Introduction and Page 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 / 32 / 33 / 34 / 35 / 36 / 37 / 38 / 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 / 43 / 44 / 45 / 46 / 47 / 48 / 49 / 50 / 51 / 52 / 53 / 54 / 55 / 56 / 57 / 58 / 59 / 60 / 61 / 62 / 63 / 64 / 65 / 66 / 67 / 68 / 69 / 70 / 71 / 72 / 73 / 74 / 75 / 76 / 77 / 78 / 79 / 80 / 81 / 82 / 83 / 84 / 85 / 86 / 87 / 88 / 89 / 90 / 91 / 92 / 93 / 94 / 95 / 96 / 97 / 98 / 99 / 100 / 101 / 102 / 103 / 104 / 105 / 106 / 107 / 108 / 109 / 110 / 111 / 112 / 113 / 114 / 115 / 116 / 117 / 118 / 119 / 120 / 121 / 122

76 < Page 77 < 78

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.

Click here for best printing of text


A note from Ray Carney: Jon Jost rendezvoused with David Kang in Seoul, Korea as noted on the previous page of the Mailbag (page 76, accessible via the blue menu at the top and bottom of this page). Jon mentioned that he was cruising the site and noted the U.S.C. film stories at the top of that same Mailbag page. He said he wanted to add his own U.S.C. story. It says a lot about the state of film study in the U.S., about the values of American universities, and about how genuine artists and genuine works of art are treated in our culture -- as distinguished from how popular, commercial works are treated. Consider the response if a screening of The Matrix or a Coen brothers film had been announced and the projection had gone the same way. Not only would the crowd have been standing-room-only, but the response to the equipment problems would have been entirely different. You can take that to the bank.

I recommend Jon's anecdote to my readers as food for thought about the place of art in our culture. Jon also kindly attached the text of a lecture he gave at Yonsei University in Seoul. The lecture text follows his letter to me. --R.C.


Was just looking at your web site, and noted the item about USC, etc. for which I have a little tale to add (bitter/ironic?).  Also thanks for the contact with David Kang who took me around the other day, and maybe we'll rendezvous today - he says he'll be coming for evening screening so trust I will see him then in any event.  Nice guy and if, as appears most likely, we do indeed land the job here, he'll be a very helpful friend and quickie entre into some things Seoul.

Anyway on my US trip to Denver and LA, I did a screening at USC (not the first), thanks to David James who has the most thankless job in the film world, teaching avant garde cinema history etc. there.  He has regular screenings which he tells me are, diplomatically speaking, thinly attended.

I was showing HOMECOMING, at his request, forewarned that the audience would be small - no surprise to me. The screening was in the GEORGE LUCAS building screening room.  I had written ahead that my tape is PAL, and I would bring a SONY - DSR 11 deck just in case they didn't have a machine that could handle it.  Arrived a touch early to make sure we could deal with the tech stuff.  They did have a SONY deck, forget the number, which I suspect was switchable to PAL from NTSC, but they didn't know.  So I said OK, let's hook up mine - this requires about 30 seconds to put the audio and video RCA connector plugs in, taking them from their machine to mine.  While access to the back of their machine was a bit cramped and dicey, it was possible.  However the guy dealing with it said he couldn't do it without getting permission from higher up, so he inquired and was informed that NO WIRING COULD BE CHANGED, PERIOD.  So there I sat with the deck, a simple 30 second job to do, and they said NO NO NO.  David had a DVD I'd sent him, one which played fine on my computer and deck, as well as his, so I relented and said, OK use the DVD.  Their player went through their fancy-ass interface (which cost a zillion and invariably do one thing: fuck everything up; naturally they are unable to go directly from the player to the projector, which usually solves such crap).  Anyway I went to introduce to the 5 or 6 people there (on a campus of 30 thou or so, the biggest film school in the country with I dunno how many students allegedly studying film), lamenting the necessity to show the DVD.  And they started.  Within 30 seconds the thing seized up, great digital slabs of dropout, sound chattering in broken bits, a few seconds of this, and the continued for a bit, and again.  And again.  I knew it would continue like this and begged to plug in my deck but NO, so I left for a walk. When I came back about 10 minutes before the end the DVD was still chugging away, a few seconds or ten before a great break and finally it stopped altogether.  To my utter amazement about 4 people were still there, evidently hard-core masochists.  They certainly didn't see my movie.  I kind of blew a fuse, saying it was amazing how such a high-techie outfit as the GEORGE F**K'N LUCAS SCHOOL OF CINEMA was unable to do such a simple thing as properly show a DVD, or connect 3 wires to another machine.  It is a kind of utter cultural corruption.  Just as are David James' grim audience figures.  This can all be summarized this way:


