The pages in this section of Ray Carney's www.Cassavetes.com site contain letters written to Prof. Carney from artists about the Shadows, Faces, Criterion, and Kiselyak situations. The letters written to Prof. Carney are in black; his responses and comments are in blue. The letters on this page are only a small sample of the ones he has received pertaining to these issues. Note that another large section of the site, "The Mailbag," contains many more letters about other matters. To go to "The Mailbag" click here.

To learn more about the events these letters are commenting on, consult the links in the top menu of any of the pages in this section, which tell the story of Carney's discoveries of a new print of John Cassavetes' Faces, his discovery of a print of the long-lost first version of Shadows, his work on the Criterion DVD box set of Cassavetes' films, and his work as the scholarly advisor on a documentary film about Cassavetes.

To read specifically about Gena Rowlands's response to Prof. Carney's discovery of the new Faces print, click here. To read specifically about Rowlands's response to Prof. Carney's discovery of the first version of Shadows, click here.

To read a chronological listing of events between 1979 and the present connected with Ray Carney's search for, discovery of, and presentation of new material by or about John Cassavetes, and the attempts of Gena Rowlands's and Al Ruban's to deny, suppress, or confiscate Prof. Carney's finds, click here.

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Sir,

i dare to write you because i am looking for the scenario of A woman under the influence. in france, we can only find movie's traduction and i think it's very bad...

i've the project to bring to theater an adaptation of the movie. i really admire John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands. My big wish is to bring them, and all the characters they have built around them, on stage. i mean i would love to see Cassavetes's reality on stage. and mostly the work they've done together. I've spoken already with Gerard Depardieu (he owns the movie's rights) and he's waiting for the adaptation i've proposed to him. it would be an honor for me to bring on stage the meaning of this film.

So, my question is : can you tell me where can i find the scenery of a woman under the influence?

Thank you very much for your answer,

All my greetings and admiration,

Anne Rebeschini

Ray Carney replies:

Anne,

I have the script (actually many different drafts of it)—including, believe it or not, several versions of Woman Under the Influence written to be mounted specifically as stage plays. They are quite amazing. They were gifts to me from John before he died, but Gena would throw me in jail if I sent you copies. If you think that's a joke or an exaggeration see my web page urls:

http://people.bu.edu/rcarney/discoveries/discrowlands.shtml or
http://people.bu.edu/rcarney/discoveries/discint.shtml
.

You'll see I'm not kidding! Summary: Gena Rowlands is waging a campaign in retaliation for things I have done and written that she doesn't agree with: specifically for 1) my not agreeing to turn the first version of Shadows over to her to destroy or suppress and 2) for my telling the truth about John Cassavetes' life and work. (She is terrified of the truth and focused on covering it up and denying it.) So she is retaliating against me for revealing things she doesn't want revealed. Her treatment of the Shadows and Faces finds, and her insistence that Criterion remove my name from the Cassavetes box set are an attempt to shut me down.

She's already taking legal action against me for finding and attempting to screen the first version of Shadows, and I just can't handle any more legal harassment, so I'm sorry, I can't pass the screenplays or plays John wrote on to you. That would surely turn into one more thing she would get the lawyers to hammer me with.

But I don't understand why you need the script. You have the film. Why not use that as your script and do a better French translation? Surely it wouldn't take much work to transcribe and translate it. I do much more work than that when I write a book about John's work. Work is good for the soul. It's good if things don't come too easy. But of course you will still need Gena's permission to mount your translation as a stage play. I have her address and phone number but she has told me I am not allowed to give them out. But ask Gerard Depardieu. He surely has them.

While you're talking to Depardieu, ask him if I would be willing to attempt to persuade Gena to let the first version of Shadows be screened in Paris. I'd love to show it there! She needs to hear it from someone else. She won't listen to me. I have given up on trying to persuade her.

Best wishes,

RC


Subject: John Cassavetes Criterion Battle

Dear Mr. Carney,

I had planned to email you to let you know that I have been wearing out a copy of Cassavetes on Cassavetes since the summer (is this available in hard cover?). I won't go into my usual raptures about your books (especially this one) and bore you and so on. To keep it simple, it is great. I am learning so much from it and I find it so inspiring from a humanistic point of view. This book has been like a bible to me. It is rich in life lessons and philosophy. You could teach a course on how to live life from it.

Ok, now I need to get to down to business here. I haven't been on your site in a couple of months, and I came across the news about your battle with Criterion and Gena Rowlands. I am so sorry to hear about what Criterion did and what GR is doing. After writing to you back in June, I was actually thinking about finding out how I could write to her (Gena) and possibly converse with her (as I had with you) about John Cassavetes and his work. I guess there is no point now. It's probably better I don't.

