This is only the "To Print" page. To go to the regular page of Ray Carney's on which this text appears, click here, or close this window if you accessed the "To Print" page from the regular page. Once you have brought up the regular page, you may use the menus to reach all of the other pages on the site.


A note from good Matt Peterson, the archivist for Daniel Talbot (who ran the New Yorker Theater in New York City for decades and is one of the great, great heroes of American film exhibition. He helped to change history), about a lecture and forthcoming book on Carl Dreyer's masterwork, Gertrud (excepted from a longer exchange with Matt). And, for the record, Matt is correct: Cassavetes and I did talk about Dreyer and Gertrud in particular. Cassavetes told me he was actually present for the infamous Paris world premiere, when much of the audience left before the film was over and Dreyer was hissed and booed when he came out on stage. -- R.C.

. . . . I think it was in your interview book (Cassavetes on Cassavetes) where I first read of John's liking of Dreyer, perhaps after seeing Gertrud at a festival? I too adore his work. James Schamus is speaking at MoMA this weekend about a new book he wrote on the film.

Oh, and if doesn't smack too much of shameless self-promotion, I can't resist mentioning that I myself have a long discussion of Carl Dreyer's Gertrud in my own book on Dreyer's sound films: Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer (Cambridge University Press). The "Film and Other Arts" blue button in the left margin of this page will take you to a menu that will allow you to read excerpts from it and has information about purchasing it if you are interested. -- R.C.

Just want to give a shout-out to Mike Akel, writer-director of Chalk, my favorite documentary of the past couple years, who dropped me a note and mentioned that he is now teaching at the University of Texas,  or at least that he was teaching there recently. If you are a student at UT or anywhere nearby, I highly recommend that you try to take a class with him. He came into my classroom a couple years ago and was terrific with the students. (But Ronnie Bronstein, if you are reading this, don't worry: YOU still can keep the "Lenny Bruce Certificate" and "Comedian of the Century Award." For eternity. That will never change. And I'll never ask you to give the ten-foot, solid-gold trophy back.) If Mike's recent teaching is even one tenth as funny and perceptive as his filmmaking, he would be a great person to study under and his classes would surely be amazing.

But a rhetorical question: In his note he describes using something I wrote and how it set off "fireworks." My question is: Why in the world would anyone react this way? I must say I hear this all the time (at least once a week) from teachers who use my work in class; but I just don't get it. There is nothing at all controversial or "fireworks generating" in my writing. Everything I write is just plain "dumb as dirt" common sense. Totally simple, obvious stuff. So what gives? Is common sense that uncommon? I said these were rhetorical questions. No answer is expected, so please don't write me in response. (The ellipses below indicate places where I've removed some personal material and references from Mike's note. Hush. Hush.) -- R.C.

Subject: Hola from Texas

Hey Ray,

I was just digging around to see if I could find some of your latest writings and thought I'd drop you a line.... Your writings are and continue to be good medicine to my heart and mind.

Not sure if I told you but I was fortunate enough to teach a film class at the University of Texas last semester and as part of the class we read and discussed your essay "Letter to the Next Generation." As you would guess fireworks ensued and thus the class began.  I had a great semester and continue to mentor a few of those students.

All that to say...I love teaching AND making films.... Anyway,  I hope you're having a great Semester Ray.  AND, you better be writing and speaking.  I / We Independent Artisits/Filmmakers need your medicine.  Sincerely.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Lots a lovin,



Mike Akel

Writer / Director

I want to call readers' attention to the postscript and afterthought added to the posting about a friend's experience in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in the middle of a Mailbag page two pages back on the site (Mailbag page 111). I encourage interested readers to send me their responses either to the posting or to the postscript. -- R.C.

For the benefit of site readers in the New York City area. Josh Safdie is another of my favorite students (second only to his brother Benny... Hey Benny, whassup???). His film is being screened on Friday, October 3rd. Wish I could be there. Details follow. -- R.C.

