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Ray Carney's Mailbag -- This section of the site contains letters written to Prof. Carney by students and artists, announcements of news, events, and screenings, and miscellaneous observations about life and art by Ray Carney. Letters and notices submitted by readers are in black. Prof. Carney's responses, observations, and recommendations are in blue. Note that Prof. Carney receives many more letters and announcements than he can possibly include on the site. The material on these pages has been selected as being that which will be the most interesting, inspiring, useful, or informative to site readers. Click on the first page (via the links at the top or bottom of the page) to read an explanation of this material, why it is being posted, and how this relatively small selection was made from among the tens of thousands of messages Prof. Carney has received.

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Just back from seeing Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane company. It was wonderful & inspiring. One beautiful piece to Flannery O'Connor's Artificial Nigger & a work-in-progress about patriotism.

This is what I have been thinking abt lately:
was the huge movement against the Viet Nam war in part because in the wake of Nuremberg, etc. there was a sense that no matter what people were responsible for their actions and the actions of their government. Nowadays it seems there is a feeling that our gov't is in crazy war but its somehow not our personal responsibility.
Nobody seems willing to risk anything.

(Name withheld)

Ray Carney replies:

Dear XXX,

Thanks for the thought. It sure was different then, but in all honesty I don't know if I had even heard of Nuremberg at that point in my life. I think for the young of the late 1960s and 1970s it was just a totally different value system in a different era. Haight-Ashbury, Bob Dylan's songs, the Watergate scandal, the writing of Izzy Stone and Ralph Nader and Rachel Carson and Paul Krasner and Norman Mailer, the Eastern religion vision quests, the student protests, the music of Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton, the speeches of Eugene McCarthy and Allard Lowenstein, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the trial of the Chicago seven, the Woodstock and post-Woodstock peace-love-freedom be-ins, LSD, DMT, and pot, the tie-dye Volkswagen-driving hippies, the feminist movement ---those are what I think made the Vietnam protests imaginable. Made them possible. Even though I wasn't a hippie or yippie or SDS or PLP member, those social upheavals and artistic breakthroughs and revolutionary values profoundly, if subconsciously, influenced me and everyone I knew in our high school, college, and later years. They shaped every young person of the era in one way or another. Some ran the other way and became Young Republicans, but the deep, thoughtful ones learned valuable life-lessons: to constantly ask why, to question authority, to distrust political excuses and expediencies, to dream impossible dreams of a culture founded on trust and love and care, not power and profit and capitalism.

You might say I was a kind of extreme test-case. In high school I was the most stupid, out-of-it, apolitical person you could ever imagine, but even I was transformed in that period--transformed not by reading history or thinking about morals or the Holocaust or Adolph Eichmann, but by hearing the music of Jimi Hendrix, by seeing the Watts riots and the Kent State shooting, by hearing the "flower power" ideals, visions, and dreams of a new world that the hippies represented. No one of a certain age could escape those influences. The art, the music, the boho Zen, the street performances, the bizarro films, the crazy adolescent dreams of the era taught me as much as the political events did. Maybe more. They are what led me to work in the campaign of George McGovern. To march on Washington when Nixon got re-elected. To stand in Harvard Square on rainy afternoons trying to get signatures on petitions. They are what led me to stay up nights talking, talking, talking with roommates and friends about what was wrong with the world and with business values. A couple years later they led me to a commune. And to a monastery after that. And to go to grad. school after that. And to decide to become a professor after that. All of those things went against the advice of my parents and guidance counselors and all of the practical people I know. Wild thoughts, crazy dreams, and absurdly "unrealistic" ideals did it.

