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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Mr. Carney,

When the day started, I didn't expect to be writing you. Last night, I saw "Shadows" by John Cassavetes. I was so impressed and amazed by it that I did a web search about him today and came upon your site. When I read all of the "stuff" (for lack of a better word) that has been going on with you and his widow...wow. I never knew or imagined. Anyway, I have three questions for you.

First, on amazon.com, it says the DVD of "Faces" that was released in the Cassavetes Box Set includes 17 minutes of opening footage not seen before. I don't understand why Ms. Rowland would allow this to be shown when she didn't want the footage you found of "Faces" to be shown or the first edit of "Shadows" to be shown?

Second, why would Ms. Rowland's allow your essay to be included on the back and insert of the "Shadows" DVD which states there was an earlier version of "Shadows" which she claims does not exist?

And third, I read an online review of "Shadows" which states the original "Shadows" was a movie about racism and the longer version that was released was not about racism. After viewing "Shadows", I feel that while the longer version is not explicitly about racism it is still an integral part of the film. Was this person trying to say that the first version was entirely about racism?

Thank You very much for your time. Before last night, John Cassavetes was a tribute song done by the band Le Tigre. I had never gotten the chance to see any of his films. Now, I want to know as much about the man as I can.

Be Sound,
Skip Mountain

Ray Carney replies:

Mr. Mt.,

Sorry to be brief, but I am inundated by emails from all over the world, each expecting personal answers.

Short answer: All of your questions are answered in my writing. Buy the books--from the site or elsewhere. But some of the books are available only on the site (Necessary Experiences, What's Wrong...., and Why Art Matters, for example). Read the books.

Less short answer (but still brief):

1) Gena Rowlands and Al Ruban kicked and screamed and resisted releasing both any of Faces and any of the alternate cut of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (and of course the first version of Shadows too). I fought for the inclusion of all three. But I, via producer Johanna Schiller and boss Peter Becker, did persuade them that they were shooting themselves in the foot with their obduracy. That they were wrong, stupid, foolish. After months of persuasion, they finally saw the light in part and including the 17 min. of Faces and the other version of Bookie were the compromises they agreed to. They never would agree to including the first version of Shadows. I took a bullet in the end for all of it. But I did the right thing. Neither of the other films' (Faces and Bookie) alternate material would be in the set at all if I hadn't pushed for months.

2) I can't understand your question. My writing on Shadows is NOT included in the Criterion DVD. (I do have a set of essays on another DVD set about Cassavetes done years ago by Pioneer but that is a different matter.) Nor was the voice-over commentary I spent weeks writing and three days recording in a sound studio. Gena threw that overboard when she made me walk the plank. The voice-over was removed and all references to it having been done were suppressed. You won't find a whisper of any of it -- or of my considerable involvement -- in the box set, the publicity, or the reviews. It's a little like the way the old Communist and Fascist regimes worked. Rowlands re-wrote history by forcing Criterion to remove references to anything that didn't tell the story her way. All references to the voice-over work I did and to every other aspect of my massive input into the DVD set were removed by Criterion. That's the way real censorship works. When you don't like something, it ceases to have ever existed.

3) As to the racial themes in Shadows, see my Faber/Farrar Cassavetes on Cassavetes and British Film Institute Shadows books. They have much about this. The books not the web site. As to whether the first version is more "racial" than the second: No, it's not. Whoever wrote that doesn't know what he/she is talking about. (Not the only one I would put into this category.) There are many many differences between the versions, many different scenes and even different characters, too much to summarize here; but one difference I can put into a few words is to say that the first version is much more about the boys than the later version and much more told from a male perspective. It throws a lot of light on Husbands in this respect.

In haste,
RC


Dear Professor Carney,
 
I recently discovered the genius of John Cassavetes while taking a film course entitled "Images of Women in American Film 1960-1990." I was blown away by A Woman Under the Influence. Screening the film for the film club I advise at
Weymouth High School, where I teach, was one of the high points of my career. The kids also were fascinated by the film, and a rabid discussion followed. Subsequently, I began a quest to learn everything I could about Cassavetes.  I found your book, and also your website. In perusing your website, I found your essay regarding the first print of Shadows to be fascinating. I noted your comment that anyone hoping to see the first version of this film needs to sit in on one of your classes when you screen it, and was wondering when you were next screening it, and if I might impose upon you to sit in on your class to view the film. Thank you for your scholarship and for your time.
 
Sincerely,
 
John Pappas
Language Arts Department
Weymouth High School

Ray Carney replies:

Thanks John. That's a Greek name isn't it? Reminds me of the time I flew to Tarpon Springs, Florida to speak to a Greek organization run by a guy named John Pyros. The only time in my experience any group of Greeks has shown the slightest interest in Cassavetes. Strange, eh? Other ethnic groups are better at supporting "their people." You know the groups I mean. Well, that's my experience at least. So it's nice to get an inquiry that is an exception.

As to your question: I feel I've answered it a gad-zillion times already: Yes, you are welcome to come if I show it. But no, it won't be shown anytime in the near future in my classes. My grad students (and most of the undergrads, who are--speaking frankly--slightly more "hip" to "what's happening") are just not interested in seeing it. I showed it last year and half of them slept through the screening, or at least didn't seem to give a darn. Conducting a post-screening discussion was like pulling teeth. I honestly believe that if I announced a course tomorrow on "Behind the Scenes: John Cassavetes' creative process: the examples of Shadows, Faces, Husbands, Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Love Streams" (all films that I have four or five screenplay versions of and/or multiple edits of in my possession to share with the class and discuss), it would not enroll enough students to be offered. The grad. students (and most undergrads, also) would rather take courses in Tarantino, The Matrix, the Coen brothers, Hong Kong cinema, film theory, Japanese anime, feminist film ("Images of Women in Film"?!), Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Star Wars -- or practically anything other than Cassavetes. And my Dean would prefer that too. Fashion slaves all. That's the reality in which I live. I've resigned myself to it. So no pulling teeth. No Shadows first version screenings. (But if you want a quick taste, a bit of a "teaser," click here to view three brief video clips from the first version.)

