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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Dr. Carney,

I've been reading about your efforts to make the alternate versions of Shadows and Faces available to the public. I am amazed at the problems you've had with Rowlands, and wonder if you've considered releasing the movies as downloadable files that are free to anyone who wants them. I know that this would preclude any profits you might make, but it seems like it might be a way around any and all licensing questions. As well, it gives you the opportunity to thumb your nose at her animosity toward you. It may be somewhat immature, but it also gets these works out to the people who want to see them. There might be indirect ways to make money from this ploy such as selling advertising on the page that is hosting the movies, and linking to Amazon pages selling to movies. I would imagine that you would get a ton of free advertising from news outlets that would be fascinated by the whole story. It might even allow your story to reach a greater public.

Travis Brown

Ray Carney replies:

Travis,

Thanks for the good thoughts. You're not the first person to suggest this or something similar, but what everyone seems to forget is that Rowlands has lawyers and legal papers, threats, deadlines, etc. out against me. In other words, I face the prospect of going to jail, getting massively fined, getting tied up in law suits for the rest of my life, or spending tens of thousands of additional dollars on lawyers' fees. People who write to me don't seem to take in the full consequences of what she is doing (and has done). They act like it's a game of hide-and-seek or catch-me-if-you-can. Forgive the comparison. I don't mean to put your good ideas down. But do you see what I am saying? This woman is not just "talking tough." Or "expressing her opinion." It's not just a matter of getting around Rowlands in a clever way. Making the film available on the internet has life-changing consequences for me. Rowands is playing financial hardball and it's not a game. She is doing nothing less than ruining me, destroying me. It's already happening. It's not just a war of words or opinions. It costs thousands of dollars for me to defend myself. That's the way the law works in this country. And there will be even more serious and extremely expensive repercussions if I post this film as a download. Legal, financial, economic ones. And if you think she's bluffing or merely posturing, remember that SHE GOT ME FIRED from the Criterion job. Fired. Money not paid. A contract abrogated. That's not just posturing. That had major financial and institutional repercussions for me. (Do you have a job? I assume so. Well, imagine she had you fired from it. That's what I'm talking about.) This is not just a war of words or opinions. She's a millionaire and she has her lawyer after me. She can afford to legally sue me and/or keep me in court forever. It's not just a war of words. And, in case you don't know the going rate, it costs a thousand dollars an hour to defend myself. So it's not really just about "sneaking the film out."

And though it's a side issue to your letter, I might as well mention that not one of the Michael Moore/Martin Scorsese/Sean Penn "indie idealists" has raised his little finger to rally around this cause. They all talk big in TV or magazine interviews about indie film and distribution, but not one has offered to pay my legal fees or even speak out against this. And not one journalist as far as I can tell. Not even to say a single word on my behalf in public. It's all about my "bad attitude" towards her. Or my "snarky" comments on the site. As if all that this was about was words. That part of it has sure been an education for me......

Ray Carney


Re: New Cassavetes DVD box set in the UK

Dear Ray,

Hope you are well.

Not sure if you already know about this, but a DVD box set of five John Cassavetes films will be released on September 12th in the UK by a company called Optimum. The films are SHADOWS, FACES, A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE (both versions) and OPENING NIGHT.

I have been asked to review this box set for SIGHT AND SOUND. I received the test discs this morning. The contents are pretty much the same as the US Criterion release, except that A CONSTANT FORGE is not part of the set.

*** omitted material ***

Needless to say, this set does not include the earlier version of SHADOWS. Which is why I am writing to you. I haven't heard from you since last August, when I put you in touch with XXXX. I was just wondering if, between the two of you, you had managed to determine whether or not the original SHADOWS was indeed a public domain work. I was also wondering if there was anything new to report about your attempts to bring this version of the film to a wider audience. I would very much like to include some up-to-date information about this matter when I review the box set (bearing in mind that SIGHT AND SOUND are limiting me to 1000 words).

Best wishes,
Brad.

Ray Carney replies:

Brad,

I learned about the British project approximately six months ago when they contacted me and asked if I would contribute. I agreed to provide anything they wanted, from voice overs to written notes to on camera interviews. That was the last I heard from them. I assume after they relayed my enthusiasm to Al Ruban and Gena Rowlands, R and R told them I was not to contribute. End of story. When I enquired of the status of the project in follow-up emails, they never replied. Taking marching orders from the rich and powerful. Celebrity always trumps scholarship in film study.

My web site has complete information about all of the history of these various items, including my deposit of the Faces print in the Library of Congress and the Criterion blackballing and firing. See the Ray Carney's Discoveries section, and the interview with George Hunka in particular. The Hunka interview has new material near the end that explains why he cannot get it published.