Photo by Mark Backus / Summer 2005But that era is gone. Things have changed. When I look around today, I just don't see very much of that starry-eyed idealism anywhere in the culture. What is the equivalent now? Where is the craziness, the wildness, the passion, the daring? Where is the questioning spirit? The eternally unsatisfied dream of something beyond the present? Where is the fire-in-the-belly conviction that there has to be a better way to do things than the way the world is currently being run? Where is the understanding that capitalism not only doesn't have all the answers, but is a wrong turn, a detour off the cliff in the road to utopia. Where is the sensibility that life should be more about love and kindness than success? Oh, some of it still exists. There are little pockets of it here and there that have survived the 1960s and 1970s. There is the environmental movement. And an interest in better food and work conditions. And there are lots of local political groups trying to make progress locally in school board meetings and city council elections. There are even a few decent young artists, here and there, though it's a very small number. That's all a legacy of that period, directly or indirectly. And I'd like to think I am one of the legacies of that period, one of the Peter Pan refusals to "grow up," one of the little pockets of resistance still working to disrupt the status quo or at least make people ask troubling questions about it. I still believe in those "unrealistic," "impractical" values as much as I ever did. But how out of step I feel. How few people feel this way today. I don't see it anywhere in my students, or in most of them at least. There are a few exceptions, thank God, one or two or three a semester maybe, but most of them just want jobs. They want success. They want to climb the corporate ladder. They want to get married and live in a nice house. They want to learn how to do things in the way that takes the least doing. Nothing necessarily immoral in those goals, but they leave out most of what really matters.

So that's the difference as I see it. Learning a little history is not enough. Reading a book is not enough. Hearing me rant about any of this in my office hours is not enough. Sending people to see Schindler's List is not enough. We need a wholesale cultural transformation. The political side of it is important, of course, but not the most important part. We need smarter, more sensitive, more spiritual "leaders" (what a contradictory concept), but more than that we need a transformation in people's hearts and souls and visions of possibility. It's easy to despair, given the way things are, and some days I do despair; but the rest of the time I have faith the spiritual revolution will take place sometime--but don't ask me how or when. It may be a long time off, after we are both long gone. Only God knows who or what will throw the tiny pebble that will become the snowball that will turn into the avalanche that will transform the world. I have some ideas about that, but it's 12:30 AM and this is already too long and rambling, so I'll stop.


Subject: Overnight

Hi Ray,

I just watched the documentary Overnight about Troy Duffy and was surprised to see you in the back ground. Why was Troy at BU? Was this something you had arranged? The documentary was pretty good.

I am tremendously enjoying Cassavetes on Cassavetes. I just found an interesting article comparing the works of Maurice Pialat and John Cassavetes. I wished there were more Pialat DVDs available - especially Van Gogh.

Take care,

Tom Connelly
Burlington, VT

Ray Carney replies:

Who are you? Student? Teacher? Film lover? None of the above?

To answer your question: As far as I can tell based on that visit, Troy is an idiot. And his film is worse. He and his film were inflicted on me due to my lack of advance knowledge about either fact. We all make mistakes. However, I gather someone was there to record mine. (May yours go unmemorialized.) No one asked my permission to film or told me about the work that resulted. Typical. I assume it is awful.

This happens once in a while. I've been in a few films and plays, some with and some without my knowledge. As illustrations, I made it into Carl Hancock Rux's "Talk" which played off-Broadway a couple years ago and I or my classes are discussed in a number of recent novels, under other names and identities of course. Such is the price of fame. Or infamy. I can't say I really give a damn.

I've been included in many many documentaries over the years, but I have to tell you I don't bother to watch them when they are released or broadcast on television. They are all, without exception, worthless--trivial, simplistic, silly wastes of time. And they almost never represent my important views about anything.

There are all sorts of compromises and short-cuts when someone appears in a documentary about film or entertainment, and what gets into the movie theater or on TV six or twelve months later is almost never what I myself would have intended if I were in charge of making the film or television show.