* * *

I will cut 'n' paste the talk I gave yesterday to the students here at Yonsei, many of whom I was told are in some form or another studying advertising and such. Feel free to post on your website if you want.


* * *


by Jon Jost

I'm told that perhaps one third of you here are studying film - either from a critical viewpoint, or with an aim to production, to making film and video yourselves.

The rest of you are in communications in some form or another, for the most part aimed at commercial usage - advertising, educational, corporate - or in studies regarding the usage of communications, including audio-visual, for business or governmental purposes.

So you may find what I am going to do this evening a bit out of step, as my interests are primarily artistic, though in my view this is directly relevant to social and cultural realities and problems, and is then a "moral" matter.

I have titled this presentation somewhat deliberately, as "Counter-Currents", which is to say what I am going to try to do this evening is to present a kind of challenge, an opposition, to many of the things you perhaps anticipate, or are learning in your studies.

I will be showing a handful of works - mostly of my own, but also a few short works by an acquaintance and friend, Leighton Pierce.  These works are for the most part slow, meditative, and calming.  You might find them or call them boring, or you might not.   We will look at one now, a short silent work, in the hopes that it might help shift you towards the state of mind I'd like to direct you to.   Then we'll resume our talk.


Here in Seoul, an urban conglomeration of some 20 million persons, we are in a setting that exemplifies contemporary human society from Europe to America and many areas of Asia, as well as Australia, and urban areas of South America and Africa.  There remain, here and there, large pockets of the world in which the characteristics we find here remain distant - in Africa, the central parts of India, and some of the more remote rural areas to be found remaining in the world - even in the United States.   Though even in the most remote areas we now find cellular telephones, the internet, and other elements of the globalized technological culture which pervades all the local subset cultures, usually called "nations" which remain the basic structural elements of global human society: Korea is different from China or Japan, or France or Russia or Peru.  Just as each of those are different from each other.

But, whatever the differences, there remain strong commonalities aside from the most basic ones of our shared humanity:   whatever little physiological differences, we all have a certain form we call "human."   We have what appears to be an underlying shared psychological structure - we all laugh and cry in much the same manner for mostly the same reasons.

But, in our contemporary society there are new things we all share which are tied closely to the dramatic transformation of human culture which has occurred in the last 150 years, and most strikingly in only the last 50 years, or even less.   In this time dominantly rural agrarian societies have been uprooted, and replaced by vast urban technological societies such as we find in Seoul.  The transformation has been so rapid, that naturally the relatively stable orders of the past have been profoundly disturbed, and often almost completely destroyed.  What has replaced it is a new kind of culture which has been constructed so rapidly, and is so complex, that we cannot really comprehend it at all.  Rather we are swept up into it, as if caught up the turbulence of an immense storm.   For most of you here, you were in effect born into this storm, and to you it seems a natural order, and probably you do not question it.  Consciousness of the recent past which has been overturned is for you mostly confined to museums, to visits perhaps to areas not yet fully enveloped where things seem "quaint."   It is "history."   Most likely this recent past seems to you almost ancient, and in many ways, irrelevant.   It is likely the wisdoms of the past seem no longer valid - and indeed perhaps many of them are so.

What characterizes this vast technological society?  On the surface we might cite its highly complex infrastructure, an infrastructure so dense and inter-related that almost no one can really understand it, even as it applies to the most basic facets of our individual lives:  do you really comprehend what happens, for example, when you turn on a light switch?  Or sit down to eat a meal?  Or take a shower?   Most of us, if asked this, could not really answer and fully explain exactly how and what it takes to bring you the light in this room, or the water you bath in, or how your food is made, not to mention how the computer you play games on and do research with is made and works.   Such is the technological complexity of our culture that we are inherently alienated from comprehending its functioning and in turn, being lost in the world, we are alienated from ourselves.