A note from Ray Carney: "Must be something in the air." (Name that film!) Some sort of psychic mojo or something, but I no sooner sent the preceding note about Josh Safdie's screening off into the ether than I received (literally only seconds later) an email from Josh's filmmaking brother Benny, who graduated Boston U. recently, and who took a number of classes with me.

To answer one of Benny's questions here and now in public: Though both you and your brother were Boston University students, I'm not sure if BU will have any representatives at the NYC screening, or how many; and if they did, I can tell you I certainly would NOT be one of the invited ones! You can bet the farm on that: I won't be on the VIP list. It's the velvet rope for me. The line. The wait. The clipboard. The "Gee, I'm sorry, sir." (You understand? You know how things are up here.) But I really wish I could be there. I'd love to be there. In fact, I'd love to introduce your film, and your brother's. But I just can't possibly afford to come down, unless BU was paying for my ticket -- and I'm sure you understand that if the school sent someone else as a rep, I of course would not be welcome to do the introduction. It would be assigned to someone else. Ah.... bureaucracy sure is a ****, isn't it? But who cares? I've seen the films already and am sure you'll be terrific and the audience will love, love, love ya! Both of ya! Break a leg! Slay! Knock 'em dead!!!! I'm sure you and Josh will do great!!! -- R.C.

Subject: trying to give answers, also You got to come october 3rd!

Hello Ray,

I remembered walking out of my last class ever in college and feeling the urge and the need to thank you for everything. I was hoping it would surprise you months afterward. I do have your movie and cd's as well, I kept them as collateral so that we would have to see each other soon, ha. You are right about building it is the ultimate form of creativity. So much problem solving and surprise.

I hope your doing well, and I must apologize for this terse email, but josh and I are writing and directing a new feature film about a selfish father's 2 weeks with his two sons living in a studio apartment in New york. It has so far been the pre-production of it all (STARTING OCTOBER 20th!!) but i am really happy with everything and all of the characters we are amassing.

That said, BU is having a screening which they bought at the IFC center in new york for the premiere of josh's feature. It turns out they are coupling it with my short film "lonely John" too and seeing as you have been an enormous champion and helper and teacher and friend to me and josh we would love if you can come and celebrate with us. I know BU should have many tickets but I don't know how they are handling it. I hope you are well and I can't wait to talk about many many things. I hope to see you soon.

as ever,

A note from Ray Carney: For more information about Josh and Benny Safdie as filmmakers, and the Cannes screenings of their work, see this front page article from the Boston Globe.

This came in from Peter Quinn in response to my semi-comic invitation for "bucket list" films (after a reader named Alex wrote in to me about his own bucket list). See the posting about a third of the way down on Mailbag page 107 for Alex's email to me and an invitation to site readers for submissions. At the end of his note, Peter also mentions that two of Mike Leigh's greatest short films, "Afternoon" and "A Sense of History," which I frequently have shown in my classes, have recently become available on YouTube. (To the best of my knowledge, neither has been released on video.) I recommend both titles very highly. Very highly. -- R.C.

Subject: film "Bucket List"


Four films I would nominate are:
Elaine May's "Ishtar"
Rossellini's "Stromboli"
Aki Kaurismäki's "The Man Without a Past"
Chris Marker's "La Jetée"

There are of course lots of other great films I might have included but I prefer to nominate living directors for the most part. A great director like Elaine May is still sadly under appreciated.

By the way, two of Mike Leigh's great shorts, "Afternoon" and "A Sense of History", are available to view on YouTube.

Best Wishes

Peter also commented on the posting in the middle of Mailbag page 111 about the response of a small number of museum-goers to the El Greco Madonnas on display in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. (As noted elsewhere on this page, I recently added a Postscript and Afterthought and several links to supplement the original description that I recommend visitors to the site read.) I solicit other responses to the story on that page. If I receive enough material worth publishing, I'll devote an entire page (or more) of the site in the "Guest Shots" section to it. I am always glad to publish interesting and important reader submissions on any relevant topic. (Click here to read a selection of reader-created essays and other submissions about film, art, and culture.) -- R.C.