I am saddened about this news and disappointed by Criterion and GR. I didn't know about the Criterion release other that seeing a listing of it on Amazon as "John Cassavetes: Five Films". I assume that this is/was the collection? After reading the two interviews you gave, I now realize what a loss this is (it's not my intention to rub salt in any wounds) for you, me and everyone. I know that if I knew that you were at work on this project, I would have been bothering you every month for updates on the release of the set. Without a doubt, it would have been incredible to hear your voice over, see still photos, liner notes, etc. Knowing your work, the richness and depth of what you must have put into this collection would be second to none.

Mr. Carney, I wish there was something I could do to help. I really do. I actually wanted to say that the first time I sent you an email. This assistance is from the point of view of helping spread awareness of the work of JC, towards art vs. mainstream Hollywood product. How we are brainwashed by commercialism and have lost the ability to think and feel for ourselves. How I could possibly do this, I have no idea, as I am certainly not an authority or a scholar on this subject. I am just someone who wants to delve a little deeper than the next person. Now the issue seems to be Censorship, and the irony of where it is coming from, in this instance. I do support your view and your actions, as truth is the heart of the matter and in the end, the truth is all we have.

If you feel I can be of assistance, please let me know.

Yours Sincerely and in support,

Jordan Ivanov

Ray Carney replies:

Jordan,

Thanks for the kind words. And the offer to intercede. I've already tried everything I can imagine: from groveling apologies for any misunderstanding to offers to give her the film if she promises to do the right thing by it and not suppress it. But I've gotten nowhere. Even today, November 2004, Rowlands still (!!!!) denies there ever was a first version, treating what I found as if it were a piece of embarrassing, junky rough footage that deserves to be destroyed. And she hates that I tell the truth about parts of Cassavetes' life that she wants to suppress. So her way of retaliating is to call in the lawyers, to try to censor my work, and to get me fired from the Criterion project and my name erased from it. So thanks for the offer, but if she won't listen to someone who has spent two decades celebrating, promoting, the singing the praises of her husband's work, she certainly won't listen to you.

Thanks for supporting my attempt at truth-telling. The world is so full of lies and hypocrisy and deceit—particularly when it comes to dealing with the rich and powerful—that it shocks many people that I would tell the truth about a movie star. I was talking on the phone with a close friend of Gena's recently, and she told me she thought it was "outrageous" that I would dare to criticize her in public. But that's just what I call the Norma Desmond world of Hollywood. The world of the Academy Award acceptance speech where everyone so totally sucks up to everyone else that they lose sight that there is anything called truth.

Rowlands is attempting to destroy my reputation and work. What she's retaliating for is not only my not agreeing to turn the first version of Shadows over to her, but also the truth-telling of my writing. She is striking back for things I have written that she doesn't want said. She is terrified of the truth about John Cassavetes' life coming out and devoted to covering it up and denying a lot of it, and I am not not playing along with her or allowing her to censor my work the way she would like to. That's what it's about. Her treatment of the Shadows and Faces finds, and her insistence that Criterion remove my name from the Cassavetes box set are an attempt to silence and discredit me.

Things have been pretty rugged. She has taken me to the cleaners legally. Tens of thousands of dollars to defend myself from her attempts to seize the print. How I hate lawyers! And her stupidity. For that's what it really comes down to. To make things worse, an Iago figure named Al Ruban is manipulating her. Feeding her all these lies. He's had it in for me for years and this is his way to get me once and for all. But if she's dumb enough to fall for it, the fault is still hers in the end.

Don't worry about me. I'm a survivor. And don't worry about the first version. I will go to my grave before I'll turn over the print of Shadows (a beautiful, polished, finished work of art) to Rowlands to be destroyed. I don't care what it costs me to hold onto it. This is for eternity—the next generation and John's memory.

Thanks,

RC

P.S. I posted a new set of pages with a lot of the info on the "Ray Carney's Discoveries" button on the bottom of the Films of JC section. (Click here to go to that section of the site and then click on the items in the top menu.)


Subject: SHADOWS, 1st version
Hi Ray-

Sean Savage here. Hopefully you'll remember me from the Olympia Film Festival. Presently I'm at NYU, doing their masters program in film archiving and preservation. The tale about the rediscovery of the 1st version of SHADOWS rivals in excitement the one about finding THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC in the closet of a Danish insane asylum. I've been following this unfortunate drama, and am actually doing a project about the issues around certain films going "out of circulation" (KILLER OF SHEEP music rights, etc.). I want to include the first SHADOWS and FACES as case studies and make sure I've got the latest on 'em. As you know, there's precious little news out there about these.

We may wait patiently for Ruban and Rowlands to drop dead, but is their any hope for reason out of the next generation of the family? Couldn't this go on indefinitely? Rosenbaum and Adrian Martin had an interesting idea about getting some video dubs circulated for "scholarly" purposes. It may be time for an alternate means of dissemination. Do you think that would help demystify the whole thing, or just further infuriate the irrational powers-that-be?