If you manage to get any of the above in the S and S review, I'll be stunned. Journalists are cowards. S and S is afraid of alienating movie stars like Gena and to my knowledge not one magazine or newspaper has printed anything about what happened and what is clearly continuing to happen. So much for independent judgment. They are all publicity flacks to the rich and famous and powerful. Just like the DVD releasing companies are.

As to XXXX: he never did anything to help me. I think his firm must have told him it wouldn't be in his best interests to pursue this. I sent him tons of information but that was the end of it. So much for lawyers too! (Though nothing against XXXX personally, of course.)

RC

PS - As to Shadows' legal status, this too is covered on my site already. See the Discoveries pages where I talk about this. (Click here and here and here to read more about Cassavetes' wishes that the first version of Shadows be shown, the public domain status of the print, and Carney's attempts to prevent Rowlands from destroying or suppressing it forever.) Shadows is my property and not covered under copyright so I can screen it whenever or wherever I want. I am receptive to invitations and opportunities, but I want to do it right. This is covered in the letters and replies in the Discoveries section very thoroughly, just as all of the other issues are.

Dear Ray,

Thanks for the info.

"If you manage to get any of the above in the S and S review I'll be stunned."

I'll certainly mention all this, though I won't be able to go into the kind of detail I'd like (I have 1000 words, and can't really spend more than 200 discussing this controversy).....

"As to Shadows' legal status: This too is covered on my site already. See the Discoveries pages again. Shadows is my property and not covered under copyright so I can screen it whenever or wherever I want. I receptive to invitations and opportunities" I think the point that needs to be emphasized is that with the discovery of this version's public domain status, all of Gena Rowland's actions suddenly make total sense. If transfers of this version of SHADOWS were to become easily available, anyone who wanted to could release copies on DVD. And I'm not talking about kids selling home-made DVD-Rs over the internet - I'm talking about those companies that release professionally packaged DVDs of PD films such as IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, ONE-EYED JACKS and FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND. You can find stacks of these things selling for 4 or 5 dollars at your local Walmart. Needless to say, if cheap DVDs of SHADOWS were to become available in this way, it would seriously eat into the profits that Gena and Al Ruban can make from the second version of SHADOWS, which they actually own the rights to (well, probably own the rights to - let's not get into that). I know Gena has hinted that, were you to turn over the print you've discovered to her, she might destroy it. If she didn't destroy it, you can bet she'd just stick it in a vault somewhere - commercially, this would be the most sensible thing for her to do. Even if she released her own DVD of it, there'd be a thousand duplicate copies offered for sale by PD companies the next day.

The point I'm making is that some of your comments might lead people to conclude Gena is simply being whimsical in her attempts to suppress the early version of SHADOWS. But she isn't. Even her claims that "there is only one version of SHADOWS" can be seen as part of an attempt to lay the grounds for a legal defence, should prints of the first version start appearing on the PD market.

By the way, would it be possible for you to send me a video or DVD copy of the early SHADOWS? I haven't had an opportunity to attend any of the festival screenings, and I feel that I really need to see it before writing about this matter for SIGHT AND SOUND. Needless to say, I would be happy to pay whatever costs are involved, and would not mention having obtained the film from you (I could just say that I saw it at Rotterdam).

Best wishes,
Brad.

Ray Carney replies:

I've never ever for a moment thought that Gena is being "whimsical." Lawyers and threats and financial hardball and getting me fired and blackballing me from working on other DVD projects are not "whimsical." This is tough-as-nails hardball.

I agree with much of what you write. I think your analysis of the financial motives behind the attempt to confiscate and suppress the first version of Shadows is substantially correct. I've always felt she was financially motivated. But you see how that makes it even worse don't you? It is not a matter of "principle" but (at least in part) a business consideration that one of her husband's major works should never be seen! Money talks.

But don't overlook her sheer ignorance of events, either. People always assume Rowlands was JC's "collaborator." That's just not true. She was not involved in the planning, scripting, directing, or production of the films. Not even a little. She was an actress who came in and did her scenes. And then left. And then did PR when a film was released. In the case of Shadows, the first version and the second, that means that she is just plain unaware of what was going on. (When I talked to her, she had clearly no knowledge that the film was made and released twice. None. I had to explain this to her. It was news.) And she was and still is completely ignorant of what JC's intentions about it were or would now be. He told Andre Labarth he had no problems with having it shown. And he told me substantially the same thing. But she doesn't know or care what he said, and when she and I talked she wasn't interested in learning about my conversation with him about it. He told me he wished he had it. He told me he had no desire to suppress it but simply lost it and didn't know where it was. She just doesn't know any of this. I am not speculating. All of that became clear when I talked with her on the phone about all of this. She didn't know anything about anything in terms of the versions or screenings! And she wasn't interesting in learning. So that is another part of her decision-making. She really thinks that this is "rough footage" never meant to be seen. Al Ruban has poisoned her mind about this and she refuses to believe me or check the facts or read any of the books that detail the events.