Re: the El Greco experience.... Apropos your anecdote about how the women were so visibly moved in front of El Greco's depictions of the Virgin and Christ child ... for me the key phrase in your account is "how embarrassing it was to see this happening in a museum." So much of modern life, and most especially the media, does not deal in real feeling, real emotion or the truth. Everything has to fit into a pre-packaged, easy to swallow and safe consensual reality. Everything in this agreed reality is based on some agenda or other. Those women in front of the El Greco paintings saw life and saw it whole. The women in front of the paintings were expressing real and genuine feelings. So many critical and academic responses to art and life are predicated on the false notion that the book or painting or whatever is merely a subset of themselves, instead of the opposite being the case. Many critics and the media in general want the world to conform to their preconceived reality. Those women in front of the El Greco pictures know instinctively that truth and beauty is to be found in bowing before the mystery.

I received a long notice from the curator of a web site in the U.K. I had not heard about before, , and wanted to pass the url onto readers in case it's of interest. Their quickie mission statement follows. -- R.C. is an inspirational showcase for innovative work in film and video. Dedicated to exhibiting and promoting emerging and established international artists, acts as a major online gallery and archive for video art. A platform for contemporary moving images.

They are currently featuring the work of avant-garde artist, Ken Jacobs. And, for readers in the U.K., they have announced a number of events in London (and one in Amsterdam) connected with the Jacobs show.

Thursday 16 October, at 9pm, BFI Southbank & Sunday 19 October, at 5pm, ICA, London.
Momma's Man (2008, 77 min). A feature film by Azazel Jacobs, starring and shot in the loft of his parents, Ken and Flo Jacobs. Screening in The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival.

CASZ, Amsterdam. Check website for exact times
Capitalism: Child Labor (2006 , 14 min). An animated deconstruction of a Victorian stereo photograph, will be regularly presented on the CASZ Contemporary Art Screen Zuidas on the Zuidplein in Amsterdam.

Sunday 2 November 2008, from 2 - 10pm, Chisenhale Gallery, London
Star Spangled to Death (1957-59/2004, 375 min). Celebrate the end of the Bush regime with a free screening of Ken Jacobs episodic indictment of American politics, religion, war, racism and stupidity. Starring Jack Smith, Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Al Jolson and a cast of thousands. Refreshments available.
Presented by Whitechapel at the Chisenhale.

Saturday 29 November 2008, at 10:15pm, BFI IMAX, London
Ken Jacobs Nervous Magic Lantern live performance in collaboration with Eric La Casa, using pre-cinematic techniques to conjure abstract 3D forms on the immense IMAX screen. Part of the Kill Your Timid Notion tour (also performing in Bristol and Liverpool).

Sunday 30 November 2008, at 12:30pm, BFI Southbank, London
Ken Jacobs in Conversation. Kill Your Timid Notion presents a discussion with the artist to follow on from the previous night's performance.

Tank Magazine, 10th Anniversary Issue (on sale from 18 September 2008)
Ken Jacobs discusses Star Spangled to Death with Mark Webber, and contributes "Failed State" an article on contemporary American politics.

A note from Ray Carney: Site regular Chris submitted this link to an article about the plight of contemporary artists in a big city. I recommend it -- and especially recommend pondering the distinction the author, Joe Keohane, draws at the bottom of the first page between "safe art" and "ungovernable art." The former has plenty of institutional support from the cultural big guns -- the well-endowed fat-cat museums, concert halls, and dance and theater companies--while the latter group of artists gets re-zoned, condo-ized, and pushed out of their apartments so that lawyers and businessmen can take over their neighborhoods. Fashion trumps art and money calls the shots.