Once, in past societies, these desires for understanding our world were in effect answered by direct contact:  once you would have known how your food was made because you would have directly made it or been so close as to see how it was made; you would have gone to the river or pond or well to draw your water.  In turn your life would have been directed to the patterns and cadences of these processes.  And those things which were not self-evident, would have been answered by shamans, by priests, who would have provided answers (however scientifically false) which would have satisfied psychologically the desire to know and understand.   But what, today, has replaced this?

Following the victory of human mechanical prowess since the Industrial Revolution and subsequently the urbanization and envelopment of human society in a spectacular and dense fabric of technological structures, the "answers" of the past have largely been swept away.  They have been replaced though not by real new answers, but rather by a compartmentalization in each of our lives:  each of us has become a specialist, as the technological apparatus in which we live, and upon which we depend for our lives, demands it of us.  We may know in great detail about some sliver, some small small part of the world we live in - we may know how atoms behave in a particular substance, and how to make it respond in some utilitarian manner; we may know how certain aspects of an economic system behave, or how to take a substance like oil and turn it into energy or into a plastic bag.  But most of us, outside of our specialized realm of knowledge, know and understand little else.   Thus, in a sense, we become our own victims, though usually we are unaware of this.   Instead - and in some senses this is clearly a deliberate process, done at the behest of some venal advantage for one party or another - we are diverted, distracted, and through this we evade confronting our own ignorance and the fears and insecurities attached to that ignorance.

And now, for a break, I'd like to show another short film, again with the hopes of guiding you to an openness that will let you see better what I am trying to speak of here.


So far, I have seemed to speak mostly in the abstract - about a vast complex technological social and political infrastructure which has engulfed humanity, about our natural and understandable alienation from the very world we have brought into being.  I'd like now to place this in more tangible terms, ones I think apply to you and your studies.

In current day media, whether it is the cinema, or television, or on the internet, or on vast electronic billboards, it is an axiom of the business that one should, mirroring the frenetic society in which we live, make images move quickly, one cut after another, or forms morphing and dissolving in an avalanche of visual stimuli, and likewise sound pounds out, driven by a hard beat, percussive explosions driving one ever faster and forward.  We need only look around us, almost anywhere, to see this quality.

The argument for this is that in the fast-paced world we live in, this aesthetic or tactic is necessary for various reasons.  It is necessary in order to grab the viewer's attention in light of the aural and visual assault of the world: if you do not you will be swept aside by the tumult of the world and its jangle of imagery.   It is necessary because it is said no one has the time anymore to spend to actually look at something for a minute, there are only seconds, or parts of seconds.   It is necessary it is said because people no longer have the patience, the attention span is measured in seconds - this is said especially of young people.

Similarly in films we see an exponential rise of visualized violence, each year becoming more excessive, more gory, more so-called "realistic" - and the same logic is used, that in order to grab the attention, in order to compete, one must up the scale of this to secure an audience.

And the same is replicated in video-games.  Or, in the sad instance I as an American must point to, in the grotesque violence of war, which culturally is increasingly perceived as a kind of video game, though the deaths and manglings of bodies are no longer digital, but real.

Each of these explanations seems seductive, almost reasonable and logical:  yes, if one is going to say something in a vast crowd of shouting and screaming people, then it seems only correct that one must scream louder, to be heard above the crowd.

That these logics are inherently circular and self-reproducing should be transparent.   The faster things move, the more the demand to move quicker; the faster things are made to go the more 'the attention span' shrinks; the more blood spills, the louder cry for more visceral violence escalates.   It is a ladder to hell.

But it serves certain interests as a vast distraction, a diversion of our attention from things of importance to trivia.

And having led us to this, I would like to take a short respite and show a work by Leighton Pierce, an American filmmaker living in Iowa, and in my view making some of the best and most beautiful work in these days.  This one is called Water Rising to Its Own Level, and while its imagery is rich I think it shows a completely other way in which to use media, with in turn completely other aims and intentions.   Curiously his technical means are not really far from the slickest of advertising and such, but the end result and the aesthetic are utterly different.

