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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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Hello Ray,

I checked your site recently and am glad to see you are still trucking along! Recently I personally resolved to speak the truth in every conversation. This lead to a fellow university student saying, basically, "Fuck you and your search for the truth!" in front of the whole class. Enraging? Absolutely.

Then I read one of your letter responses and was encouraged because you urge readers to speak the truth. I am reminded that those with a destiny, those who care, those in search of and speaking of the truth are all hated by this world run by Satan. So what? Let's continue to focus on the "things above" and not trivial human standards such as fame, fortune, a pat on the back, notoriety, praise, whatever. It's what Jesus did, and He was crucified! A couple of "F- You!"s here and there is really nothing. Anyways, good to see you trucking along.

I noticed you posted my comments on my generation's lack of faith in church. If I may, here's a better expression of what I mean:

I believe God designed church as a gathering point for us to seek and learn truth together. It is to unite us in the best sense. However, because of human standards, human viewpoints (or Satanic viewpoints rather), arrogance, distractions, and all kinds of evil, most churches have become no more spiritual than a political rally or a football game. Those seeking the truth in my generation can't find it in churches. This IS A BAD THING, because it reveals the instable age we live in. So where do they find truth? I think it's nestled in Bach, in Dreyer, in Mailer, in Dickinson, in other great works of art. Truth-tellers have been allowed alternate means of spreading the truth because of earth's corruption. My film - which begins shooting on Monday - has become a gathering of people - last Wednesday finding yet another spiritual venturer - who want to seek out the truth. Maybe this isn't the ideal way, but it is, maybe, the only way we have.

Sorry for pontificating. My one true goal is really to humbly learn the truth, and not at all to convince others I'm right, or that I know more than they do. I learn first, and if I can share it with others, wonderful!

Thank you,

Reagan J. Molina

Ray Carney replies: Read Emerson! Read Emerson! Read Emerson. Read "The Divinity School Address." Read "The American Scholar." Read "Experience." Read "Circles." Read "The Poet." Read "The Transcendentalist." Read "Fate." In haste, and from memory:

"Jesus Christ belonged to the race of true prophets, but what a distortion did his doctrine and memory suffer in the following ages! The idioms of his language and the figures of his rhetoric have usurped the place of his truth. Churches are built not on his principles but his tropes. His flowing life hardens into stones and mortar. His life-giving energy freezes into doctrine. The church totters and falls. The soul is not preached.

"Go it alone. Refuse even the best models, which are sacred to your imagination, and dare to love God without mediator or veil. Thank God for good men, but say 'I am also a man.' Imitation cannot go beyond its model. Imitation is slavery. The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity.

"Our reading is sycophantic. Life is a series of surprises. There is no sleep, no pause, no preservation, but all things renew, germinate, and spring. Why should we import religious rags and relics into the present hour? Energy ceases in the moment of repose. The coming only is sacred."

Ah, but YOU have to read these essays, and wrestle with them, and then throw them away and live beyond them. No one can lift this burden. No one can do anything for anyone. We must each go every step of the way. And the victory will be ours. --R.C.

Subject: Re: On ordering the Leigh and Dreyer books + 3 Essay packets

From: Magnus Eik

Hi Ray

I'm an eighteen year old art-lover from Norway. I'm taking my baby-steps on the journey to getting a deeper understanding of life, art and whatever else I might stumble across. I've been reading your website and some of your books (Cass on Cass, The Films of John Cassavetes and An Adventure of Insecurity) for the past two years or so. I've also been studying several of the artworks you have recommended to your readers.

I've got hundreds of Bach and Mozart cds at my appartment and I listen to almost every day. I own the Kamien music book, but Amazon seems to have run out of cd-sets, but I think eBay might be the solution. (To read Ray Carney's recommendations on music appreciation, to which Magnus is alluding, click here, or go to page 53 of the Mailbag via the blue menu at the top or bottom of this page and scroll down to the middle of the page.) The films of Tarkovsky, Bresson, Cassavetes, Loden and others have thaught me more about emotions, situations and parts of life that I didn't even know existed. Etc. Etc. Etc.

