What critics and reviewers have said about Ray Carney's American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra

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The Georgia Review
"An ambitious and eloquent book [that] reads extraordinarily well. Carney speaks with freshness, clarity, and an absence of theoretical claptrap. He produces thoughtful and sometimes exuberant analyses of such Capra perennials as Meet John Doe and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as well as It's a Wonderful Life. . . [American Vision is] a book that should advance the reputations of both Frank Capra and Raymond Carney."

Leland Poague, author of Frank Capra in Film Quarterly
"An extraordinary achievement and undertaking.... A true fruition and a powerful defense of the auteurist impulse in film studies."

Film Study
"Offers fresh insights into Capra's career and the characters he created for the screen. Particularly impressive is the author's ability to tie the filmmaker's work to elements in the traditional arts and to Capra's peers in the film industry . . . The skill with which the author develops his thesis provides a model for future studies of this type."

Wilson Library Bulletin
"Carney makes a convincing case for his view of Capra as an 'American dreamer.'... His subtle analyses of individual films consistently reveal new slants even on movies already well covered in film criticism.... Carney opens new widows onto the important achievement of this major American director, and provides a framework for appreciating the depth and artistry of Capra's 'American Vision.'"

Library Journal
"The examples he cites of the strategies the films share with specific paintings by Homer, Eakins, and Sargent support Carney's fresh insights into the stylistics Capra developed and make the reevaluation he urges of the films all the more compelling. Recommended."

America
"[An] exciting art criticism book . . . so different from the many film criticism texts published in America and Europe."

The Journal of American Studies
"Carney constantly makes revealing and instructive comparisons with novelists and painters to link Capra to the themes and forms of American Romanticism. He advances his thesis further in a closely argued and densely detailed discussion of the individual films, assessing design, lighting, music, cutting, staging and acting styles.... All this is immensely valuable and Carney assembles a persuasive case."

Movie Collector's World
[American Vision] is a challenging, invigorating, and masterful work.... Carney's book allows us not only a greater appreciation of Capra's genius, but a greater understanding of film and what film can accomplish in its efforts to entertain us, challenge us, and, perhaps, inspire us."

Jeanine Basinger, Curator, Wesleyan University Frank Capra Archives and author of the It's a Wonderful Life Book
"The most detailed, intelligent, original, and accurate interpretations of [Capra's] work."

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John Cassavetes on Ray Carney's American Vision
"It is such a pleasure to see energy flow in a positive direction. I share [Ray Carney's] love for Capra...in my estimation the greatest of all American directors, a man who was so beautiful, so forgiving, so democratic, so damned talented, so full of life and energy that his films patrol the imagination of America today. He represents a country that perhaps never was. We see his heavies and they are the mighty, the unbeatable, no longer caring until they are made to care by the innocent persistence of the heroes. The villains continue to be greedy until Capra's people make them realize that there's joy to living.... He is the American dream."

Ray Carney, American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra (Hanover, N.H. University Press of New England, 1996), 88 illustrations, paperback, 510 pages. This book is available directly from the author for $20.

The first interdisciplinary study of America's best-known filmmaker. In this daring and unorthodox study, Ray Carney places the work of Frank Capra in the great tradition of American transcendentalism–along with paintings by Homer, Eakins, Sargent, Hopper and the writings of Emerson, Poe, Hawthorne, and William and Henry James, among others.

Interweaving wide-ranging discussions of American literature, drama, and painting and the work of other filmmakers with detailed analyses of such films as Itís a Wonderful Life, Meet John Doe, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Carney finds in Capraís life and work a classic American struggle for self-expression within the repressive structures of ordinary life. In this larger cultural context, Capra emerges as something far more radical than the social realist he is often taken to be–as a visionary determined to unleash "mysterious, distinctive, personal energies that defy social understandings or control."

American Vision was reprinted in 1996 with a new Preface, outlining recent developments in Capra criticism, and detailing the shortcomings of current Cultural Studies approaches to his work.

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