[Show film]

What, then I would like to ask, underlies the aesthetics of our frantic world?  Why is it that we have evolved to this?

In a talk such as this one must necessarily simplify to a great degree.  To answer my question would take a far deeper glance into history than can be done here, so kindly forgive me this radical compression.  It is akin to taking a Cinemascope film and compressing it to view on a cell phone.

In my view the underlying logic for our present rapid-fire aesthetics is the victory of the theory of The Market Economy and its capitalist insistence that

(a) it is necessary that economies always "grow" and "expand" (as you have seen here in Korea very clearly) and that

(b) somehow, in a manner almost mystical, the Market can answer all questions, including those of ethics, morals, and so on.  I.e., the Market can and does tell you how to live.

You might ask, "Well, just how can you say that?  What does the market economy have to do with, say, to take an already aging case, Quentin Tarentino?"

The answer I would give is this:  in these days, almost all media, and in the case of mass media it is absolute, exists solely for the function of making money, which in the Market Economy way of seeing things, is the only realand good reason for anything to exist.  In its view, Money = Virtue, and it doesn't much matter how that money is made - whether by adjusting the balance sheet into profit by dumping toxic materials into the land or oceanscape, or engineering endless wars so you can manufacture and sell weapons, or making violent anti-social films such as Tarentino's and many others, just so long as it runs up big box office (thankfully Mr Tarentino's recent work failed to do so).   In the Market Economy version of things, the most important and valid thing a person can do is get rich, just as it is the most important thing a culture or nation can do.  If in process one despoils the land, or destroys a culture, that is just the hard luck "collateral damage" of the ascent into a Market Economy heaven.

With such a base it is perfectly logical that the real function of the media is not to inform, or provide useful information, but rather to herd the populace into their work so they can secure money so they can go shopping, thus adding to the "growth" of their economy, and making some rich, while they also "get rich" by acquiring more material things.  The media perfectly demonstrates this, be it films or television or radio or the print media:  in all these cases the only real purpose is to sell and show advertising to prompt the viewer to buy things.  The programs, and their aesthetics are all carefully calculated and screened to have this function, and anything which does not fulfill this role is banished.

And so I think you should understand how the philosophical underpinnings of the Market Economy indeed does bend everything before its will as it were, including aesthetics.

Which is why you will never see on television a work such as this one by Leighton Pierce.


So this evening what I have tried to do is raise some questions and doubts about the ideology, for that is what it is, of The Market Economy, an ideology which has for the most part taken root on a global scale, and which is largely unquestioned, despite both its profound internal contradictions (for instance many of its most aggressive supporters in fact come from industries which are heavily subsidized by their government  -  for instance arms manufacturers and agri-biz corporations in the USA), and despite the clearly visible damage it inflicts upon the cultures, people and lands and seas of the world.   To think that an economic system can reply to questions moral and ethical questions would seem to be the height of folly, but those who support this will insist that it can do so: what they really do in doing so is attempt to brush those questions away and ignore them, to our great cost both physically in the world, and also spiritually.   I have attempted just a little to suggest how this impacts the media, film, video and related areas, the areas you are busy studying.   I hope in doing so I have prompted you to think a bit about this, and that you will for yourselves explore more deeply this matter.

Before showing one last work, a meditative one of some 23 minutes, I'd like to ask if there are questions - maybe firstly about what I have tried to speak about here - about the content of my talk; and then if you wish about the works I have shown.

A note from Ray Carney: Tying in with Jon Jost's observations above and other statements about the effects of America's culture of consumerism on art and  education (for earlier discussions, see Mailbag pages 74 and 75, and the associated links in the note at the top of page 74, reachable by clicking on the blue page number menus at the top and bottom of each Mailbag page), here are three other observations:

This is from Donal Foreman via J P Carpio:

In consumer societies such as ours, consumption activity is the primary means by which we create an identity and sustain a sense of self. If, in order to solve climate change, we are asked to change the way we consume, then we are being asked to change who we are-to experience a sort of death. So desperately do we cling to manufactured selves that perhaps we fear relinquishing them more than we fear the consequences of climate change. -- Clive Hamilton, 'Comment', The Monthly, June 2007

And this is by Don DeLillo, in an interview, about why terrorists now have the kind of cultural power that artists once had, but have now relinquished. (Change "writer" to "filmmaker" and the meaning is the same.)