The work that I want to order is:

The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World
Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer
Necessary Experiences: What art can show us about ourselves and our culture
What's Wrong with Film Books, Film Courses, and Film Reviewing
Why Art Matters: A collection of essays, interviews, and lectures on life and art
(A note from Ray Carney to his readers: To find out about these and other works published by Prof. Carney, click on the blue "Bookstore" ticket icon in the left menu. Or click on the "Bookstore" link in the top menu of this page.)

What do I have to do to get these shipped to Norway? I'll give you my address when I get a reply.

Kind regards from Norway,


RC replies:


Thanks for your note. I am so glad to hear about other artists and lovers of art who are studying other arts beyond film. Yes, the films of Loden, Bresson, Tarkovsky, and Cassavetes, and the rest are very important; but so are Mozart's piano concertos, Hayden's string quartets, Beethoven's symphonies, sonatas, and late quartets, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Goldberg Variations, Bartok's late works, etc., etc. Bravo for recognizing that.

And it's so important to do this when you're young. The brain and heart are so much more open to growth then. Change and learning can take place in the old, but it is so much slower and more difficult. At 18, you're too young to realize the truth of that now, but in twenty years you'll look back and understand what I mean.

For the Kamien CDs, try and "addall" (sorry, I don't remember the url), or else just get the works he refers to and listen with the book in your lap, making notes in the margin about the timing of whatever CD you are listening to. That will be just as good. You don't really need the Kamien CD set. If you use another set, since you'll be working harder to hear and notate the key changes or cadences or structural shifts, maybe it will be even better for your learning process than having the specific set of discs that go with the book, where everything is already worked out.

As to shipment to Norway: Since you are ordering so many things, I'll waive all shipping charges. If you don't order all of the things you list, then just add two dollars an item for each item, no matter how many or how few. It's such a joy for me to be spreading the word to different people across the world that I want to make it as easy as possible on you financially.

Keep working for truth. Keep spreading the truth to others. Keep viewing good movies and listening to good music. The way the world is organized nowadays (at least in selfish, shortsighted, capitalistic America) that is the only way we can help the real artists: by boycotting/ignoring/paying no attention to the dross, the junk, the stupidity, and by buying or renting or viewing or telling others about the true and important expressions of the human spirit. Spread the word to others.

Keep going. Keep appreciating. And keep giving your love to the ones who deserve it. The rest wouldn't appreciate it anyway.


A reply from Magnus Eik:

Subject: Some thoughts on my encounters with the culture

Thanks for the reply, Ray.

Spreading the truth to others is something I really have trouble with. Finding people who will really listen to me is something I haven't been able to do in my closest social circuit. I could probably find someone online, but I really feel I need to meet those people and work with them. I want to search without typing the words “Norsk Tarkovsky Fanklubb” into google. To me it seems like people are too interested in having fun. Not good fun either, not the joy of discovery, but drunk fun. There's too much joking, too much relaxing. Learning has become something you do in school. Work is something you do at a job. Studying has become something you do to get an “interesting” career. I might be making too broad a generalization here, but I just want to get my point across.

Style and design seem to have taken the place of real art. And the meanings in the art are too rigidly  meaningful, they're not humble. There's no exploration. The artists are just walking down the trodden  paths. Political opinions are too obvious; “Bush is the problem!” “Religion is the problem!” “Socialism is the problem!” “Bullies in school are the problem!” und so weiter. Too few look into the imagination. Too few get off their buts to do something new. And I don't mean but as in “that woman has a nice butt,” but as in “but the producers won't be happy” or “but that's not what you wrote in the script” or “but how do you create something yourself?”

Okay, enough complaining about others. I'm caught in many of the traps I've mentioned myself, but I don't plan on staying in the leg hold trap to save my foot. Taking the metaphor even further, that means that I have to gnaw my foot off. Hopefully I'll get out of some of the worst ones while I'm still young and agile.

I'll try studying with the Kamien book without the cd-set. The Multimedia disc that came with the book has what I need to learn the basics plus some pieces used in the book. I think I can get the rest of the needed works from my own collection and from the library. I want to try and program my brain with as many different kinds of art as I can while I'm still young. I loaned a Picasso book at the library, but I haven't spent enough time and effort on the pictures to truly see them yet. I have the LoA book with Emerson's Essays and Lectures, but his work is so different from everything else I have read. I haven't yet developed into someone who can read what Emerson really wrote.