Let me give you an example or two: I was in an episode or two of a series PBS did on "The American Cinema"--the episodes devoted to sixties Hollywood and to indie film, but the films they wanted me to talk about were picked not by me but by the producer in charge of the episodes and were pretty much all the wrong ones. The wrong titles by the wrong directors. The producer was not interested in even entertaining my suggestions on what should be included. I tried to make suggestions, but she thought she knew better. She told me, first, that they were already clearing permissions for the clips about the stupid movies and, second, that they had already done interviews with other people talking about them and couldn't change the list just for me. So I had to talk about the movies on her list and ended up talking about junk. All in the service of making the documentary she wanted to make and the points she wanted made, all decided before she ever talked to me. And, mind you, this producer didn't even know very much about film, indie or otherwise. She was basing all of her conclusions on a few things she had read in a book or on the Internet written by middlebrow, mainstream writers.

I was also in a recent Turner Classic Movies/TNT Channel series on Independent film (I think it was called something like "The Edge of the Outside," isn't that clever?). There too, I was more or less told in advance what to talk about and what general points they were fishing for me to make. The producer or producer's assistant does an interview with you before you go on camera and tells you the general argumentative thrust of the series and what they want out of you in your interview. Such is the nature of television documentaries--at least in terms of film and entertainment. It's less about finding out what the "expert" knows and thinks than finding someone who can make the points that the director and producer have already decided fit into the goal of the series. You've seen thousands of these interviews, and they are all the same. The "expert" always confirms the general point that is being made in the film. There's no real depth or discussion of alternate views. (And, mark my words, if the expert didn't play the game according to these rules, he or she would be left on the cutting room floor. They don't want anything contradictory or complex. They can't handle it.) They are not about discovering anything, exploring the complexities of a subject, but about making sausage, fitting a set of ideas to a pre-existing simplistic thesis. (But I have to say: entertainment documentary doesn't have a monopoly on this, most of the PBS "Nova" episodes I've seen are just as stupid and narrow.)

For one more example of my involvement in another documentary film (there have been so many of them I've lost count) read my interview about Charles Kiselyak's documentary about Cassavetes. (Click here to go there.) It's as unreal as science fiction, but since the filmmaker absolutely controls what gets into it and what doesn't, there is no chance of getting a different point of view into the work.

The result is what Noam Chomsky calls "the institutional control of discourse." It's strict enough when it comes to politicians and corporations, but it's positively insane when it comes to movies and television shows and celebrities. At least in terms of politics, people assume that there are "two sides" to most issues, but if you're talking about the careers of Martin Scorsese or Alfred Hitchcock or Julia Roberts, the idea that there is a contrarian point of view is not even admitted as a hypothesis. It is heresy. The dopey people always agree with each other ("Julia Roberts is our greatest actress," "Sharon Stone is a genius," "Hitchcock was one of the great artists of cinema," and promulgate the dopey view, and no one with another point of view (and there aren't many of us anyway!) is given a chance to tell the truth, and if they were allowed to do an on-camera interview, they'd never make it into the movie or show anyway. They'd be edited out. That's why the films that result are so predictable and formulaic and boring. When was the last time you watched a documentary about Hitchcock that allowed anyone like me to argue that Hitchcock's work is exploitative and demeaning to the viewer? When was the last time that you watched a documentary about a Hollywood director, actor, or actress that argued that his or her work was a pile of trash? That Sharon Stone or Nick Cage had sold his soul and his career for money? Even if you said this on camera, they would never air it--and knowing that, anyone with a brain doesn't even bother to say it.

Well, more than you wanted to know about "my life in documentaries," I'm sure. But thanks for the kind words about the Cass on Cass book.

All best wishes.


Dear Ray,

I am a great admirer of John's work, as an actor as well as a filmmaker. I have purchased "Cassavetes on Cassavetes", "The Adventure of Insecurity" and "American Dreaming". These books have given me great insight into his his philosophy and his unorthodox way of thinking, I have often thought that it is the journey that counts and not necessarily the destination. I am perplexed by the attitudes of those who should be preserving John's work. the alternate version of "Shadows" for instance should be seen by all those who have been touched by the maverick. Anyway I own all of John's films except for "Husbands" and I am very keen to have it in my collection, is it at all possible that you could send me a copy? I would gladly pay any costs



Ray Carney replies:


If you knew how many requests I received to send people screenplays, tapes, transcripts, book manuscripts, et alia, you'd understand why I simply can't do this. I'd spend my whole life duping, xeroxing, writing puffs for this and that.

