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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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Leola Harlow, Ray Carney, and the hat from <i>Husbands</i>.  Cindy Conti is on the right.Rebels and Causes Department (a note from Ray Carney): I try to represent as many different points of view and alternative ways of being as I can on the site. One of the major problems with America, as I understand it, is the lock-step mentality, the emotional homogenization, the expressive and behavioral conformity, the follow-the-leader-over-the-cliff passivity, the imitative enslavement to fashions and trends. The two letters that follow represent exceptions to that state of affairs. Each writer has a decidedly individual perspective on life and art. I honor them for that reason.

A note about the first sentence of the first letter, for the benefit of those who are not familiar with other pages of the site, the reference to teaching in "parables" is an allusion to something I say at many different points on the site -- for example, in replies to letters on pages 8 and 13 of the Mailbag -- and elsewhere. -- R.C.

Subject:        Money whores ,shit movies, crap smell film school, dead artist, let the dead bury the dead  

Are you speaking parables? Tell us plainly oh teacher!

Have you ever felt like Jesus teaching and preaching but your message still falls on deaf ears? He who has ears! Have you noticed a deep sleep put upon the spirit and soul of man?

The word is desire! Men desire success, money, go to film school because its easy to get famous, rich, as you said ask the question... why am I making this film?

Hypocrisy and mediocrity everywhere all I can think of is the film " Network" I am mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!

Fucking bullshit everywhere I look there are NO ARTIST LEFT IN THIS WORLD ONLY FUCKING WHORES!

You cant desire to make a film, desire to be famous, desire to be rich, respected, admired, great men profound thinkers desired only the truth they were only interested in being seekers of truth. There are no fucking real artists anymore!

I have fasted for over 40 days in the jungles of Peru to find my story. I have went to sleep at night with lodestones under my head, ingested ionized Gold and Silver Lodestone, Atomodine, for my diet in the last year for an awakening of the pineal gland. I have made my own self - hypnosis tapes to listen to and sleep with as Edgar Cayce had done. I have read through the scriptures now hundreds of times, I get up every morning at sunrise to sungaze for 30 minutes to open the pineal gland I have sacrificed >I have started selling all my possessions, my cars, clothes, couch, tables, lamps, chairs, guitars, to purchase an old 37 foot sailboat where I intend to make my film with my actress and wife whom I met through a post for the casting of this film, my wife is from Spain. We are giving up all possessions, life, my jobs, money,car, family , friends, pets, security, my 90 year old grandmother, my hometown, nice comfortable home, my books, computer, cell phones, restaurants, comfortable lifestyle, to live and survive on an old wooden junk rig sailboat with just bare nessesities and our film camera.

  re-read the list ... one by one,,, THAT MY FRIEND IS WHAT AN ARTIST IS!   I have no savings, no inheritance, no stocks or bonds, but I have a desire for over 4 years now to make " The greatest film ever made , one that surpasses the mind reaches into the sub conscious mind, super conscious mind and changes the human spirit and soul, changes  and re -arranges the brain neurons, hits the central nervous system, enters into the pineal gland and transforms man into a living breathing feeling THINKING human being again .The film will  cause him to think and reason his existence, his so called understanding and relationship with God , or the Universe. 

I have fasted, dieted, studied, become a " channel for the universe" as Cayce had done because I have been the chosen.

I am the second coming of Christ in films. I am the messiah,  I am the John The Baptist of the world of art, the only living artist in this planet here to reveal the truth, because I am not only producing , directing, acting, composing all the music as I have done in my other films, but I am TRANSFORMING MYSELF INTO MY CHARACTER not ACTING!

