty of a different perspective,
and when they gravitate towards the familiar, the run of the mill, the
media controlled and conditioned way of life and looking at things. It's
really sad to think how many of us have been brainwashed to the point
of hating anything new, original and untried.
One more thing I wanted to mention was the subject of the DVD releases
of some John Cassavetes films, and the struggles you went through on
your own time, money and effort to do them the respect they deserve,
as you mentioned in the excerpt "Caring For Art, Caring About Art".
First, it is appalling that companies such as Pioneer and Anchor Bay
have no appreciation for great art, not to mention the more than generous
offer of your time and effort to do their jobs for them, in releasing
worthy re-masters of his films with expected liner notes and other extras,
that are standard for even the most terrible that Hollywood has to offer.
Mr. Carney, you certainly deserve a medal for your efforts and these
companies should hang their heads in shame as they are not worthy of
being associated with you or John Cassavetes.
My hope is that one day, the light bulb will go on in everyone's heads,
they will wake up and see what a great treasure awaits them. Until that
day comes, we have your books and your website to remind everyone what
the definition of art really is.
Once again, thank you for your commitment to art, truth and to John Cassavetes.
Keep fighting the good fight.
Thank you for the reply and your words of wisdom. It was a great treat
read them. What you say is very wise and rings true. It's very hard not
let the world's values get to you, especially when you are bombarded
at every waking moment. But I know we have to take it one day at at time.
I actually havn't read Cassavetes on Cassavetes, but I look forward
so. I have been essentially taking bites out of each of your books, some
sections I like to read again and again as I will watch one of the films,
and go back to the book to pick up anything that I may have overlooked.
Again, I enjoy your books and website very much.
I can't imagine why you would get hate mail as I think you are doing
everyone a great service. I also will read your letter on the site. I
anxious to see who else is as great as John Cassavetes.
Thank you again Mr. Carney for your thoughts and time.
I was very excited to hear that Criterion was releasing a box set, and
eagerly looking forward to your contributions! After all, how could you
NOT be a
part of this? Impossible!
Then I read the details on your website. I could go on about your influence
me as an artist, about Cassavetes' influence on me as an artist, and
my anger at
the shabby treatment you are receiving from the Cassavetes' estate, but
Instead, here is a copy of the letter I sent to the arts editors of the
Times, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Weekly, Boston Phoenix, Chicago
Village Voice, and Austin Statesmen:
Today, the Criterion DVD company posted the first details for a John
DVD Box Set to go on sale in September. John Cassavetes is considered
to be one
of the pioneers of the American independent film movement. This box set
several interviews with cast members, producers, and scholars. However,
one glaring omission.
Ray Carney is a professor
of Film Studies at Boston University's College of
Communication. He is unquestionably the foremost scholar of John Cassavetes'
films. He has written several well-received books about the man and his
including: The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism, and the
(Faber & Faber), Cassavetes on Cassavetes (Faber & Faber), Shadows
Classics), and American Dreaming: The Films of John Cassavetes and the
Experience (Berkeley: University Of California Press). His articles have
published in Film Comment, Post-Script, and The Kenyon Review. He has
festivals of Cassavetes' work for the French-American Film Workshop in
and the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris. There are too many festivals,
and lectures to list here; his dedication is total and tireless.
Sadly, he has been completely and deliberately shut out from any further
participation in Criterion's plans for the box set, even though he has
an advisor to Criterion on the project. He had even recorded audio commentary
and written material for the booklets to be included in the set. Why
was he left
out? Why is he being verbally and legally threatened by the caretakers
His side of the story is available here:
The other side of the story belongs to Criterion, and the caretakers
Cassavetes estate, Gena Rowlands and Al Ruban.The whole story is worth
Will this change anything?
I don't know. Am I naive to think it can? Perhaps.
You've taken these lumps with dignity and decent, rueful sense of
humor. All the same, I'm only too happy to take up the sword on your
behalf. Not that you need
me to, or that you'd want me too, but because frankly, Mr. Carney,
I am gonna try to make this quick:
I purchased your "Why Art Matters" nearly
ago and still read it from time to time. It really has
helped me and kept me sane. THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
I am writing to for two reasons.