I'm sorry I can't send you a DVD of the first version. It's just too risky in too many ways. Get me an invitation to show Shadows I and II in a back to back program in London in a proper event with a nice send-off and I'll sit next to you and "talk you through it." It's a great and interesting film--which is why I am fighting with my life (and money) to keep it from being confiscated, suppressed, and possibly destroyed. She may be able to ruin me financially, but I won't let her destroy this work of art. Or suppress it, which amounts to the same thing.

RC

Prof. Carney,

I just listened to Seymour Cassel's DVD commentary track for SHADOWS. Extremely interesting. He insists that only three scenes were shot specifically for the second version: Lelia in bed with Tony; Lelia dancing with Davey; and the final scene involving Hugh and Rupert. Cassel insists that all the other scenes that are unique to the second version were actually shot during the initial phase of filming (even though they weren't used in the first version).

Tom Charity actually does try to argue with him about some of this stuff, but the subject obviously makes Cassel extremely irritable. Cassel insists "there's only one version." Whenever Tom Charity tries to say something like "here's a scene that was reshot," Cassel shouts "Where do you get this bullshit?" At one point, Charity says "I'd like to take up a point raised by Professor Ray Carney", and at the mention of your name, Cassel mutters something - I couldn't quite make out what it was, but it didn't sound complimentary.

Brad

Ray Carney replies:

Brad,

Well, there you go. It's Seymour trying to shut me down. He's taking his marching orders from Al and Gena. When he argues that there is no such thing as a "first version" of Shadows, he is trying to convince the world of the same thing that Al and Gena have been telling interviewers and saying at film festivals for years. Of course, there's one flaw in their argument -- namely that I HAVE THE PRINT in my possession (a little embarrassing fact that they would like people to forget), and that -- as everyone I have shown it to, including six or seven hundred film-savvy viewers in Rotterdam, can attest -- it is a finished, beautiful work, complete down to its last details, with a credit sequence and a polished optical sound track (the last two things added to a film before its release, which conclusively proves that it isn't just a jumble of raw footage or an unfinished work). Seymour, Al, and Gena assume that if they just repeat the lie frequently enough, people will believe them and not the evidence of the print itself or the ample historical record of its earlier screenings or John's and Jonas Mekas's detailed descriptions of it. How dumb do Al, Gena, and Seymour think we are?

So what are you going to do? You can be like a George Bush sycophant White House reporter and take Cassel's word for it, or you can use your brain and think. Thinking in this case means reading my Shadows book and looking at the film.

I should just stop with that. That's plenty to go on. But I'll give you a little help: If you want to completely demolish his argument all you have to do it watch Lelia's hairdo and hair length change from scene to scene--from waist-length to neck length. Look at the Central Park running away scene and the dancing with Tony in the apartment scenes (long hair she had been growing all her life and evidence of the first version 1957 shoot) and compare it with her short hair length and hairdo in other scenes (filmed two years later for the second version reshoot): the seeing Hugh off at the bus station, the meeting Tony at the party scene, the walking with Tony on the sidewalk scene, the post-love scene, and many others. (Her eyebrows also change and her face changes because she goes from being 18 to being 20.) And if you do, you'll see that Seymour is simply wrong. It's not my opinion against his; it's a matter of right facts versus wrong facts. And the facts are not subtle and elusive and contested, but clear and obvious and indisputable. Two years separate those shots. And it's proven by a hundred other details in the film as well, all of which corroborate the two year difference, including what movies are playing at the theaters in the background and a dozen other differences between the two sets of shots. By the way, I'd also note that Lelia Goldoni, Maurice McEndree, and about ten other people involved in the two periods of shooting agree with my version of what happened.

A note to readers of this letter on my site: I would refer anyone who wants to learn more about how to identify footage from the different periods of shooting in the second version of Shadows to buy my BFI book on the making of the film and my "A Detective Story: A Study of Cassavetes' Revisionary Process" packet. Both are available via this link to the Bookstore section of the site (scroll up to locate the BFI book). Another page on the site has a brief sample of some of the material available in the book and the packet.

If you do that you can list the stupidities, the mistakes in your review. Don't be like a White House reporter afraid to question Bush's stupidity. Point out that a DVD releaser is releasing a disc with false information on it, with mistakes and errors. How do people feel about shelling out money for something full of errors? And there are many others beyond the ones I have focused on above.