 FUCKING ACTING ........WORST WORD EVER created THATS WHY MOVIES ARE BULLSHIT. I dont act I AM I AM IAM .......I AM MY CHARACTER. My character gives up this world and its vanities and foolish desires, and sells everything he has to venture off  into a world unknown in a sailboat to try to understand himself and the world, and God and the Universe... AND THAT IS WHAT I AM FUCKING DOING... I AM A LIVING BREATHING FUCKING ARTIST I LIVE .......CAN YOU HEAR ME IN THIS LETTER I LIVE! HOW CAN I ACT? WHY DO I WANT TO ACT  HOW CAN I SYMPATHIZE, HOW CAN I UNDERSTAND MY CHARACTER REALLY, IF I DONT BECOME HIM? THATS WHY WE GOT WHORES , MONEY WHORES NOT FILMMAKERS. JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW, that you WILL get to see a film that your spirit yearns for... I hear you preaching... I dont watch any  ANY of those films, dont read film books, dont take acting class, dont  need advice..... I am I AM THAT'S WHAT SEPARATES ME FROM  the folly..., I dont desire anything, recognition, fame, money fuck that you know what I seek? THE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH FOR MYSELF MY CHARACTERS AND NOTHING LESS. This requires sacrifice as Jesus said, follow me sell all you have come follow the truth, to find depth in this world and truth, you must live and die and breath art and not be a whore, I have spent over 2 YEARS  2 YEARS ALONE JUST DISCUSSING MY CHARACTERS ( ONLY 2 OF THEM) WITH MY WIFE EVERYDAY!!!!!!!!! There is no fucking script because WE ARE THE LIVING BREATHING FUCKING SCRIPT   WE ARE GOING ON THE OCEAN TO CROSS THE SEAS WITH NO SAILING EXPERIENCE OR MONEY JUST OUR CAMERAS, AND NO ITS NOT A DOCUMENTARY. I WILL create the most important and profound film ever made in history not because I want to make the film, I could care less..... if I had the choice I would rather surf on an isolated island in Costa Rica...... but I am doing this because I NEED TO MAKE THIS FILM THATS THE DIFFERENCE. Filmmakers WANT TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL WANT TO BE RECOGNIZED, WANT TO HAVE MONEY... FUCK ALL THAT I DONT EVEN WANT THE MONEY I HAVE TO MAKE THIS FILM BECAUSE I HAVE TO I HAVE TO MY SPIRIT MY SOUL BURNS I DO NoT WANT TO.... LIKE A PROPHET WHO IS REAL AS JONAH DIDNT WANT TO GIVE THE MESSAGE BUT WAS CHOSEN, I DONT WANT TO I NEED TO MAKE THIS FILM BECAUSE I WAS CALLED.

Just wanted you to know so that before you die, you can watch the film your heart has yearned for all your life. I hear you preaching , and remember its not quantity... Jesus had little real followers, and none at all in the end,,,,,, they the students ass kissers all are listening but nobody really hears do they? But I hear you! So the message is worth it.  

Billy Yeager

Hope to hear back from you I will keep you posted.    

Life is a beautiful thing.
Live it like there is no tomorrow!

Subject: Life, art, and other good stuff.

Hello, just wanted to tell you that I've now made it to college, and it's been disappointing so far, so I've been sneaking off and spending even more time wrapping my head around your ideas; there are so many and I don't even know if ideas are the word or if it's keys, since they open things. Keys seems more of an active words than ideas. Anyhow, I've been obsessing over your movie list and now that I have a NYC library card I've been going through everything they have from your film list(actually a good deal of it. I've been pleasantly surprised.) Anyhow, I find myself having insights everyday, and feel this need to communicate them, so they come out in my classes(which are a fairly standard "Freshman Block".) It's kind of funny because my professors get kind of defensive. "You've been looking into other professors? You pig! Don't even try to deny it, I can smell their thoughts on you!" My communications professor has used all of Plato and Aristotle in a now 5 class long battle to prove how much better trans fat McDonald's french fries were. In English I pointed out how John Updike's need to feel 'insightful' made his essay "The Disposable Rocket" silly and made most of his metaphors not work(one in particular about men shaving everyday making up for the lack of childbirth pains was particularly absurd.) My English teacher held me after class for 20 minutes and nervously rambled at me that I'd "intellectually intimidated her" and asked that I didn't participate in class anymore. Education is disappointing... Anyways, to keep from complaining about her too much, I agreed to her demands and now sit in the back of the class with my laptop watching writing what is wrong with her(and others I've had) teaching methods and what can be done to correct them to make for a more interesting/enlightening class.

I also shot a documentary film since my last letter to you, and just want to say that I realize how silly the line I drew between documentary and fiction film in my last letter was. As I watch my footage of an interview I conducted with my friend(who is the subject), I realize that I was directing him in a very theatrical way though it seems to work so far.