One: I would like to send you a copy of my film "As an Act of
know you are inundated with videos from filmmakers all
over the country (if not the world) but you are one
man that I must finally send a copy to. I have been
trying to re-work the sound mix and final cut but
haven't been able to get the money to dip back into
the editing studio. The film did well on the
independent festival circuit - mainly the "Black" festivals - because the more "mainstream" festivals
didn't know what to make of my film since it deals
with racism and is a very theatrical, stylized, angry
movie. Or so they tell me. Some interesting reviews,
some interesting responses. Its frustrating cause no
one really understands the film. Part of that is my
failure as an artist and part of that is the ignorance
and weakness of audiences and critics.
Anyway, Ray, I am curious
if you would be able to suggest some filmmakers whose work I could
screen at the NY Subterranean Film Festival. It is a
small, humble, "underground" (and I mean seriously
underground) screening series/festival for Artists run
by Artists. I am FED up with the sterility of the
so-called "indie" fests particularly in NYC and had to
do something in response. So I've been reaching out to
other independents in hopes that they share my
sentiments and have something personal and "radical" that they would like share and show to an audience.
Let me know your thoughts.
Please give me your mailing address so I can send you some info on
(slated for January 2005).
Okay. Sorry - brevity is not
one of my greater qualities. You are a busy man, I am a poor artist
neither one of us has time to be rambling on an
Thank You Ray!
Dennis Leroy Moore
Hello, Mr. Carney!
My name is Warren Etheredge. I am the Curator of the 1 Reel Film
Festival (at Bumbershoot) -- the nation's best-attended celebration of
short cinema, attracting 25,000+ movie-lovers to Seattle every Labor
I am also the Founder of TheWarrenReport (www.thewarrenreport.com), a
film arts organization driven by the principle: Smarter audiences make
better movies! TheWarrenReport stages year-round screenings, seminars,
screenplay readings and classes throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Like any good movie-lover, I am fascinated by your efforts to bring
SHADOWS to light. Your dedication to tracking the "first version" and
your battles with Mr. Cassavetes' estate are inspiring. (Of course, the
legal wrangling is depressing as well.)
That said, I wonder if we might collaborate to arrange a "classroom
screening" in Seattle. I propose a "secret" presentation of SHADOWS as
part of TheWarrenReport's Distinguishing Features series at The Seattle
Art Museum. This monthly showcase -- identifying North America's finest
films and filmmakers -- is only open to members of TheWarrenReport who
are admitted for FREE. (This guarantees the 300-seat house is almost
always sold out.) We could even set up a "tip jar" in the back for the
SHADOWS defense fund, if you like. Naturally, I'd invite you to Seattle
to screen the film and provide context in a post-show q&a. (We'd fly
you out, put you up and fete you at an incluse reception afterwards!)
If you are the least bit intrigued by this venture, let me know and
I'll supply further details to woo you.
Regardless of the outcome, let me thank you on behalf of all cineastes
for you unwavering commitment to film art, film history.
Hope all is swell,
PO Box 31741
Seattle WA 98103
I will keep this brief:
Thank you for your written works and scholarly devotion to independent cinema and Cassevetes in particular. You benifit all of us who love cinema and were not financially blessed to be able to attend film school. You perspectives and knowlege have contributed to my personal education. Thank you.
I was elated when I read in the Spring 2004 issue of Filmmaker that you have tracked down the Shadows print, and were in talks with Criterion. I was (pissed) when I looked into the Criterion web site and there was no mention of your commentarty, and then learned on your web site that you had run into the legal roadblock with Rowlands.
I would just like to echo what other people have told you: the best thing that you could possibly do (if indeed your end-goal is public/ cinephile access to the lost Cassevetes work) is to leak the first version into the grey market . You have plausible deniability: you had the print transferred at an independent transfer house/ lab (i.e. there is no way that anyone could prove that someone didn't daisy-chain a second recorder and make a dupe that you were never even aware of....)