Well, I know you get hundreds of emails a day, but if you had anything to add it would be great (It's a PowerPoint to a dozen people and a paper with some other case studies). Maybe I'll show up in your classroom one day just to see the damn thing.

Thanks, be well, and carry on,

-Sean.

p.s. The best part about sneaking the Cineastes de notre temps into the box set is that Rowlands is present in the room when Cassavetes says he doesn't oppose screenings of the first version! But even if the whole thing has slipped her mind, how can she demand possession of something she insists doesn't exist?

Ray Carney replies:

Sean,

Thanks for your kind words.

I assume you've read my recent postings on the issue. Try the new Discoveries section, accessible through the Films of John Cassavetes splash page at the bottom, and read the second "interview"—the one I did with George Hunka—for example. ((Click here to go to the interview with George Hunka.)) Also the Faces postings.... ((Click here to read about my Faces discovery.)) And the "Who owns an improvised work" page ((Click here to go there.))

I appreciate the intended flattery of the comparison but this is really much greater and more important than the Joan of Arc discovery. This is a whole new film by a major filmmaker. Like finding a new Dreyer film. Not just a better print and edit of an old one.

I reply to some of Rosenbaum's ideas in a few of the letters responses. Gena would take legal action if I released anything, anyhow, pirated, surreptitious, bootleg copies or anything at all. The legal situation is interesting (and favorable to me): Remember Sh. I was improvised. John doesn't (didn't) own the script or the final work in the usual way. The actors do. That was in writing when it was made. ((Click here to see the new posting on that.))

But the moral for me is how little "right" counts when you have a millionaire (a la O.J.) willing to hire a team of lawyers to threaten and harass a lowly paid opponent (me). It's not about who's right or what's right. It's about her lawyers being able to annihilate mine with suits and threats and letters that cost a thousand dollars an hour to be replied to. As one of my lawyers actually told me: "When it comes to the law, you get what you pay for." I thought it was a disgraceful thing to say, but she said she was just cluing me in to the way things work legally.

My main disappointment in the whole thing is that no scholar or archive or programmer has rallied around the cause. Would you believe that other than George Hunka and one or two other low level people (like you!), no one has even asked me to tell my side of this? None of the authors of articles (by Jonathan Rosenbaum or Adrian Martin or Tom Charity or Manohla Dargis or anybody else—in Time Out or The New York Times or Sight and Sound or anywhere else) that alludes to my situation—not one of them—has written me a single email or phoned me to have me tell them my side of either the Shadows or the Criterion stories. How can they claim to be interested in the truth if they don't even ask me what happened? That's how little they are interested in getting at the truth, let alone trying to mount a campaign against the kind of censorship that Rowlands is exercising. There are dozens of articles that mention the Criterion firing or Rowlands's refusal to let the first version of Shadows be screened, but almost all of them get the facts wrong because the writers didn't even care enough to research the story. It says a lot about what passes for journalism in film. A real journalist would be fired if he or she wrote an article about what had happened to someone without even trying to interview the person involved.

And since Gena started squawking, not one American film festival programmer has invited me to show the film (which I am willing to do, as long as it is done right, I mean not a stupid quickie screening but a big event to discuss and present it properly). They're all afraid of Gena I guess. So that's a lesson too. A lesson in how it's not about who's right or what the principles of a thing are, but about how movie stars set the priorities at film festivals. If Gena won't attend the screening what's the point in having it? American festivals are about celebrity appearances and ticket sales, ultimately; not about showing the most important films.

Movie stars are the new royalty in America. Deferred to, bowed down to, worshipped no matter how badly they behave, even if they want to suppress a work. Where are the angry editorials about her conduct? Where are the outraged protests? Where are the letters or emails to me offering support or help? It's a sad lesson in how the world actually works. Money and power talk. Keep that in mind in your future career. I wonder if they teach that in your preservation courses.

Cheers,

RC

P.S. My general point is that I AM able to show this film outside of my classroom, but no one will go near it (let alone help me make a duplicate of it) for fear of "alienating Gena." That is the celebrity whoredom that besets our culture. To heck with a new film. To heck with a major discovery. To heck with a harassed discoverer. Just don't upset a movie star! I offered Shadows I to Peter Scarlet for free to show at Tribeca last year and he ran the other way when he realized he might "make Gena mad." I offered the print to the Film Foundation, but Scorsese vetoed preserving it for the same reason. Don't want to risk "alienating Gena." I offered it to UCLA and they told me they were afraid of "losing her support" if they helped me with it. This is the part of film preservation that is not written about. The suck up part. The make friends with Hollywood movie stars part. It's not ultimately about preserving the great works. It's about who the AFI and UCLA want to make friends with.