So now, for a couple questions: You keep mentioning somebody named Poirier when you talk about flux reasoning in art. Does he/she have a first name and any important works I can look up? This might seem silly, but google gives me a lot of Poiriers and none of them seem to be the one you're referring to. Also, what is the name of that tape set to learn the ins and outs of classical music you recommend? I saw it somewhere in the mailbag but have been unable to find it since.

Also, I'd love to get a tape of one of your lectures (like the fellow on page 1 of the letterbag mentioned.) It would be awesome. And another idea on the UR Shadows debacle-maybe you could get some help or insight or something from the ubuweb people...they're always dealing with access to fuzzy copyrights. Keep up the fight, and if there's anything we internet fans can do to help, just say so(a shadows fund comes to mind.)

Sorry this is so long, but you must be pretty used to inspiring people to write extensive letters by now...:)

-Daniel Levine


I hereby nominate you (along with Billy in the letter above yours) for this year's Alexander Supertramp Awards. But don't look for the Awards Ceremony on the TV. Or for the announcements in your newspaper. I wish you both well and, needless to say, hope you both keep tramping onward, but please keep Christopher McCandless's end in mind. I don't want to find your bodies in the back of a bus in Alaska.

Photo by Mark Backus / Summer 2005To your questions: I give Poirier's first name many different times when I mention his work. Not sure why it would be hard for you to find work by him -- though, like most great older people, he's not an internet groupie, of course. He has no web site or anything like that; and (though I'm not sure) probably no email address, either. See my numerous warnings throughout the site about the limitations of the internet and internet searches. Bill Gates is an idiot and everyone who spends hours on the internet is his pawn. Fight the brain-washing! The internet is a trash-heap. The internet is an almost complete waste of time. As I said to someone the other day who was praising Steve Balmer's lunatic attempt to put crank computers in the hands of every kid in the third world: The internet is not the solution; the internet is the problem. Let's give those poor kids subscriptions to Cinemax and HBO while we're at it. That sure would help the world a lot, woudn't it? What planet do these people live on anyway?

The good things are in BOOKS, not on web sites. (I include my own web site in the generalization.) Oh, there are a few good things here and there, but it's like trying to find "something good" on television. You will waste your life doing it, while there are millions of good things in the library, the art museums, the concert halls. Turn off your high-tech, overpriced television. In other words: Turn off your computer. Go to a library or a book store. Read a book. Read 1000 books. Forget web sites. They are junk. Bulletin boards at best. And you don't find art works or philosophy on bulletin boards. Books (and other art forms) hold the accumulated knowledge of the world. The internet is a big, junky shopping mall trying to sell you things, dazzling you with endless, pointless delights that lead nowhere. Don't waste your life window shopping for ideas and insights. Don't spend it in a shopping mall. Break free of the system of conditioning and programming. If everyone else is doing something, you know it can't be right. If everyone else thinks something is fun or valuable, you know it must be a waste of time. Run the other direction from the herd. Break free. Break free. Break free.

About music reading and listening recommendations, look up "Kamien" with the search engine. Then look up "Bach" or "Bach's." There are many other recommendations on the site that don't include those two names, but that will take you to some of the pages you are searching for.

About fights with teachers (if you'll forgive me for putting in my two cents): Try the path of humility with all art and all learning. The curse of our culture (George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfield, Rudy Giuliani, Paul Wolfowitz, Norman Podhorotz, and all of the other contemporary Satans) is knowingness. You are not them, thank God, and I am not equating you with them, but do everything in your power to be as different from them as possible. Go down on your knees in front of artists and works of art. And cut the teachers who are sincerely devoted to passing on the dharma a lot of slack. (I know that last sentence is evasive, but you must keep open the possibility that you will meet a teacher who, even when you might not realize it, is; and you don't want to miss the possibility. The tragedy of Jesus was that so few were ready to hear what he said, to take what he offered. We always regard difference as danger, disagreement as error.) As I've said many times before: new systems of knowledge always look like mistakes, like chaos and confusion, not like breakthroughs..... Stay humble. Stay open.