But do not despair! Husbands was released four or five years ago by Columbia and I've seen VHS copies on Ebay for ten or twenty dollars approx. Check for a month and I'm sure one will appear. But be forewarned that they all have about 10 minutes missing, no matter what the label says. Columbia issued it this way. Even the UCLA "restored" print has missing footage (at Gena's request). She told them she found the vomiting scene and the badgerings of Leola Harlow in bad taste. (Click here to hear the audio of twelve minutes that were cut at the end of the singing scene and the beginning of the men's room scene in Husbands.)

Someday if someone asks me to help I'll be glad to issue the complete film on DVD. But alas, no one is asking.



An email exchange between Donal Foreman ( and Ray Carney:


I got your email address from Rob Nilsson after I read your piece. I just wanted to say BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO!

It's a breath of fresh air to read it. Common sense is so uncommon. The truth is always what everyone knows but no one dares or knows enough to say.

And of course everything you say about Irish film is triply true of American.

So this is just to say thank you. And keep going. It really matters even if the results don't show for a thousand years. (It seems like it take that long sometimes.) Keep making films and shouting from the rooftops.

And please keep me informed about your work.

All best wishes,
Ray Carney

P.S. If you gave me permission, I'd post your piece on my web site.


Wow. It is great to hear from you. I have been thinking about e-mailing you for years, but I never expected you to e-mail me first!

First of all, regards my "What's Missing from Irish Film" piece, you are more than welcome to put it on your site -- I don't think Rob will mind. I've attached a Word doc version of it if that's any use. And you can put my e-mail address on with it if you like. I think my writing has significantly developed since I wrote it, however -- it's been over two years since I did it.

I don't know if Rob told you much about me, but in case you're interested: I've been making films since I was 12; it began as a way to pass the time but it quickly became an overriding passion. I don't think my dedication to film was cemented, however, until I came across your wonderful "Path of the Artist" articles when I was about 15. (Click here to go to those articles.)

The idea that film---and all kinds of art, of course---could actually change you, that you could actually learn from both the creation and experiencing of it--- Well, frankly, it revolutionised the way I think, and for that I'll always be grateful to you.

Having said that, I do have some problems and reservations about your work and some of your ideas, which perhaps I could discuss with you sometime---but at heart, when it gets down to the key issues of the power and importance of art, I'm with you all the way.

Anyway, as regards my filmmaking to date: I've made several comedies---largely improvised, and created with my friends---some of which have been quite successful; won awards, screened at festivals, etc. These films were great learning experiences and I'm fond of them personally but they're all essentially cartoon movies---not that interesting.

Parallel to this, I've made a dozen or so films which I guess you could call documentaries---although not in the conventional sense, as none of them feature narration or talking heads or any of the other staples of the documentary "genre". They're basically me filming life as it happens---just looking and listening as sensitively as I can and letting things unfold by themselves. Technically, some of these films are very flawed, but I think they feature some of the greatest moments I've shot.

Some of them consist of me filming my friends (who are so used to me pointing a camera they tend to forget about it); others just look at nature (like one of my personal favourites, WSH: A FILM ABOUT THE WIND); and then probably the strongest of all are those that I shot in other countries. While in New York a while ago, I shot UNDER: a single 2-minute shot of a bag lady on a platform on the underground, which will be playing in the upcoming Galway Film Fleadh. And my longest film to date is CUBA, CHRISTMAS 2001, an hour long video sketchbook of the people and places I encountered there.