Your mention of "a woman's point-of-view" when you wrote about In Between Days really had me thinking about a few things. What sensitivities do they have which our testosterone has ruined? What powers does the information on the X gender chromosome give them? Why is our culture so dominated by male fantasy? I want to try and do some exploration in this field. Kinda like Cassavetes did for Opening Night, I guess. And I hope women will attempt to do some deep sea fishing in the emotional lives of men.

I don't know how to wrap up this e-mail, but it's late and I'm tired and I can't even come up with a decent way to end this sentence.

Peace and Truth,


PS What are your thoughts on cutting down the CO2-emissions? Solar and Wind power seem to unreliable to me. They're also very expensive. Thorium has attractive sides, but the waste is still a problem. Is improvement in Coal and Gas technology along with power saving the only solution? Will it be too late?

PPS Was the Paypal payment okay?

PPPS Thanks for putting my e-mail on your site. Surely it will be my ticket to fame and glory :P

PPPPS Sorry about the length and postscripts :)

Subject: Anxious to view the first version of Shadows

Dear Mr. Carney,

Please tell me when you are going to stream the clips from the first version of Shadows that are announced on page 60 of your site's letters pages. I've been checking every day since you put the notice up and can hardly wait.


George A. Alexander

RC replies: Trust me: It's just as exciting for me as it is for you. I have been very busy teaching and doing other things, but the clips will be going up in the near future. Very soon. Mailbag page 60, accessible via the top and bottom blue menus on this page, will be where they will be posted. In the meantime, I recommend clicking on and reading the links in the description on that page as background and preparation.

Dear Prof. Carney --

I came across a missive on your site recommending the works of Canadian filmmaking icon Larry Kent, particularly his films from the early 60's. As producer of his latest film The Hamster Cage (which just played the Boston Underground Film Fest), I am in constant contact with Mr. Kent, and know that he would be very pleased to have you look at his films, and perhaps provide comment. The first four features he made (The Bitter Ash, Sweet Substitute, When Tomorrow Dies and High) have recently been put to DVD by the Canadian Dept. of Heritage, and I am in possession of a few copies of each. I am also helping Mr. Kent finish his very first film, Hastings Street (21 mins), shot in 1962, but only now able to be completed through a Canada Council Grant.

I would be pleased to send you a package with materials and DVDs for your perusal. Please let me know if this is of interest to you.

Best regards,

Robert French

RC replies:


Thanks for the good words. I am overwhelmed, heaped, mired, swamped, drowned in videos and viewing assignments (e.g. among many other things right now, I am trying to organize a festival of recent "under the radar" American indie work and spending every spare minute viewing videos), but if no response is required or needed, I would be honored to add Larry Kent's work to my "future viewing list." I can't promise a rapid response for the reasons noted, but would get to whatever you sent sooner or later (probably sometime this summer).

All best wishes to you and Mr. Kent,


Subject: killer of sheep screening

Went to the Killer of Sheep screening last Friday in LA.  Thanks for the heads up on the screenings from your site.  You do an excellent job of keeping art-lovers posted about important events. 

Decent turnout.  I think the earlier showing ( 7:00) was sold out, but there were plenty of empty chairs at the 9:45 .  Still, a fine night. 

The print was gorgeous!  Very good restoration.  I was thrilled to have the privilege to view it once again.  Who knows when that chance will come around again.  DVD release, UCLA?  What an amazing film.  Amazing amazing. 

One interesting note: I noticed Mike Akel's emails to you in the mailbag (click on Mailbag page 65 at the top and bottom of this page to read Ray Carney's exchange with Mike Akel, the writer-director of Chalk about the culture of celebrity), and I thought it was kind of funny:  There was a preview for Chalk before the Killer of Sheep screening, and as soon as the "Morgan Spurlock presents" blurb popped up, everyone oohed and aahed.  I thought this was supposed to be the art crowd!  So yes, even we, the artsy fartsy elitists, are suckers for celebrity endorsement!  "What?  Chalk?  What kind of film is that?  Ooo, Morgan Spurlock.  Okay, I'll go see it."  Ha!

Thanks for all your hard work.




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