See the letter from the major independent filmmaker at the top of Mailbag page 110 for related thoughts on this subject. My note to the letter, and my thoughts about this issue, are titled: "Reality-check" department -- how America treats its greatest artists."

Subject: Boston Globe Article about Arts in Boston

Hi Ray,

I thought you would appreciate this article. You may have a already read it.

Hope you're doing well,

A note from Ray Carney: If students knew how much their teachers depended on them to validate what they are doing, they'd surely take advantage of the fact and wildly abuse their power. Teachers teach for one reason and one reason only. To affect students. In some small way, to change their lives. And, as I've told many of my best students, a teacher needs good (enthusiastic, hard-working, and receptive -- receptive above all!) students just as much as a student needs good teachers. In that spirit, I can't resist posting a few sentences from a longer email that showed up in my in-box this morning, written by a former student who just graduated Boston University's film program. One of my favorite and best students, in fact. I'll keep his/her statement anonymous, but I wanted to thank him/her publicly for making my day and reminding me (and every teacher who reads this) what it's all ultimately all about -- not pay-raises, not administrative support, not teaching awards, not travel grants, but this.... Thank you so much, XXXX. -- R.C.

. . . . It seems odd to me that, although fall has begun, I am not taking any classes. Somehow I still feel guilty for not studying with you this semester. I think nothing has so profoundly and so quickly caused me to re-evaluate my views of art and of human interaction as the four months I spent in your Mike Leigh class. I still lie awake at night pondering enigmatic pronouncements of yours, like, "the only realism you have to portray is the realism of emotion." . . . .

A note from Ray Carney: Dennis Ageev, whose email address suggests that he lives in Europe, wrote in response to my praise of Mike Leigh's short "A Sense of History," to say that the film is available on the new Leigh DVD set that has recently been issued. Thanks for the information, Dennis! A note to American readers: Although I've lost track of the release date, this DVD set is also scheduled to be (or has recently been) issued in the U.S.. I had the film booker at Boston University order it last spring. It is a very important collection of Leigh's work and I recommend it to anyone interested in his films.

Subject: Mike Leigh Sense of History on DVD

Dear Ray,
I just thought you might be interested to know that Mike Leigh's "Sense of History" is now availible on DVD as part of Mike Leigh's 11 disc collection recently released in the UK. It is included as a special feature.

This came in from Marty, who has been reading Pema Chodron. Her spiritual insights are always valuable. Her note is in response to my observation that Chekhov is a master at dramatizing our mental prisons, our emotional habit-formations. (See Mailbag pages 105 and 110.) -- R.C.

Subject: mental images & habit formations

dear my chodron readings this morning i was reminded of what you referred to in chekhov as mental images & habit formations..a few bits for you.."..what we habitually regard as obstacles are not really our enemies, but rather our friends..what we call obstacles are really the way the world and our experience teach us where we're stuck..whether we experience what happens to us as an obstacle & enemy or as a teacher or friend depends entirely on our perception of depends on our relationship with ourselves..outer the sense that something has harmed us, interfering with the harmony & peace we thought was ours..some rascal has ruined it all..inner level..nothing really attacks us except our own confusion..perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched..maybe the only enemy is that we don't like the way reality is NOW & therefore wish it would go away very fast..nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know..if we run a hundred miles an get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we just keeps returning with new names, forms & manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.."

A number of readers have written in about the death of Paul Newman or sent links to obituary notices. Newman always struck me as someone who had been strangled by his own choices. He committed artistic suicide in his twenties and spent the rest of his life (his life as an artist at any rate) dying. He was too interested in looking good and being "cool" on screen to do any really interesting acting. His great career (though none of the obituaries dare to say it) was as a race-car driver and a producer of salad dressing and potato chips, not as a performer or an artist. The one and only film I saw him in where he showed some promise, some potential -- because he allowed himself to look bad or be less than charming -- was a movie called Mr. and Mrs. Bridges that he made as an old man. His career -- or non-career--stands as a lesson about how coolness, charm, handsomeness, and sexiness can keep an actor from being interesting. Those personal qualities belong to the history of style, fashion, and advertising, not art or truth-telling. Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Ethan Hawke, are you listening? Do you even care? Or is your work just a job? -- R.C.