In a repressive society, a writer can be deeply influential, but in a society that's filled with glut and repetition and endless consumption, the act of terror may be the only meaningful act.... People who are powerless make an open theater of violence. True terror is a language and a vision. There is a deep narrative structure to terrorist acts and they infiltrate and alter consciousness in ways that writers used to aspire to. -- Don DeLillo, quoted in a recent issue of the best magazine in America, The New York Review of Books

A note from Ray Carney: In the quote above, note the phrase "used to aspire to." I would argue that it is one of the sad legacies of our educational system, and of almost all academic criticism, that this vision of art has been abandoned. Art no longer aspires, in DeLillo's words, to "infiltrate and alter consciousness." In the hands of most contemporary professors, critics, and reviewers, art has been transformed into a series of weightless, contentless formal and stylistic "moves" and "strategies." Meaning has dropped out of the discussion. Changing the world (or the world of consciousness, which is, of course, the basis of the world) is no longer viewed as the goal.

Another relevant observation from a reader named Marty, excerpted from a longer letter about  seeing Rick Ray's new documentary, 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama. Her reference to films that "fly beneath the radar" alludes to the upcoming film festival I recently curated for the Harvard Film Archive. (Click here to read about it.)

..... How strongly we need independent filmmakers to stay true to their art that is marginalized by the Hollywood machine.  How else will we learn what the truth is?  From the impostors?  From the government sponsors trying to "win hearts and minds" by forcing the truth into exile?  The control of knowledge is crucial to preserving power by force.  Do indie filmmakers realize how vitally important their work can be in preserving all the things that have to "fly below the radar" because they don't toe the party line?  These are not trivial matters, our world is at stake.  What more important things can we do than fight for freedom of spirit?

On a separate note, how do we move beyond a war model to a harmony model? According to the Dalai Lama, we can only do that by respecting each other's uniqueness, and finding solutions that make everyone happy.  You'll love this - the Dalai Lama's suggestion was to have more festivals!  More picnics!  So people can have fun and get to know and appreciate each other, and THEN sit down to work out their issues....

Subject: Thanks for your web site

I know you're very busy, just 2 thoughts. (sorry for the ramble on point 2, it's fine if you don't finish, respond, etc.)

1. I finally saw Woman Under the Influence the other day, and will be thinking about Mabel for a long, long time. When I was four, I actually asked my mother how I should respond when people ask me "How are you?" (her response was to say "Fine.")

If that's not a dead ringer of Mabel's internal struggle the last 30 minutes of the film, I don't know what else it is.

2.  I just read your chapter on It's A Wonderful Life in your Capra book. I have watched this movie over and over through the years, especially when it was in the public domain and aired constantly come holiday time. Something about it has always hooked me, and in your description of George's crises I think I start to see why.

I am still coming to grips with the ending though. I appreciate your description of George's consciousness vs. the rest of the room. But where does the actual plot event leave us, where the various town residents contribute financially, even Sam Wainwright? It also seems not insignificant that it's Mary (whom as you say has better resolved her desires within the world) that initiates the solution to George's debt.

Was it an obligatory happy ending? In some ways it feels like one. I mean I like the ending, yet it seems to obscure more than it reveals. Is there some sort of conclusion that can be tentatively drawn from it?

I'm not sure. I don't even know what happens say 6 months later, after the debt is paid off but George is still stuck running the little bank with no end in sight. If he has found victory in his suffering, that doesn't mean the suffering ends with the end of the film. Could George actually give up all his unachievable dreams, or at least not be tortured by them?

What if the movie simply ended with George running home and embracing his family, without any sort of resolution to the bank debt?  I guess either way I'd still wonder what happens afterward. The ending of Woman Under the Influence on the surface seems much more ambiguous, yet actually feels more conclusive to me in retrospect.

