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critics and reviewers have said about Ray Carney's American Vision:
The Films of Frank Capra
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."
Poague, author of Frank Capra in Film Quarterly
extraordinary achievement and undertaking.... A true fruition and
a powerful defense of the auteurist impulse in film studies."
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."
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.'"
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."
exciting art criticism book . . . so different from the many film
criticism texts published in America and Europe."
Journal of American Studies
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."
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
Basinger, Curator, Wesleyan University Frank Capra Archives and
author of the It's a Wonderful Life Book
most detailed, intelligent, original, and accurate interpretations
of [Capra's] work."
* * *
Cassavetes on Ray Carney's American Vision
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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