While I love these documentary films, and making them has been a revelation in terms of seeing the beauty and brilliance and profundity of ordinary life (usually so much more interesting and amazing than the lame artifice that they pack most movies with), my current ambition is to try to take what I've learnt from this documentary
stuff and bring it to the making of dramatic fiction. I feel in a way that the documentary films have been too easy for me, not demanding enough; all they require is for me to look and listen, which is certainly something, I know -- but in a way it lets me off the hook because I don't have to watch or engage with what's going on, or interact with the people I'm filming; I get to hide behind my camera.

So, at the moment I'm in pre-production for my first serious fiction film, MY FRIEND'S HOUSE. If you are interested, I can send you the script -- although of course I'll understand if you don't have the time. I don't pretend it's anything amazing, but I know it's a significant step forward for me.

As for my interest in film as a viewer, my tastes tend to be as broad and obscure as I can manage. Your recommendations have been a great help. Cassavetes, Tarkovsky and Bresson are my personal heroes ("the
holy trinity")----but Dreyer, Ozu, Bela Tarr, Edward Yang, Kiarostami, Visconti, Renoir, are all favourites as well. And the list is always growing. I was recently in touch with Andrew Bujalski and purchased FUNNY HA HA off him, which I loved. And I bought some of Caveh Zahedi's work last year---and had an interesting discussion with him about God, as I remember. I also had the unexpected honour of meeting Tom Noonan when I was in New York. I wandered into the Paradise Theatre seeing if there was a play on, and found him lying on a bed with his leg in a cast! I'm sure he doesn't remember me, but it made my trip to meet him, however briefly.

I'm also crazy about every other kind of art you can think of. Currently trying to work my way through Shakespeare, for example --- and I think I love modern dance even more than I love film.

I'll leave it at that. Sorry this e-mail's been so long. Believe me, I could say a lot more....

Hope to hear from you soon and thanks for getting in touch,


PS: If I could make one small quibble with the e-mail you sent me: you wrote that everything I said about Irish film "is triply true of American". Now, in terms of scale, that may be true---but I'd just point out that the key difference is that the US has a significant body of wonderful films to its name. Marginalised and neglected though they might be, they do exist. Ireland, on the other hand, has NONE. I've never seen an Irish film which rivals the masterpieces of other countries. There have been some good films, and the seeds of greatness have emerged a few times---but rarely. I think that's the difference in our film situation over here. Not that there's much point complaining about it --- I know it's up to me, and whoever else cares, to do something about it.

Ray Carney replies:

Thanks, Donal, not only for the piece and permission to post it, but even more for the kind words in your letter.

It's always good to hear that the site makes a difference. It may come as a surprise to you to hear it but it is a bit of an albatross for me. A black hole. It drains the blood out of my veins and gives me just about nothing in return. In "For Once Then Something," Robert Frost talks about dropping a pebble into a well and listening for the splash. Well, my own well seems to be so deep I seldom hear anything back. Oh, I get a thousand emails a month, but nine out of ten are asking me for a favor (will I read and comment on and write a blurb for a screenplay or a film), and the rest are yelling at me and telling me what an idiot I am for saying something against their favorite filmmaker or for not including their favorite film on one of my lists. I've also been getting criticized by some of my colleagues (and bosses) at the university for having the site at all since they apparently can't see any good it does. They regard it strictly as a "vanity" project. Like I was doing it for my health! Can you believe that? And, to top it off, I end up being dumped on by Gena Rowlands for not clearing things on it with her in advance, as if she had the right to control everything written about Cassavetes. But basta. You get the picture. I end up spending thousands of dollars every year maintaining it and updating it, and don't hear much in the way of a positive response.

What's the joke about the blonde? She was so dumb she slept with the critic. Well, I'm the critic and, to put it in a nutshell, I don't even get the blonde! : )

But the positive side is it gives me sympathy with being an indie filmmaker. I know what it is to try to give people presents they don't want! Presents they want to take back to the store and exchange.