Now the larger issue to touch on of course is what would Cassavetes scholarship be if we left it in the hands of Al Ruban, Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel, and others like them? The answer is: full of myths, mistakes, stupidities.

I hope you see what I'm getting at. Gena Rowlands and Al Ruban have appeared at public events and said that they agree with Seymour's version of events. Charles Kiselyak's Forgery film takes people like Seymour, Al, and Gena at face value. I point out their errors and am thrown overboard by Rowlands and Ruban.

Do you see that this is not just an argument between me and Gena? This sort of thing really matters. It's not just a personal thing between me and them. It's important to our understanding of how this film (and the other films) were made. Establishing basic facts is the nature of scholarship. Open a music biography and read about Beethoven's notebooks or Mozart's pentimenti, their drafts, their changes to their scores. We don't ask Mozart's widow to establish the facts. We do independent research. But in film, on a DVD, we put the junk a movie star says out there and take it seriously. That's what I mean when I say celebrity trumps scholarship. If a movie star says it, we assume it is true. Do we want people who weren't really involved with the production history of the movies (as Seymour and Gena weren't), people who can't remember the facts, people who are covering for Gena to be the source of facts? Or do we want scholarship, accuracy, truth?

But I got carried away and have given you entirely too much help. You'll have to figure out the other lies and distortions (perpetuated by Peter Bogdanovich, by Al Ruban, by Jon Voight, and by others) for yourself from now on. No more coaching! : ) It's all in my books anyway. And if you want help, re-read my Charles Kiselyak "mythmaking" interview again. I really say it all there. Gena is committed to perpetuating half-truths, falsehoods, and myths. Not reality. That's the Norma Desmond side of her. That's not just a colorful metaphor. It's not just an attempt to name-call. It's a considered, thoughtful description of the emotional place she is at. She isn't interested in facts or truth. She's interested in perpetuating self-serving myths. It's what Hollywood stars like Gena and Seymour become in their old age. Fabricators who believe their own press releases and lose touch with reality. And go on yammering stupidities on DVD releases. They become embarrassments. And DVDs continue to re-cycle their mistakes. And no one dares question them.

RC


Ray Carney includes the following two communications from Optimum Releasing from March 2005 as verification of Rowlands's removal of Carney from the UK DVD project:

Hi Ray,

I handle DVD publicity for Optimum Releasing. We're a UK distributor and we have the rights to release the Cassavettes films Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night for the first time on DVD in the UK. I noticed that you are an authority on Cassavettes' career and I am contacting you to see if you'd be interested in contributing to our DVD releases of these films (which will be released in a boxset) by possibly recording an audio commentary, filmed introduction or writing an essay to go in the boxset.

I also noticed that you wrote an article in the Guardian last year about Shadows and wondered if you would consider writing something that could be placed with UK press. We are planning to release these films in September this year, so if you could get back to me to let me know what you think that would be great. If you have any ideas, questions or would like to know more about this release please don't hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes,
Diana

Diana Privitera
Optimum Releasing
22 Newman Street
London
W1T 1PH
Direct Line: +44 (0)207 3071 512
Fax: 0207 637 5408
www.optimumreleasing.com

Dear Ray,

I have been forwarded your details by my colleague Diana Privitera, regarding our planned release of a John Cassavetes DVD boxset here in the UK.

I am very glad to hear you'd be interested in recording commentaries, or supplying essays for the accompanying booklet. Of course I understand that we would need to agree a fee and terms for anything you undertook for us: to initiate the discussion do you think you could give me some idea of what fee you would expect for, say, a feature-length commentary?

We don't tend to set specific budgets for the creation of extras, and generally prefer to take such decisions as and when material becomes available. What I can say is that obviously we're keen to ensure that we do these films justice given that this is the first time they will be available on DVD in this country. Our scheduled release date is late September, so we will need to have completed the project by the end of July - which gives us some, but not much, time to play with.

If you could let me know your thoughts on the above I'd really appreciate it.

Many thanks and best regards,

Stuart Henderson
-------------------------
Stuart Henderson
Optimum Home Entertainment
2nd Floor, 22 Newman Street
London W1T 1PH
Direct Line: (020) 7307 1503
Fax: (020) 7637 5408


Good morning Dr. Carney,

I have finally seen Charles Kiselyak's "A Constant Forge(ry)". It had some pretty good bits to it but overall I thought it was an overlong rambling session by people who would never say anything against Cassavetes on record. How many different ways can you say a guy was great in 3 hours? The film made almost no attempt to expose any of Cassavetes frailties, any of his imperfect humanity beyond the amazing creative virility. Goldoni and Noonan were the only ones who began to scratch the surface a little. I'll bet they had more to say that was ultimately edited out.

Sincerely,
John Yanez
www.yanezfacefilms.com


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 2005 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.