He is separate from the other townspeople, yet doesn't seem to yet have full consciousness of himself, his life, and his struggles (at least not in the way we understand him.) Partly because he gets bailed out by his friends. I think Mabel is actually more self-knowing in that regard, because no one bails her out- in her moment of greatest self-doubt, her dad utterly fails to support her, and her husband threatens to kill not only her but their kids (whom she values most of all.)



Subject: self portraits of the artist


Yes re: Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, it's an obligatory "happy ending." That was the convention then. That was necessary. That's what Capra makes. But see what Capra does to it? He makes it a troubling, upsetting "happy ending" in all the ways you say: Nighttown is still more exciting than Bedford Falls; George is bailed out financially, but still thwarted in his ambitions; the small-town claustrophobia (everyone knows everyone's business and meddles in it) has not changed an atom; George's triumph (his "richness") is purely imaginative. (This last is the Keatsian side of the ending I emphasize the most.) So what has Capra done? He has taken the convention and found a way to mess it up, make trouble within it, put a snake in the garden. That's the genius of the film. That's the post-World War II side of the film -- that it tells a tale of "experience" not "innocence" (in the Blakean sense of the words).

I have a brief statement elsewhere on the site where I have more about this. (Click here to read it.)

Woman Under the Influence is a related but different issue. There is too much to say to answer you here and now, except I'll tell you a secret I've never put into print. John Cassavetes IS Mabel. He really wrote it as a self-portrait. I have so much unpublished material on this subject that I'd overwhelm you if I cited chapter and verse for this. But it blows away the "feminist" reading of the film (which is completely beside the point), and -- yes -- it affiliates it definitively with the ironically titled It's a Wonderful Life. (And equally with Capra's Meet John Doe.) They were two of Cassavetes' favorite films and they were part of the inspiration for his own work, but saying more about the connection would take me too far afield.

In crazy haste,


Thanks Ray.

I think I finally got it re: Wonderful Life. A true Hollywood ending would have George become a renowned architect, re-vitalize Bailey Park and Bedford Falls, and defeat Potter (instead of merely paying him back). Capra gives the surface satisfaction of a happy ending, and within that hides that almost none of George's real issues have actually been satisfied. I need to think more on it!

I can see the autobiography in Woman for sure. And in writing/creating something so deeply, I see the final movie in just about everyone. We're all Mabel and Nick.

Thanks again,


A note from Ray Carney: More reflections on the educational system, Cassavetes' Woman Under the Influence, and life in general -- which I'd note is almost always more interesting than the movies depict it as being -- this time from a recent high school graduate. Though he signed his name, I've withheld it out of tact. -- R.C.

Hello, I am a 17 year old, who has just graduated high school in in upstate new york. I've been taking several classes on film and where film is used extensively as a teaching "aide"(I use quotes because mostly it seems like a way to dodge confronting the class in any meaningful way. My English teacher once diverged into a rant about how her idea of happiness was watching Sex and the City re-runs with a bowl of ice cream. No joke. Education is in a sore state, Mr. Carney. We need more bullshit detection.), and decided to immerse myself in the topic as a way to immunize myself against being stunned into complicity with any ideas I'd regret later.

On a fluke, I took out the Cassavetes boxset from my local public library, and was hit very vividly, especially by Woman Underthe Influence, since my own home life was oddly similar. My mother was almost committed a year ago, and my father had always been angry and inexpressive in any meaningful ways. The utter denial of self byNick and Mabel struck a chord and the fact that neither was shown to be in the right despite being compassionately rendered gave me a lot of courage to deal with my own parents who were both acting like pitch men to me and my younger sister(12 at the time) to completely give over that one side was right, when neither was. My father had run/locked me out the house several times, to the point where I had to move in with an ex-girlfriend for two weeks (hard to explain to people when you're 16), which was also partly because my mother had ordered a 90 yard dumpster in our front yard and thrown out my bed and would've thrown out more to "balance the chi" if my father weren't so angry at her. It was a mess, a test. I clutched onto Lenny Bruce as an example of a man who'd held onto his ideals (I'm an aspiring stand-up comic), and oddly enough in an argument with my father he started saying how hateful a man Lenny Bruce was. And this reminded me of your writing now, because it shows how much he was stuck in cultural shorthand when he had so much more to express. He was trying to say that I'd been angry and embarassing to him in social situations(which almost puts me in the Mabel role) but instead of saying that, he latched onto his basic stereotyping of Lenny Bruce. Anyhow, Woman Under the Influence helped clear up a lot of nonsense for me, and I haven't been able to watch Tarantino or the Coens etc. since.