A note from RC: I agree with the sentiment of the following letter, and shall attempt to put the writer into contact with Bo Harwood, who did the sound and music for most of Cassavetes' work (both the films and the plays) after Husbands. But I want to remind the writer (and am posting this note to remind others) that Gena Rowlands would undoubtedly claim ownership of all of Bo Harwood's work (no matter what Bo Harwood felt about it), and would forbid its release or distribution without the payment of a large licensing and permission fee to her in advance--based on my experience: a VERY large fee. She has done that that in every other instance of which I am aware -- claiming absolute ownership and control of everything created by others connected with her husband's work -- even material that was created by others, without payment or compensation. E.g. She has claimed ownership of the artwork used in the posters of her husband's films, the photographs taken on the set during filming, the layouts of the advertising material, and many other things. (In my own personal case, as most site readers know and as the "Ray Carney's Discoveries" section of the site documents, she has claimed ownership of and control over the print of Shadows I discovered, and, in terms of my publishing, she has made me give the royalties from a book of Cassavetes quotations to her.)

In short, I completely agree with the writer about how wonderful Bo Harwood's music is, and how wonderful it would be to make it more generally available -- and as noted, I shall attempt to help him -- but it is important to remember that not everyone is doing things for love and honor and glory the way he intends to and I have been for years. The people in control of the Cassavetes estate are not interested in love or glory or beauty. They are determined to squeeze the last cent out of every object and activity connected with Cassavetes' name, and they have teams of lawyers at their beck and call who are devoted to controlling or suppressing circulation of Cassavetes-related material, and who are ready to sue anyone who attempts to make it available in any form without paying them up front. Keep this in mind.

I am making this posting because the same thing applies to many different projects people have contacted me about concerning Cassavetes. They write to me about making things available for truth and beauty, and I sympathize with their requests, but they are forgetting that these other people operate on different principles than they and I do. We are in it for love; the others are in it for other reasons. We are willing to lose money on our Cassavetes projects (heck, I am glad to spend ten, twenty, or thirty thousand dollars of my own money on every book I write about Cassavetes, money which I never earn back or recoup in any way), but these others are in it for the money. Don't forget that. (Note: I have removed the writer's name to protect his identity.)

Subject: Bo Harwood and John Cassavetes

Hello Mr. Carney,

I have been inspired and entranced by the films and sounds of Cassavetes and Harwood. I have collected whatever I could get my hands on and passed-on to my friends and colleagues these treasures. They have informed my life and my creativity.

I cannot believe the unavailability of material and information in regards to Bo Harwood. It seems criminal that the soundtracks, the songs, haven't been collected and released. I would like so much more information on how he and Cassavetes worked on the sound- visions.

I have the resources (including artists, record labels, finances) and the wherewithal to "make something happen", whether it be releasing the original material, or putting together a 'tribute' of re-recorded material. I think it is important that people KNOW this incredible art.

Any sources you can point me to, any advice, thoughts, etc. that you care to share would be very appreciated. If there's a way to contact Mr. Harwood... if there are music resources that you can share... I know this project can happen!!
Thanks for your time,

name withheld

Women's Experimental Cinema
Screening Series Oct. 1-3, 2008 at ISSUE Project Room
Organized by Meredith Drum and Suzanne Fiol

Three evenings of experimental films and videos made by women artists in the U.S. over the last six decades, subjectively culled by three guest curators.