I guess you can say Irish film is worse than American, but we are really just quibbling over terms and values. My reply would be that there are more hundreds of millions spent on more "generic" "mechanical" "inhumane" movies in a year in Hollywood than there have been in the entire last century of Irish cinema; but who cares..... It's not so hot in either place, I guess. The point is that mass produced, factory created entertainment is not personal expression no matter where it comes from.

I'll have to find a good place to post your piece. (Click here to read it.) I think I'll also put something in the mailbag section of the site with a notice calling attention to its specialness. I'll give it some thought and promise you a good placement.

Keep laughing. Keep kicking against the pricks. Keep going. Keep speaking the truth. And make that next film! As I tell every indie: It really does matter.


Hi Ray,

Thanks for responding so quickly, and apologies that I couldn't reply as promptly in return. Planning the new film has been taking up all my time the past week or two. It's all I think about, night and day. I can't get to sleep for thought of it, and then when I do, my dreams usually relate to it as well.

I'm sorry that things are so discouraging for you at the moment. However, I hope you do realise that you HAVE made a difference. Even all the troublesome e-mails you get are evidence of that (although I've no idea how you manage to deal with thousands of them---do you actually read every one?): all those people looking for a positive blurb off you wouldn't do so if they didn't respect your work, and see you as someone sympathetic with films and filmmakers that most ignore. And even the ones yelling at you are proof that you've made an impact---so much so that they actually had to write to you; they couldn't just dismiss what you wrote.

I'm quite interested in writing about cinema---although for me it is secondary to my love of making films. This year I've been writing quite a few things about Bela Tarr's SATAN'S TANGO. If you haven't seen it, I'd highly recommend it. It was the single greatest experience I've ever had in a cinema, really blew my mind. And writing
about it has been a really engaging struggle. I think it's the desire to articulate my thoughts and feelings about films that drives me to write about them---although sometimes the seeming impossibility of doing so can be extremely frustrating. Even today, it happened---I went to see Bresson's PICKPOCKET in the local arthouse cinema. It was amazing, although I think I prefer his later stuff---L'ARGENT and LA DIABLE, PROBLEMENT especially---but Bresson is just the ultimate for me. And I bumped into someone I knew there, who didn't know what to make of it. He asked me to explain what I thought was so great about it, but I couldn't---I felt it was great, but I couldn't say why. Which makes me then doubt the feeling....

Yeah, no point playing the "my country's worse than your country" game. I find it's dangerous to spend too much time complaining about it anyway---which is why I ended that essay by saying "we might as well admit it and get to work". There are some people in Ireland who waste too much time moaning about the state of things---and usually blaming it on funding, or the influence of Hollywood, or some other external force---when what they should really be doing is just getting out there and making better films. Personally I feel the only thing that can stop me from making a fantastic film is ME---whether I have the talent or the heart or the God knows what to pull it off. And of course, it's easier said than done---just like it was easier to write that essay then it is to make this film I'm struggling with at the moment! But there's no excuses---a terrifying and liberating thought....

The scary thing that becomes all too clear in a tiny country like Ireland is how individuals can internalise the values of those mass-produced, factory-created entertainments and start regurgitating them independently. But I'm sure you see enough of that in the States yourself.

I think one of the things that encourages me, though, is the belief that there's so much still to be done. I think you put it once that "most of life has never made it into the movies"---what a wonderful, inspiring thought---and one that seems especially true in Ireland. It's a wide open world---time to go exploring...

I see that you've posted my essay on your site. Thank you again. It means A LOT.

Finally, there's two things I wanted to ask you:

---The first is a tough one to articulate but I'll make a stab at it. It's to do with Shakespeare, primarily: I've always found it difficult to reconcile his greatness as an artist with the fact that he uses conventions and popular elements in his work, and I've never heard anyone explain it satisfactorily either. Is the brilliance of Shakespeare solely in the poetry of his verse, with the plots and ghosts and witches and swordfights merely serving to facilitate it?