Sorry to be discouraging, but them there's just the facts, ma'am. As a fellow teacher (and "Film Club" advisor), I'm sure you know the feeling. Sometimes what matters most to you and me is completely irrelevant to them. And to most of America. (I have yet to see a single report in the mass American media on the discovery.)

All best wishes,

RC


Re: Cassavetes on Cassavetes

Dear Mr. Carney,

I just wanted to thank you for writing the book "Cassavetes on Cassavetes." I am 21 years old and currently making a film on my own and reading your book was incredibly inspiring, definitely the best book on film I've ever read. I've read some of the articles on your website detailing the problems with the Criterion Collection situation and it's very depressing to think that a man who worked so hard to express his personal vision has had his work so neglected both while he was alive and after his death (usually a time when great artists, if unappreciated during their lifetime, finally are recognized for their genius). I read a Playboy interview with Mr. Cassavetes on the internet about a year ago and that's what first got me interested in both him and his work. When I got the Criterion boxset, I was blown away by his films and looked forward to the "Constant Forge" documentary. Thank you for clarifying what I felt when I watched it, that it was an insult to Mr. Cassavetes and his work. I can only hope that someone with balls is someday in enough of a position of power that we can all see Mr. Cassavetes work the way it was intended. I fear that there aren't many filmmakers among my generation who fit this description. It's really a joke that Love Streams, Husbands, and Minnie and Moskowitz are not available on video. After reading your book I'm dying to see them.

I relate to the passion, energy, fire, and overall approach to life of Mr. Cassavetes more so than I do to any other filmmaker (or person really) and it saddens me that I will never be able to meet him. Your book should be mandatory reading for all film students. I wish you luck in your continued efforts on behalf of Mr. Cassavetes legacy. If I am ever in a position where I could be of help, I will do whatever I can. All the best, and a sincere thank you.

Alex Gladwell, Toronto

Ray Carney replies:

Thanks for the kind words! And I am glad the Cass on Cass book inspires you. It was inspiring to write too! And yes, the story of his life remains to be told in a documentary. Kiselyak's doesn't cut it. Someone else should do it right.

All best wishes,
Ray Carney


Mr. Carney,

The material on your website regarding the Gena Rowlands/Al Ruban backlash is an extremely interesting follow up to your wonderfully written book Cassavetes on Cassavetes. I will be re-reading my copy of the book very soon. On one hand, I might be able to empathize with Rowlands. In a way, she is trying to be the good widow. However, she has taken this to a disgraceful level. She has revealed herself to be an out of touch and extremely manipulative woman.

I won't be buying the Criterion Collection Box Set which I had planned on buying. A few years ago when I discovered Cassavetes in college (from a compelling article you wrote), I was lucky to find his films at a library at the University of Florida so I've already seen them.

I'm debating whether or not I should be getting rid of some of my DVDs produced by Criterion. It's incredible that they could be so low-brow when they have positioned themselves as wanting to preserve the integrity of different works of art.

After everything that you have done to create a following for the films of Cassavetes, I am truly sorry that you have had to go through this mess. Rowlands should be ashamed. If I can donate or help in some way I would like to. I'm going to be starting a film within the next few months from my hard earned savings, but I'd like to help you if even in a small way. We need more people like you to buck the system. I once read a tagline along the lines of "A cinematic Noam Chomsky or Ralph Nader" but I've never thought that was accurate. This situation proves it. Those people don't take real risks. Chomsky and Nader will always be popular among the beautiful people. In a world where everything is so protected, you have taken risks with your own money and your own reputation for your ideals.

Parag

Ray Carney replies:

Dear Parag,

Well, we may disagree about Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader, both of whom I regard as great American heroes (and as people who do put their money where their mouths are), but that's a trivial quibble. Thanks. I appreciate your kind words.

And your kind offer. I always need help with my publishing and research projects since I get little or no financial support for them from my university. Most of them could not have been done without an army of volunteers helping out. (The Acknowledgments pages in the back of the Cassavetes on Cassavetes book lists the dozens of students, former students, and lovers of film who helped on that project.) But I'll have to put on my thinking cap and let you know if there is anything you could do at a distance. It's always easier when someone is in the area.

I wish you luck on your film. And don't let the Criterion fiasco get you down. I'm sure not letting it get to me. I'm busy with lots of other positive projects. There is plenty of good, creative work to be done and I'm not wasting a minute looking backward. And the resistance or indifference of the world is just proof that what I am doing matters. Some of us--artists, writers, ballerinas, musicians, and other caregivers and lovers of all sorts--have to do the work that the world doesn't do on its own, the business that the world doesn't appreciate, promote, or celebrate. That is why we do what we do. So that those values will be preserved and protected. A few of us are here on this planet to care about things that don't make money or get press coverage. The world needs us precisely for that reason. And the fact that those things are not popular or covered in the press is proof of their value. If the world already cared about the things I am doing, if they made a profit, if they were on the cover of People magazine, there would be no point in doing them. They would get done on their own.

All best wishes,
RC


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.