Oct. 1
- A tribute to Women Artists Filmmakers, including films by Sara-Kathryn Arledge, Doris Chase, Silvianna Goldsmith, Storm De Hirsch, Marie Menken, Carolee Schneemann and Rosalind Schneider, programmed by MM Serra, Director of the Film-Makers Cooperative

Oct. 2 - Videos by Lynda Benglis, Dara Birnbaum, Pat Hearn, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Cynthia Maughan, Howardena Pindell and Martha Wilson as Nancy Reagan, programmed by Rebecca Cleman, Director of Distribution of Electronic Arts Intermix

Oct. 3 - Films and Videos by Peggy Ahwesh, Martha Colburn, Michelle Handelman, Kerry Laitala, Xander Marro, Shana Moulton, Cecile Paris, Shannon Plumb, Ava Warbrick and Virginie Yassef and Aurelie Godard, programmed by Marie Losier, programmer for FIAF, Ocularis and Roberta Beck.

All screenings are $10 and begin at 8 p.m.
ISSUE Project Room, 3rd floor of the (OA) Can Factory, 232 3rd Street, Gowanus Neighborhood, Brooklyn

For more information please visit:

A note from Ray Carney: The Mailbag contains many observations and reflections about the nature and origins of evil. (See the discussion of Jonathan Glover's Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century in the middle of page 79; the statement by Noam Chomsky about evil on page 91; the blue note at the bottom of page 96; the note about "the human ability to look the other way and not see evil" on page 98; and the brief discussion of the effects of fear and insecurity on page 109, for example.) These issues have been on my mind for the past few years because of experiences I have lived through or witnessed taking place around me. I came across the following quote from Hannah Arendt in my reading tonight and want to add it to the collection as food for thought. We live in an era of what Arendt describes as "thoughtlessness" in high places, and the bureaucratic organization of behavior exacerbates the situation.

In the following statement, Arendt is summarizing her conclusions about the motivation of Holocaust mass-murderer Adolph Eichmann.

"I was struck by a manifest shallowness in [Eichmann] that made it impossible to trace the incontestable evil of his deeds to any deeper level of roots or motives. The deeds were monstrous, but the doer was quite ordinary - commonplace and neither demonic nor monstrous. There was no sign in him of firm ideological convictions or of specific evil motives, and the only notable characteristic one could detect in his past behavior as well as in his behavior during his trial and throughout his pre-trial police examination was entirely negative: It was not stupidity but thoughtlessness. Is wickedness, however we may define it, this being determined to prove a villain, not a necessary condition for evil-doing? Might the problem of good and evil, and our faculty for telling right from wrong, be connected with our faculty of thought?"  - excerpted from Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind.

Though the world matters much more than works of art do, I would ask parenthetically and as a point for artists and critics to think about: Where are the works of art that deal with evil in Arendt's sense? We have lots of glamorous, mysterious, alluring bad guys and villainous acts in our movies (from The Godfather and Star Wars to The Dark Knight and the work of the Coen brothers), but where are the movies that show the ordinariness, the everydayness, the prosaicness, the bureaucratic institutionalization of villainy? Where are the films that bring it home to the here and now, and show that we are not outside of it -- that many of us are part of its systems of selfishness and corruption?

A note from Ray Carney: Dennis, whose email address indicates that he may live in Denmark, wrote in response to my praise of Mike Leigh's short "A Sense of History," to say that the film is available on the new Leigh DVD set that has recently been issued. Thanks for the information, Dennis! A note to American readers: Although I've lost track of the release date, this DVD set is also scheduled to be (or has recently been) issued in the U.S.. I had the film booker at Boston University order it last spring. It is a very important collection of Leigh's work and I recommend it to anyone interested in his films.

Subject: Mike Leigh Sense of History on DVD

Dear Ray,
I just thought you might be interested to know that Mike Leigh's "Sense of History" is now availible on DVD as part of Mike Leigh's 11 disc collection recently released in the UK. It is included as a special feature.



This is only the "To Print" page. To go to the regular page of Ray Carney's on which this text appears, click here, or close this window if you accessed the "To Print" page from the regular page. Once you have brought up the regular page, you may use the menus to reach all of the other pages on the site.