Your critiques on the state of the culture only grew more frighteningly accurate to me as I got closer to graduation. I took a psychology class where our final project was to watch Brokeback Mountain and Crash and analyze the characters in them. I know you probably have not seen Crash, as it has nothing to offer you. But it made me uncomfortable and angry to see that that was what he thought the human mind was, so I offered to make the teacher a copy of Woman Under the Influence in hopes that he'd show that to future classes. Something where the human mind isn't defined by the presence or absence of "racism" or "homophobia." He never got back to me. On a more sunny note, I made a copy of your "When Being Replaces Doing" essay and gave it to my Film Studies professor and he was blown away and showed/explained it to the class. Bolstered by some of your basic arguments, I critically slaughtered Braveheart, Smoke Signals, and The Wild Bunch in classroom discussions afterwards. When the best argument anyone could make was "They're just movies. Jeez," it was a small moral victory.

Anyways, this has gotten very long. I had a lot to tell you, because you've been somewhat of an internet mentor in my recent phase of intense art study. Now some questions/ideas:

What do you think of Gershwin as a composer? I'm still trying to crack the code of what's freeze and what's flow in music.

You don't seem to mention documentaries much in your writing outside of a Frederick Wiseman quote I found in an assignment you'd made. Who are your ideas of good documentarians (beyond, obviously, Wiseman.) I really tend to like Errol Morris in that regard.

Your battles with Gena Rowlands/Criterion, and especially the way you're writing about them on your website, are starting to remind me of Lenny Bruce's court trials in that they seem to have consumed a good amount of your energy/writing. Just wondering if there aren't easier ways to beat this. As you said when writing about how you helped Bujalski with Funny Ha Ha, don't play by system rules, they're for chumps. Maybe you could release the UR Shadows through something off the radar like bittorrent. Also, though this might be inconvenient, you know the Cassavetes stuff cold, so maybe you could just set up with a microphone and re-record your commentary tracks in the timespan of the film. There are many websites you could host this at to offset bandwith cost. Or you could even go with bittorrent again. Same way with Cassavetes' unreleased scripts and such. Once in .txt form, they could be transferred in their entirety very easily, and probably would only amount to 10-11 mb worth of space. Tell me what you think of these ideas, I'd love to hear from you. Also, don't be afraid to go to court if you have to.--(name withheld)

RC replies: Thanks. Many good ideas and questions. I only wish I had time to answer them. Sorry!!!! But good questions are always much more important than answers. So I am taking this opportunity to share your letter with my readers anyway. (Beyond that, your notes about high school are very important for people like me -- college professors, I mean -- to keep in mind. Three months after they graduate, these same "Jeez, it's just a movie, for gosh sake!" students are coming to my office hours and asking to be admitted to my classes.) Thank you for your valuable contribution to the site. --R.C.


76 < Page 77 < 78

Introduction and Page 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 / 32 / 33 / 34 / 35 / 36 / 37 / 38 / 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 / 43 / 44 / 45 / 46 / 47 / 48 / 49 / 50 / 51 / 52 / 53 / 54 / 55 / 56 / 57 / 58 / 59 / 60 / 61 / 62 / 63 / 64 / 65 / 66 / 67 / 68 / 69 / 70 / 71 / 72 / 73 / 74 / 75 / 76 / 77 / 78 / 79 / 80 / 81 / 82 / 83 / 84 / 85 / 86 / 87 / 88 / 89 / 90 / 91 / 92 / 93 / 94 / 95 / 96 / 97 / 98 / 99 / 100 / 101 / 102 / 103 / 104 / 105 / 106 / 107 / 108 / 109 / 110 / 111 / 112 / 113 / 114 / 115 / 116 / 117 / 118 / 119 / 120 / 121 / 122

Top of Page


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