Also, not that you haven't checked into this, but I wonder on what grounds Rowlands believes she is the rightful owner of this print: IF THERE IS ONLY ONE PRINT IN EXISTENCE, if hasn't been in circulation, and no one (including JC) was sure it still existed (Rowlands can't possibly claim to own something that she denies exists and had no knowledge of the existence of...), YOU ARE THE RIGHTFUL OWNER. Cassevetes claims to have donated it. Unless the can come up with positive documentation as to WHERE and WHOM it was donated to (thus arguing that you recieved illegally), the print belongs to you.
Stick to your guns. LEAK THE FILM .
Get it out there and they will never be able to make it dissapear. And for gods sake, don't ever give it to them if they have stated they intend to destroy it... that's horrible.
I know you said that you don't want money, but I would make one last suggestion: you should try to get dontations of volunteers, filmstock and lab-time to have the print properly cleaned and a dupe-print struck. And do it quietly...
Dear Professor Carney,
I recently read your two part interview in Moviemaker magazine conducted by Shelley Friedman and was completely blown away. Your insight is beyond inspiring; it is convicting. For once, I read/heard words which articulate the overwhelming feelings of disappoinment I have felt towards films-at-large.
I am an aspiring filmmaker and in desperate need of more meaningful approaches to film. Are you planning to speak in or near LA anytime soon? Is it possible for one to attend your classes for no credit? Also,which one of your books best articulates your perspective on film in general? Basically, I would like to learn more about your insight regarding film in general. Thank you.
Christopher J. Boghosian
I've been a nervous wreck since reading the BREAKING NEWS.
I've been crying on and off FUCK Gena Rowlands.
My wife says she wishes I
never read it. But SHE read it first and then handed
it to me with the caveat, "Maybe you shouldn't read this."
Ray, you send copies of the lost films to me at *** and we will put
them in our safe. No one will know of it except you and I and ***.
After Rowlands is dead, you'll know where another safe copy
is, just in case she somehow manages to get your copies away from you
remainder of her sad, sad lifetime.
I can never watch OPENING NIGHT or WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE again and
same way. They are changed forever.
If there is ANYTHING we can do for you down here? arrange a
you up for a visit, whatever, you let us know.
I am behind you ALL THE WAY.
She can't live forever.
And here's the one question I must ask regarding this matter: Where
is NICK in
all of this? Wouldn't the films pass down to HIM upon Gena's death? Would
be more reasonable? What are your thoughts on this?
My name's Matt, I wrote to you a while ago regarding Cassavetes scripts.
This is my new e-mail address.
I decided to proceed with
my hunt, but hearing your cautionary words about Miss Rowlands's general
wishes, I did so very privately, with just
me, a computer and a credit card, and I now have the old published copies
of FACES and MINNIE & MOSKOWITZ, which is very cool. I also got my
paws on something else; an original 3rd draft of SHE'S DELOVELY, yellowing
pages and all, with revisions marked March 1988, revisions you can see
You wrote in CASS on CASS
that the final lines of the script were written in the 5th November
1987 draft "...spit and shit and honey..." and
I'm positive you already have these 1988 revisions (they may be spelling
corrections! I'm just trying to ingratiate myself by way of being useful).
Reading the scripts has been another illumination of the work and the
thinking behind it; whether I'm on or off the track in my own perceptions
of the world beyond the page is neither here nor there as it's helping
me find MY secrets in what I imagine are HIS.
JC was so generous in the writing, so fearless about being considered
'good' or 'bad', almost as if there are whole lines and actions which
he knew the actors would challenge, or argue, or refuse, further pushing
it forward. The repeating of words, phrases, ideas, breaking all those
stupifying RULES (one fool tried to tell me that I shouldn't have more
than one character who's name started witth a particular letter -- I
didn't go back to him).
Seeing how fat he wrote characters, in FACES, Freddy(ie) and Forst (two
F's I just realised -- ha!!), whole sections of them that they presumably
acted but never appear in the cut, surely carrying it with them though
into the scenes that do. The fact that Morgan Morgan hardly speaks in
the screenplay (maybe because JC knew it was going to be Tim Carey?).
That's been wonderful, making the struggle seem doable again.
Harmony is right about your book. It is the best companion to modern
day film making we have, particularly in a world aggressively adhering
to formulas that have failed. It's important to have the ghosts whispering
in your ears; sometimes it feels like it's the only strength we have.