For what it is worth,


P.S. (An afterthought for both Daniel and Billy): Life has many negative experiences, many negative emotions attached to it. That's a given. That will never end. But the goal of life is to convert our unhappiness, our dissatisfaction, our discomfort into something POSITIVE and CREATIVE. If our response to resistance stays negative, that means others have won, and that we have lost. So find a way, both of you, to make something positive in response to whatever resistances you feel. Anything else is a waste of your time and your emotions. Raging against the dark is pointless. Criticizing is unproductive. Fighting the system is self-destructive. You must put aside your resistance, and convert your ideas into positive actions and expressions. Don't squander your energies in negative attitudes and actions; use your powers to do something life-affirming. That's the only way to go. Life must be ratified and defended and celebrated. Anything else is self- and world-denying.

Dear Raymond Carney,

I'm a communications student at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. I had this idea to start a cinema showcase for films that had little to no theater exposure, and introduce the filmmaker/films briefly and have an after-film discussion, biweekly or monthly. I was thinking about starting with simpler films and move into Tarkovsky and Dreyer as people start showing up more. Do you have something like this at Boston University? I seldom see good films on the big screen, nor universities who offer a public screening of films on a regular basis. If you have any ideas or comments about this, let me know.

Also have you ever seen a film called "Talking To Strangers" by Robert Tregenza? He's the cinema studies director here who's trying to help me out, and I just saw his film. It's rather good. Ok. Thanks for your time. Take care and keep up the good work!

John Zhao

RC replies: John, Good to hear from you. I'll let my readers respond with advice, if they have any. Don't know your teacher's work. But that proves nothing. As Robert Frost says, paraphrasing St. Paul: The good things are always kept hidden so the wrong ones won't find them. --R.C.

Since you're almost up to page 100 on your mailbag, I think it's only fair that I have the lead off spot on that page, considering I'm leadoff on page 1. I will send you a message right before you reach that mark and no matter how lame it is, you have to post it.

Done with Faulkner. On to Cormac Mccarthy. Figure I'll go classic then contemporary then classic, etc. James is after him. The Faulkner experience was wonderful, and I'm writing up some stuff on his work. In the meantime, I've been working on 1) prose of my own and 2) my blog which is just about ready for prime time. It's some political style writing, although I have one post on there that I posted on your site long ago, with some minor revisions. It is at if you want to check it out. If you don't have time, I understand.

All the best,

Darren Pardee

We'll see who gets the top of 100. Don't be so sure it will be you!!!!!! : ) Maybe I'll hold a contest and give away an autographed "centennial copy" of one of my books as a prize for the best letter I receive before I post that page!

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is very important. A deep parable about the times we live in. And the times we are rapidly moving into. Glad you're headed his way. And writing after reading, viewing, or listening is critical. Keep a diary, a journal, a history of reactions and responses. As I tell my grad students (see the advice to entering students on the site--click on the "Boston U." link in the top menu on any Mailbag page to read it): Consciousness cannot precede expression. Write, write, write.


Subject: On Satire in Film

Dear Ray,

Read Bryan Olsen's letter on the use of satire. (See page 93 of the Mailbag, accessible through the blue page number menus at the top and bottom of each page.)

One fine example I can think of the use of satire in film is Mike Leigh's A SENSE OF HISTORY (the link to it is on your letters page).

It epitomizes how you described the mockumentary CHALK of how for satire it work, it must be possible for it happen in real life and to quote you again, A SENSE OF HISTORY also does this very well,

"It is an act of sympathy and caring. Great art never just satirizes. It loves."

It made me realize after watching Bunuel's THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE how being mean and smug doesn't really help us at all.

The tonal shifts in Broadbent's performance are so subtle and gradual and Mike Leigh's choice of editing, structure, movement and shots accentuates or enhances this.

We see the Earl as this pathetic, calculating, horrible man, but Broadbent and Leigh doesn't allow us to hate him.

trying to stay true
with love,

JP Carpio

RC replies: JP -- Agreed, agreed, agreed. Some of the greatest works of art are satiric, but they vindicate their satire by being "about something." They are (in the terms of my reply to the question about satire on page 93 of the Mailbag) about "clearing space" for creative, positive values. Not about merely making fun, ridiculing, mocking. So much of contemporary humor (on TV, on the internet, in books, on the radio) is just "goofing," "riffing," "being silly" about something. That's not enough. Humor, if it is to matter artistically -- the way the work of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, or George Carlin matter -- should be about showing us what is most wrong with the world, and suggesting how we can improve things. Lenny Bruce's humor does this constantly. George Carlin's does does it, too. Saturday Night Live (and, dare I say, The Dave Chapell Show and the complete work of the Farrelly Brothers -- their There's Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber and all the rest of their cinematic idiocy) almost never does it. Satire, when it functions artistically, is NOT about merely being stupid and goofy. It is NOT about being merely entertaining and funny. That is what it means to say that satire, if it matters artistically, is actually one of the most deadly serious forms of art.