I've wondered the same about the films of Fred & Ginger, which I love. But is their greatness solely in the dance? What about their narratives, characters, jokes?

Apologies if this sounds like a dumb question---I don't think I've put it exactly how I meant---but if you had any insight on the subject, or if you could just point me in the direction of a book or writer that does, I'd really appreciate it.

---I think I read you saying once that your original manuscript for CASS ON CASS was twice as long as the published version? I was just wondering, do you still have it? Have you considered selling copies of that off your website? (Or your chapter on HUSBANDS that I believe you had to cut out of THE FILMS OF JC?)

Thanks again for taking the time,


Ray Carney replies:

Subject: The madness of art

Hi Donal,

A bit pressed for time, here, but you deserve a response, however brief:

1. In response to your comments on Bresson and Tarr you'll get no argument from me. The greatest of the great. Along with a couple dozen others. Just taught a course that spent six or seven weeks on Bresson and loved him as much as always. You're right about the late films. See my syllabi listings. I prefer them too. Lancelot is the highest flight of genius.

Now to the other questions you ask at the end:

2. Shakespeare IS the greatest of artists and it is THE LANGUAGE that makes him so. Not the plots, not the characters. The language is all there is. The plays are, after all, just words. The plot is our stupid construct. The plot is the jungle gym he swings on. His trampoline to bounce off of. The characters are just our shorthand name for the language.

That's the way all art is. It uses its own language to say things. And that is what makes it interesting. it doesn't just use the language and forms of life. You mention Bresson at the start of your letter and that is what makes you like Bresson and what is so hard to communicate to someone who "doesn't get" his work. His films, Tarr's films, Tarkovsky's films are not reducible to the plots and characters. Bressons' films are the images, the sounds, the spaces between the images, the silences between the sounds, the editing rhythms, the details, the hesitations, the pauses. The plots and characters are silly and trivial compared to those things. Think how someone could tell you Bresson's A Man Escaped is just a slow prison movie. Or Lancelot is just a slow and humorless version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In terms of plot and character that would be true. But they would have left out the films! Everything that matters is other things than plot and character. It's the images, the sounds, the silences that are the movie. Not the plot.

But, and this is a critical point, appreciating Shakespeare's language takes as much care and time and effort as appreciating Bresson's images. It's not just "pretty" speech. It's not just clever metaphors. It's not just flowery rhetoric. The language is metaphysically revolutionary, imaginatively transformative. Just as Bresson's images take time and effort and knowledge to appreciate, Shakespeare's language takes incredible diligence--and intelligence. That's why it may just seem like big words to someone who doesn't put in the time and effort, just as Bresson's work will just seem like fancy editing to the same kind of person. If it helps, read Henry James's Sacred Fount for a lesson in how complexly language can function. James will show you how words are not just representations of a pre-existing reality. Search my site for references to it. I think I have a letter or two where I mention it and briefly discuss it.

3. And Fred and Ginger "are" their steps in a similar way and the steps are similarly astonishing. They are not characters, people, humans. They are dissolved in steps. They only exist as steps. They are their movements. Anything else is Pickpocket as a heist movie. See Arlene Croce's book on Astaire. She understands this and comes the closest to saying something meaningful about him. But of course you should see me in class showing clips if you want to really have your mind blown! : ) Or clips of Paul Taylor's Esplanade or Balanchine's Swan Lake.

4. And finally: Yes, the C on C book exists in a much longer version. Brilliant, deep, exciting. Much much much deeper and better than the published version. A deep dive into the sources of art in the heart and the soul. But I get grief from publishers about the damn length! If it were about Tony Blair or George Bush, they'd jump at it, but it's JC for god sake. Who cares?

Gotta work. The only salvation for my soul. The meaning of life is not to think but to do. Not to be but to act. The rest is the madness of art.


Click here to read Donal Foreman's essay about the state of Irish Film. I highly recommend checking it out.

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© Text Copyright 2006 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.