If Robert Kramer is not on the hot button list, forget preserving his work. If Barbara Loden is not, give up her work. It's about celebrity not principles.

So when you go into preservation, watch out that you don't cross Beatrice Welles or the keeper of the Bette Davis estate either! It's simply appalling to me how celebrity sets the agendas of our major film archives and places like the Library of Congress too. (That's explained in my Faces find description, where you can see how the Library of Congress collaborated with Gena to suppress the discovery.) Click here and here for information about how the Library of Congress is more interested in staying on good terms with a celebrity than announcing a discovery.

But basta. Hope your teacher allows these issues to be discussed. Noam Chomsky calls it "the institutional control of discourse." And it's a real issue. Not a figment of my imagination!


Subject: A Constant Forge

Hello,

My name is Barry Ronan. I am a young filmmaker based in Ireland, and a great fan of Cassavetes. I recently purchased the Criterion CollectionBoxset and have just finished watching Charles Kiselyak's documentary.

It is really terrible - lazy, corny, and boring. It really seems to be the antithesis of everything that Cassavetes' life & work were about - he must be spinning. Beneath the standard of a one hour Biography channel doc, and of all the subjects to do it to! From watching it, you'd swear it was made by the ghost of Stanley Kramer himself as an act of revenge.

It strikes me that even friends of mine who are die-hard cassavetes fans and critics in their own right seem to be so hungry for material on JC that even if it is as terrible as Kiselyaks' picture, there is nonetheless a desperate sense of gratitude on their part.

Anyway, the reason I write is that I have been reading your website and your comments regarding the debacles of both the boxset and the documentary and I have come to the conclusion that if there is anyone capable of making a halfway decent picture about JC, it would be yourself. So I ask you (after ACF, borderline urge you) if you have seriously thought about making the transition from books to the screen and creating your own documentary on Cassavetes' life and work? Trust
me - there's an audience for it.

yours,

Barry Ronan

Ray Carney replies:

Dear Barry,

Thanks for the kind words. Good to hear from you. As you're well aware, we agree completely about Kiselyak's "Constant Forgery." ((Click here to read about Ray Carney's involvement with Kiselyak's film.Click here to read about the removal of the credit for Carney's work on the Criterion box set.)) It's good to know not everyone is gushing about that piece of trash. Where are the film reviewers when we need them? But with Criterion's power, I doubt anyone other than I will tell the truth about it in print. It's a dirty secret of film reviewing that anyone in a position to write a review of Kiselyak's film secretly hopes Criterion will ask them to do notes for a future project and will consequently never say a bad word about anything they release for fear of getting on their sh** list. A lot of film reviewing is that way, in fact. Critics sucking up to someone in the hopes that they can get something out of it later on. Goes a long way toward explaining the awfulness of most film reviewing.

I actually have made a few films in the past, but don't look for them, they're not available any more. Indiscretions of a misspent youth. And I am working on a documentary right now. Or at least making plans and trying to get it off the ground. (Money woes. So what else is new?) But surprise: It's not about Cassavetes. Something else, something much more out there and even more controversial and daring. But that's all I can say for now.

If you or anyone you knew ever were serious about a Cassavetes documentary, I'd be glad to advise you or help in any way I can. But for me, for now, it's on to fresh fields and pastures new. And in a way, my writing covers a lot of what would be in any Cass. doc. I made, so you might say that I'm doing it in words anyway.

Stay well. Fight for the truth. And don't ever compromise on things that matter!

Best wishes,

Ray Carney


The pages in this section of Ray Carney's www.Cassavetes.com site contain letters written to Prof. Carney from artists about the Shadows, Faces, Criterion, and Kiselyak situations. The letters written to Prof. Carney are in black; his responses and comments are in blue. The letters on this page are only a small sample of the ones he has received pertaining to these issues. Note that another large section of the site, "The Mailbag," contains many more letters about other matters. To go to "The Mailbag" click here.

To learn more about the events these letters are commenting on, consult the links in the top menu of any of the pages in this section, which tell the story of Carney's discoveries of a new print of John Cassavetes' Faces, his discovery of a print of the long-lost first version of Shadows, his work on the Criterion DVD box set of Cassavetes' films, and his work as the scholarly advisor on a documentary film about Cassavetes.

To read specifically about Gena Rowlands's response to Prof. Carney's discovery of the new Faces print, click here. To read specifically about Rowlands's response to Prof. Carney's discovery of the first version of Shadows, click here.

To read a chronological listing of events between 1979 and the present connected with Ray Carney's search for, discovery of, and presentation of new material by or about John Cassavetes, and the attempts of Gena Rowlands's and Al Ruban's to deny, suppress, or confiscate Prof. Carney's finds, click here.

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Text Copyright 2004 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.