Incidentally, Leigh's film (and Jim Broadbent's performance within it) ties in with another issue on the preceding Mailbag page. See my comments about how a character can trick a viewer into responding incorrectly, or make a viewer feel that he or she has identified mistakenly. Broadbent's performance does that to us. We keep changing our minds about him in the course of the film. That's wonderful. That's great art. -- R.C.

A note from Ray Carney: Bryan Olsen responded to JP Carpio's and my views of the functions of comedy in the preceding letter and my response to it and in my response to the initital letter about comedy that Bryan wrote that is posted on Mailbag page 93 (accessible via the blue page number menus at the top and bottom of this page). I welcome further reader comments on this topic. I will print the most interesting ones on the site. -- R.C.

Subject: Further Discussion About Satire

Hey Ray -

Thanks for your response. It was, as always, on the money.

I have to respectfully disagree about a couple of things in your response to JP. As someone who genuinely finds your thoughts on art and film valuable, I disagree in the spirit of an honest discourse. I think this is a great dialogue we've opened up.

Ultimately, what's tricky about satire, and comedy, is that what's funny for one person isn't funny for another. It's just so subjective.

I have seen "Chalk", and I think "Chalk" is a very good film. To be honest, however, I don't actually find it funny. I think it's quietly funny at moments, but there aren't moments of explosive laughter in the film, the way I get with listening to Bill Hicks or Carlin, Pryor, etc. And if the goal of comedy is ultimately laughter, then I would say that "Chalk" doesn't do it for me. It's a wonderful film, and the characters are complicated and interesting. But for me, not really funny. I feel the same about Tom Noonan's "The Wife". I love the complicated, nuanced relationships in it. I was very engaged as I watched it. But it didn't actually evoke real laughter in me.

I don't know if you ever watched the BBC show "The Office", but I think that show certainly approaches your test of satire. Namely, could you watch it and confuse it with real life at times? I say absolutely.

You mentioned "Chappelle's Show" in one of your other letters, which, for me, does have a lot of truly great satire. I don't know if you saw the sketch where Dave Chappelle plays Clayton Bigsby, a blind black man who is a white supremacist. He has no idea he's black, so he keeps spouting off hatred for black people, as well as other races. For my money, that ranks up there with the best of Pryor in terms of hard hitting laughs coupled with actual insight. It's a very funny piece, and the more you think about it, the deeper it gets. The life of the sketch and the laughter extend beyond its running time. It demands that you talk about it, and it stays with you.

Comedy is like eroticism; it just comes down to personal opinions. What is great for one person is awful for another. It's one of the rewarding and frustrating things about it. There are the ideas you talk about, which resonate with me quite a bit. But then there are those ideas set in motion, which are very funny for one person, and not really funny for another.

What Carlin, Hicks, Pryor, Chappelle and even Larry David and Gervais have in common is a very strong POV, coupled with a willingness to explore potentially unpleasant and human ideas. But why we love them is because they make us laugh - hard. I understand that there are different types of satire. But I do think in the end, it also depends on the laughter you get from the audience. You can do anything you want in comedy, but I think in the end, laughter is the final test. Do people see it, and will they go there with you? If your observations are sharp enough, they will love you for it.

I think "Spinal Tap" is very funny, and could be confused with any number of real documentaries about musicians. Perhaps it's not as nuanced as "Chalk". It's my belief that for comedy, you have to distort and sometimes generalize, so people can see what you're talking about. Carlin even has a line in one of his routines about how every joke needs one thing to be waaaayyy out of proportion. The audience needs to see that and recognize it instantly - hence, the laughter.

Again, I am writing this in the spirit of someone who finds a lot of value and meaning in what you have to say. And I'd like to hear your thoughts.


Dear Friends-

We wanted to spread the word on Terror Dream the new book by Susan Faludi (author of Backlash & Stiffed). Its a brilliant investigation of our national response to 9.11. She includes a lovely section on Voices of 9.11, placing the project (& the fact that it is still not available to the public) in a revealing context.