In Australia, with several of our click flavours of the month, all that's
happening locally are a bunch of films trying to be either road movie's
with hearts, or violent, oppressive tails of addiction or abuse. In short,
we have the same mogols, just mini versions, trying desperately to be
the new Mexico. The biggest excitement we get is when Warner Bros brings
out a B+ superhero movie to the shores (and I'm not being a snob, I've
acted in many of these, paying a lot of bills). But STEALTH, a pro America,
Nuke em til they Puke, scary technology to destroy the 'evil doers' fiasco
that came here last year, that was it for a lot of us. Too much. We tend
to veer in Australia between quirky and sombre, and something's GOTTA
My film's now finished and I'm taking it to the States later in the
year for screenings, if we're in Boston, I'll send you an invite (no
One Question: You mention "collections" of
screenplays with introductions by JC. Do you happen to know who published
these? The year?
If you're strapped for time and can't respond I understand.
I'm one more who accidentally discovered your work...
I thought I was utterly alone
in not buying into Taranteenie, Lynched, and the Cohens. It was all
utterly un-human garbage to me, and NO ONE
agrees, except I found this brilliant academic who was willing to
describe the emperor's wardrobe in it's non-existent reality.
Just wanted to affirm, encourage
and acknowledge you in every way possible. Thank you. I'm working in
the industry (not in Hollywood) on
the creative side, always pushing for more humanity, reality, etc.
within the boundaries that are there. Determined to start directing
soon. Got in really because of Capra- because he was willing to inject
some humanity and a little reality into the factory. Because he could
move me and make me think and entertain me too. Yeah, i know how unhip,
populist and "cornball" his stuff is... so I lay low.
THE SEVENTH SEAL is the neighborhood where I hope to arrive one day.
There must be thousands of
us who have been profoundly impacted by your words. Your message hit
something inside me, something I couldn't
articulate but knew intuitively. Be sure that you are making a
difference, planting seeds- They will germinate and bring forth fruit
You are so brave and honest,
and I think that has as much effect as the
content of what you are saying. I do work with some Hollywood people.
stayed away from LA because the disease is so virulent, so pervasive.To life, reality, humanity, and hope. To substance over form. To both
Thanks, and please keep going always.
No reply necessary,
I was a student of yours back in 1990 or 1991. I have to admit that some
of the films you showed us had me scratching my head, yawning, shocked,
and otherwise bewildered. No doubt, that was the effect you intended.
So, I was paging through Entertainment Weekly (yes, your favorite scholarly
publication) and came upon a DVD review of the Cassavetes Boxed set.
It mentioned extras, and I thought "Wonder if Ray was a part of
this." Your love of Cassavetes bordered on scary (although I have
to admit that I never would have seen the great Minnie and Moskowitz
without you). I went to Criterion's website. No mention.Odd, I thought.
So I decided to Google the boxed set. Here I found your explanation
of the full story. All I can say is.... How odd.
While I certainly can understand Gena Rowlands' desire to keep potentially
unsavory items of her personal life private, I cannot understand how
she can simply ignore the existance of alternate versions of her husband's
works. Surely in a world where we have 70 different versions of Star
Wars, she can afford to acknowledge her husband may have done more than
one version of his films.
What saddens me most is that
this seems to be a personal attack on a man who has done more to carry
on her husband's legacy than anyone else.
How many people would never have seen a Cassavetes film if they hadn't
been in one of your classes or lectures? If she refuses to acknowledge
he made another version, what in the hell grounds is she using to ask
for the copy back? Maybe you should call it Ray Carney's Dark Shapes
Caused By Blockage of Light from Hitting a Flat Surface" and release
it as your own.
Can I suggest that for some fun, you call Gena back and let her know
that you've been searching long and hard for the rumored lost versions
of the Notebook and John Q and that you finally were able to get your
copies from a woman who found them taped to the back of pull chain
toilets somewhere in New York.
Good luck in your fight.
Oh, one more question. Was Big Trouble REALLY directed by Cassavetes?
Rob Mattheu (COM' 93)
Well, I got the Criterion boxed set. It's such a travesty your input
wasn't included (or the alternate version of Shadows, for that matter),
but I guess the films are the most important thing, being made widely
available to the public and so on. Do you have access to any of the
recordings you did for Criterion? I'd buy a CD and listen to it while
I watched the DVDs or something. I guess there's always your written
material to use as a guide. They can't take that away.