Read today's New York Times rave or buy the book.

Hope everyone is well & thriving. More good news soon to follow.

Ruth Sergel

The Luce Program in Scripture and Literary Arts at Boston University
is pleased to present

Prayers to a Dark God:
Rainer Maria Rilke among the Mystics

a lecture by

Mark Burrows
Andover Newton Theological School

Tuesday, October 30, 2007, 5:30pm
Boston University School of Management
595 Commonwealth Avenue, Room 426
"My God is dark and like a clump
of a hundred roots which drink silently..."

What are we to make of a poet who addresses God as "you darkness," and proclaims his belief in nights? In an early collection first entitled Book of Prayers and later published as The Book-of-Hours (1905), Rilke addresses himself to the elusive "God" largely unspoken in confident pulpit-talk. These poem-prayers voice a reticence often unheard in the formal discourse of theology, then as now. Here, the poet addresses this "neighbor God" as a dark "you," without falling back on the exhausted certainties of creedal faith. Is this a voicing of the ancient mystical tradition expressed at the boundary of language and silence? Is it an invitation to courage for those overcome by the gnawing sense of God's absence? Or is it what prayer has always been, a yearning at the place of emptiness and a wondering in which lament and hope are finally one?

A note from Ray Carney: What we're all up against, day after day, year after year, theater after theater. Hundreds of thousands of dollars budgeted to promote the 25th-Anniversary re-release of a trendy science fiction film while young indies across the country don't have enough money to pay for an ad in a newspaper. Meanwhile, the American Film Institute, "created to further the art of American film," and the hundreds of rich Hollywood actors and directors continue to do nothing to help any of the real artists or their works. -- R.C.

Subject: Blade Runner "Inspiring the Future" Contest
From: "Dan Rosenbaum"

Hi Professor Carney,

I'm writing you to let you know of a Blade Runner contest that is currently underway and may hold interest for you and your students. In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Blade Runner release.....

All the best,

dan ROSENBAUM | project manager, digital
a.d.d. marketing, inc.
6600 lexington ave.
los angeles, california 90038

Subject: tragedy and travesty in academe

Been thinking about how it is that you haven't gotten the recognition you so justly deserve from your peers. Could it be that you have spoken the truth in such a way that it has alienated their affections? That you have so eviscerated them and shown contempt for how they have bought into Hollywood, mediocrity and escapism that to endorse you would be at the price of their own livelihoods? That like Lear, they would have to look at themselves and it would be so unbearable they would go mad so instead they get mad at you? (And that's not taking into account their envy at how prolific and brilliant you are?)

Just a thought from someone on your side.


Subject: freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose

Something to that perhaps -- though I don't know about the "brilliant" and "prolific" part!

On the other side of the account, I always say "alienation confers freedom." In other words, I've been able to be more courageous and more daring insofar as I don't have so much to lose. It's the T.V. news anchor who makes ten million a year who has to be careful about what he or she says. It's the head of the church who has to worry about offending the congregation. I'm just someone sitting in a pew near the back. I don't have to answer to anyone. The more pressure that is put on me, the more criticism I receive, the less I have to lose. (As a case in point: I've never felt so free as since I resigned the Film Studies Directorship in protest over changes a senior administrator forced on the program. Resigning the directorship of a program I had helped to build was hard and it hurt of course -- I was attacked and criticized and penalized financially, too -- but refusing to collaborate in undermining the course offerings and admissions standards gave me wings and ultimately freed me to say and do more than I ever could have if I had cut my values to fit the bureaucratic fashions.) All in all, standing outside the tent is not a bad situation to be in. Well, that's how I rationalize it at least........

Thanks for the kind words.


A note from RC: This arrived from major indie filmmaker Rob Nilsson, commenting on the note from Arthur Vibert that I posted on the bottom of the preceding Mailbag page, and describing the grateful response to his work at the Mill Valley Film Festival, where he showed the final installment in his 9 @ Night series. Rob is characteristically modest and self-effacing about his artistic achievement. --R.C.

Subject: Re: the eagle has landed

Hello Ray,

What a great thing that Arthur Vibert should have come to PRESQUE ISLE. And his letter to you, discovering you much as I did many years ago, through your ideas and your views, in my case, your ideas about Cassavetes! Great. These are the sparks shooting through the splitter cables that reward and feed.