It's sad how I've almost
completed my term here at SF State and I've learned nothing about film.
I saw not one significant work of cinematic
art in three and a half years in the program--with one exception. One
of the professors showed Meantime and the students snickered and whispered
throughout the entire thing. Then the professor apologized about the
length of the film after the screening, since he could see the students
were getting restless! The student next to me muttered under his breath, "You're
not kidding, that was fucking brutal." I'm thinking to myself, "These
are kids who are focusing their academic life--and presumably their
careers--on film; something that they don't even take seriously unless
it's entertaining them!" They might as well major in sports broadcasting
or something. Or "Recreation and Leisure" which is an actual
major here. I keep waiting for seminars on Cassavetes, or Leigh, or
Dreyer, or Tarkovsky, or Ozu (oh yeah, that's one other quality film
I actually saw in my academic career here--Tokyo Story, although the
screening of that didn't go over any better), or somebody worthwhile.
You know what the director's seminars are this semester? Hitchcock
(of course; he has one every year), Scorsese (another big favorite
at SF State), and JAMES BOND (no joke).
Whoops, I started this out to commiserate on the exclusion of your Criterion
work from the boxed set and it ended up as a tirade. I won't waste
your time any further. Hope everything works out with all that stuff,
and have a good year. Keep up the fight!
Subject: Completely Gutted about Criterion decision
When I found out about your not being included in the box set it made
very upset, but then when I read on your site the reasons why...
I'm a filmmaker here
in Brooklyn so I see the PR machinations that determine damn near everything
in the medium. It's pretty disheartening.
like your work are often the motivating factors that remind me of why
invested in continuing my fight. Magazine culture be damned.
I'm seriously disgusted with
Criterion about this. I know someone who works
there and I'm going to send them loads of anger mail. Sick.Grave injustice
when you think about waiting for the day all of this will be rectified.
Well, just wanted you to know of yet another one of many inspired
work and thoughts. Thanks.
You're right about that documentary. Pretty awful. (Click
here to see
the page on the site devoted to Charles Kiselyak's Constant Forge.)
I just got a notification from SFSU's International Film Society that
they will be showing a hot new British horror-comedy called "Shaun
of the Dead" for their film of the week. Last week was "Troy." Good
to know that my $10 student organizations fee is being well spent.
A few writers I've been reading lots of: Emily Dickinson, William Faulkner
(I just finished Sound and the Fury for a class, but I read it three
times in a row; it blew me away every time), and Wright Morris (I'm rereading
Fire Sermon). I really really wish I could write like them. They are
people who I think of when I remember Marilynne Robinson's description
of "geniuses scheming to astonish us."
Good luck dealing with Norma. I mean Gena. She must be ready for her
Subject: Your commentaries as audio files?
Whilst I have never seen a Cassavetes film, I have ordered the DVD set.
I am disappointed to hear the difficulties with the set that you went
through, I only found out about that after I ordered your set, but must
admit I was surprised I didn't read your name associated with the extra
features. So whilst this set isn't going to be perfect with regards to
the extra features, at least it sounds like the films themselves will
be presented in good quality. My only other option is to watch the films
for the first time on worn out VHS tapes.
Anyway, I write to simply ask you if it is possible to get copies of
the audio commentaries you did for the DVD from Criterion, then simply
put them on your webpage as low (AM radio like) quality audio files?
It would be great to hear what you have to say, even if it isn't on the
Or is this not possible considering that Criterion now own the rights
to the commentaries, even though they aren't going to be used?
When I was fired in May, I asked Criterion if, as a simple act of
consideration for the hundreds of hours of work I had put into the set,
kindly give me a copy of the audio commentary I had recorded. They
refused. Another test of Peter Becker's character. Money trumps human
To read the story of Ray
Carney's discovery of a new first film by John Cassavetes (the long-lost
and believed destroyed Shadows I ), and about Carney's struggle
to save the film from destruction or suppression, click
here. To read about Gena Rowlands's attempt to confiscate the
film and retaliate against Professor Carney for not suppressing it, click
here and here.
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