As you might have imagined I was knee deep in (Mill Valley) festival details over the last three weeks but another rich reward was the joyous, and also tearful, ending of the 9 @ Night Films with the MV Fest Premiere showing of GO TOGETHER, the last film in our, all told and accounted for, 15 year sojurn in the Tenderloin. Standing ovation and great feelings.

What can I say? So many friends and collaborators to thank in a world where most audiences would be sitting on their hands wondering when the movie was going to begin. The crucial need for education in the slipstream of inspired Art is made more evident by the joy which can happen when people begin to "understand." Not that there's anything to "understand" in any final sense, and of course, my work is only as good as my lungs ability to inhale the distillate of my mentors, Cassavetes, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Kieslowski, etc. but there's the life long "experience" of inspiration and grasps and glimpses of the "something out there" or "that longing in here" which art provides, the "secular spirituality" of being alive to both the world, and the creations of our sublime interpreters, which seems to me the only salvation. And if salvation is only those few moments of joy before the void closes over our heads, not to have experienced them at all must lead to a dark conclusion, to quote and re-purpose Goethe, that "you are only a troubled guest, on the dark earth."

Well I don't deny that I am a troubled guest, but I can say that (now here's a re-fitted Auden-ism) mad America hurt me into poetry. I'm grateful for that wound and I hope to reveal and heal, heal and reveal as long as I have the energy and the artesian sources still percolating.

Looking forward to the Harvard show.....

Thank you for your website promotion all along, and for your belief and support. You are that good smoke wafting upwards from the sacrifice. I'm an inhaler and I'm with you in your lifetime of struggle to encourage others to inhale as well.

Your comrade,


Subject: brief item

Hi Ray - Just a quick FYI, did you know that Love Streams has been released on DVD in France?:


Scott Berman

RC replies: I was sure I had covered this in a previous Mailbag entry. I myself did the notes for a Love Streams release in France. So I am very aware of it being out on a French DVD, and (as I say) I believe I have mentioned this previously on the site. I couldn't control the print choice, or transfer of course, but I was part of the French release of the film.

It's worth pointing out that no one in America has contacted me with a similar plan for an American release or asked my help with it. In other words, no one in America is interested in the film, other than you, me, and a couple thousand people who write to me every month via the site!!! Not even Gena Rowlands. (See my many comments about that in response to earlier inquiries.) Well, that's the American film story in a nutshell. We let the French beat us in the recognition of our own directors. See the note on the previous Mailbag page (page 93) about the lack of American interest in Robert Kramer's work --or the work of other indie filmmakers -- for more on this subject. Kramer had to move to France to continue his career. He couldn't make a living in his own country. Paris appreciated him more than New York did. That story is still repeating with Love Streams and with dozens of other American art films and filmmakers. -- R.C.

Subject: read this with trepidation!

Hello Mr. Carney --
I am a 52-year-old independent filmmaker, came across your site about a year ago. Now I often peruse it for quick blasts of inspiration in between tasks at work (I wear several hats at a cable access TV station in the Boston area).

I suspect you probably receive about one request a day like this, but I was wondering if you might be interested in viewing a narrative feature I just completed?

It's entitled, Trendy Passay: 21st Century Hobo, and it stars a couple of excellent professional actors, Damien Langan and Whitney Cohen [now Whitney Avalon since she got her S.A.G. card].

I wrote and directed -- I used to be a sportswriter, and my fiction and poetry have appeared in many literary journals over the years. A short story of mine, "Lives of the Non-Poets," won a Pushcart Prize "Special Mention" in 1996.

I contact you only in the spirit of sharing my work with a receptive viewer. I am not asking for help in promoting or publicizing the film, though of course I would welcome any thoughts you might have on any aspect of my work. It's all delicious grist for the mill.

If you're swamped with work, by all means, I understand. On the other hand, if you think you might be able to find some time, now or a year from now, just let me know where to send the DVD. One good thing about working at a cable access station -- you can make as many DVD copies as you like!

Take care,
Steve Saraceno

RC replies:


I am printing your letter, since I get so many similar requests and would like to give a general answer so I don't have to deal with each on a case-by-case basis. Here is my response: Yes, indeed, I am inundated with requests and claims on my time, but as long as you don't demand a response or a blurb, and don't automatically expect a rapid viewing of your work, you or anyone else always may send a tape or disk to the mailing address given on many pages throughout site. (See the Bookstore page, for example.) I really can't promise anything, but in each case I do my best to make time to look at what is sent me (though it may take me a long time to get to it). I wish all indies everywhere well. The path of the artist is a lonely, uphill one. But don't ever let that discourage or stop you. Keep going. It matters.


Ray Carney

Photo by Randy Walker

The following letter came in from a student who attended the double-feature screening of Pull My Daisy and Shadows that I presented at Boston University to recreate Amos Vogel's November 11, 1959 Cinema 16 screening of the two films. In his final paragraph, the writer also makes some very important points about the way filmmaking is taught -- not only at Boston University, but at many other American colleges and universities: as a craft, not an art; as a form of mass-production, not artistic expression; as a leveling, homogenizing process of compromising and eliminating the personal and idiosyncratic from the final product, not as a uniquely personal communication of a distinctive vision of life. (It is not an accident that such values are at the center of these courses. The teachers have internalized the value system of Hollywood studio filmmaking. Film is not viewed as an art, and the creation of a film is not viewed as a process of artistic expression.) I have withheld the writer's name for that reason to protect his identity. -- R.C.

Subject: Jamambi, Jamambi, Jamack, Jamack

Hello Professor Carney,

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the re-creation screening. It was amazing to see the two side by side. Pull my daisy feels like a song that as I play back in my head I feel the whole film as if it where music. I am thinking of the line, "Up you go, little smoke. Up you go little smoke." Kerouac actually sings the second part and that has stuck with me for it corresponds directly to the image but in a completely roundabout way. The other shot that stuck with me was one that is not only beautiful but very off putting as well. This is the one where the Bishop's mother plays the organ and the shot is composed only of one of her hands and the daughter's one hand turning the pages. The sharp cropping completely contradicts the beautiful music being played as does the rhythmic shaking of the organ (The rhythm it shakes seems to apply more to jazz than to the music being played on the soundtrack). The whole film simply gives into the charm of the beat mindset and Leslie and Frank revel in the potential fun and happiness one can have from always being one floor off the street. This may be a troubling message and portrayal but boy is it fun and it is almost like an alternative world or a dream.

As for Shadows, I am still thinking about it. There are certain scenes that stand out, most notably the scene involving Tony and Hugh. I was thinking that as an audience we do not want to feel for Tony and what makes that scene so unbearably uncomfortable to watch is because we are forced to feel his emotions and confusion. Tony struggles to turn the scene around while Hugh bears down on him. Tony hunches over but constantly pushes forward and yet the camera doesn't move. We are forced to watch him squirm and try and make right of the situation despite the overall impossibility of doing so. I just remember feeling Tony's uncomfortableness and not Hugh's anger (it was completely counter intuitive creating my own internal frustration) and that is what made that scene so amazing. The one problem I had with it was how the characters explicitly state their transformations. The moments following their speeches seem to give off the same feeling (Either Rupe and Hugh running for the train or Benny literally wandering through the streets alone). Those moments were really incredible. Also for some reason the slides in the film stick with me (In the beginning that one guy and in the middle Hugh being late for the train). I guess it sort of explains in visual terms how some of these people live. That it is an overlap I see with pull my daisy in how there is a sort of romanticism to the lifestyle. The happiness in which these people slide comes through the static frame and into me the person watching it. Aye, Well I am sorry for the ramble, I just needed to put down some of my thoughts so they weren't lost. But thanks for showing these two films so that I had the opportunity to feel and think these things.

As to the film i am editing now (my current student film) that is going well. It is around three minutes, and I like what has come through while editing it. But as I am getting ready to make a longer film about a story very close to me, I am struggling with the improper organization of the class for which I am using to make it. The class is structured in a way that seems to prevent a unified vision. Instead it strives for technical universality and diluted stories. It gives the wrong impression about how to make a film by taking the idea of a collaborative art so literally that it forces people with different sensibilities, ideas, and emotions together with little differentiation of rolls. It is certainly flawed, and it makes me feel that a lot of BU film production is aimed at beating down rather than building up. Aye, I have been struggling with this for the past week or so and it is fresh in my mind. I am confident that things will turn out well, but it has certainly been frustrating.

I hope all is well with you,
(name withheld)


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