Introduction and Page 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 / 32 / 33 / 34 / 35 / 36 / 37 / 38 / 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 / 43 / 44 / 45 / 46 / 47 / 48 / 49 / 50 / 51 / 52 / 53 / 54 / 55 / 56 / 57 / 58 / 59 / 60 / 61 / 62 / 63 / 64 / 65 / 66 / 67 / 68 / 69 / 70 / 71 / 72 / 73 / 74 / 75 / 76 / 77 / 78 / 79 / 80 / 81 / 82 / 83 / 84 / 85 / 86 / 87 / 88 / 89 / 90 / 91 / 92 / 93 / 94 / 95 / 96 / 97 / 98 / 99 / 100 / 101 / 102 / 103 / 104 / 105 / 106 / 107 / 108 / 109 / 110 / 111 / 112 / 113 / 114 / 115 / 116 / 117 / 118 / 119 / 120 / 121 / 122

89 < Page 90 < 91

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.

Click here for best printing of text


A note from Ray Carney: The Mailbag is full of announcements of events and screenings other people are having. I wanted to include a brief announcement of two events I will be involved with. The official notice follows:

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation masterwork On the Road, Ray Carney, Prof. of Film and American Studies at Boston University, will be re-creating one of the major artistic events of the Beat period. John Cassavetes' Shadows and Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie's Pull My Daisy were originally given their world premiere screenings on a double bill at Amos Vogel's Cinema 16 in New York City on November 11, 1959. The two films have seldom or perhaps never been played together on the same program since then. Now, almost a half century later, they will be brought together again. Prof. Carney will introduce the double screening and briefly discuss the Beat Movement.

Prof. Carney co-curated the Whitney Museum of American Art's Beat Culture and the New America 1950-1965 show, is the author of more than ten books on film and other art, and manages the largest non-commercial web site in the world devoted to the art of film (at


Dates and locations:
Boston University - College of Communication
October 12 - 7:00pm

York College of Pennsylvania
October 25 - 7:00pm

Hi Professor Carney,

I'd like to order a number of your books for myself and a couple of friends and would like to confirm the address/pricing/availability posted on the web from awhile back.

I'm finishing up an alternate cut of 'Busgirl' and am beginning pre-production on my second feature, 'Golden State'. While I am very proud of 'Busgirl' as a feature debut, I've decided that on the next one I want to evolve the film using a sort of homegrown variation of the process Mike Leigh has vaguely outlined in a number of forums. I want to get the whole notion of a pre-cooked screenplay out of the way of the performances.

Haven't run into too many great films recently, although I did enjoy Steve Buscemi's new one --'Interview'-- a good deal and can recommend. Other relatively recent goodies are two Japanese films, 'Linda Linda Linda' and 'Nobody Knows'. Semi-recent domestics 'Old Joy' and 'The Puffy Chair' rate. Director Susanne Bier I do not trust but she made a good film in 'Open Hearts'. Chris D'Elia's 'Almost' is very good if you can find a copy. Kiarostami's 'Ten' also much better than has been indicated, critical backlash predictable and unfair. Being still youngish, saw 'Mouchette', 'Wanda' and 'Forbidden Games' for the first time; excellent stuff thanks for various hints and recommendations leading me their way.

Not sure what the latest is on your front as I kinda lost track a bit after the release of 'Cassavetes on Cassavetes' and the Gena battles. In any event hope all is well!

Steven Schuldt
Santa Rosa, CA

RC replies:

Steven, great to hear from you! It's always good to receive

Photo by Randy Walker

recommendations from someone who is as knowledgeable as you are about film, and someone involved in making their own things. I'm sure my readers will appreciate your tips and recs.

It should be very exciting to work in Leigh's way. My book on his work has some interesting quotes from his actors about his methods. He's one of the certifiable living geniuses of English-language feature-filmmaking. One of the greatest contemporary artists. Not much competition there--in film at least. Artists are pretty rare.

Re: whether the web site sale books are still available: The answer is yes. I get a surprising number of inquires about this and am always puzzled. Maybe it's because I haven't raised my prices! People assume the listings can't be current since the prices don't go up every year!! Anyway, anything listed in the "Bookstore" (or on other pages) is available at the price and from the address given there.

Concerning Rowlands, the situation is more or less unchanged. The brief version is that she's a millionaire movie star who is able to pay high-priced lawyers to do her bidding -- and I'm not. That about sums it up. And the fact that American journalists and film critics are too star-struck to even hint that she might be in the wrong. The worst part, in my view, has nothing to do with controlling --or bankrupting -- me though. It's that she and other people she has appointed to manage the estate are not very good caretakers of her husband's art. There's ample documentation of that on the site, and, in fact, I just added a few more thoughts about it on a couple other site pages. Click here to read about Rowlands's attempts to control what I write about Cassavetes and to read about her retaliation against me (getting me fired from jobs or removed from film festivals or other events and projects) when I have attempted to tell the truth about his life and their marriage.

Best wishes,


P.S. Hope we meet some day. Let me know if you are ever East.

A note from Ray Carney: I continue to receive a stream of questions about Gena Rowlands's treatment of me. I have added several new items to the site to try to clarify the issues. Click here to read about her attempts to control what is written about Cassavetes, and her retaliation against scholars who have attempted to tell the truth. And click here to see the effect of her control of information on two recent "authorized" accounts of her husband's life and work. Both are written just the way Gena wants everything to be written. Their narratives are sanitized, sentimental, hero-worshipping -- and useless. They avoid the hard, demanding realities of creating art, and substitute in their place a Hollywood-ized "let's-put-on-a-show" version of the creative process.

Prof. Carney,

If you don't mind I would like to ask you another question. On page 53 you say that you have more books and exercises on music. I feel like am ready to go further than the Kamien book goes. While I still have many facts to learn about musical structures I feel that my senses are ready to move on. Are there any books similar to your first recomendations or is sheet music the way to go?

I also bought a camcorder rather recently. HDV, 24p (not that I have any urgent plans to get my amateur videos on film) and some other stuff for less than $1000. While learning about cameras I discovered many forums full of knowledgeable people. What actually surprised me was how mediocre most of the indie-films seem and how much they try to live up to Hollywood film structures and morals. I think that I'm so used to watching almost only masterpieces that I forgot how difficult they are to make. Trying to make small home movies remind me of that even more. It's basically a one man band with no real idea of how to use the instruments creatively.

I've also tried taking up drawing. Despite being horrible with my hands I consider myself pretty good for someone with no training. What annoys me is that my drawings mostly look the same. I guess I shouldn't expect immediate results in either art. As Darren Pardee points out in your mailbox; we have to try many different things to find out where we can best give our gifts.

Magnus Eik

Subject: new forms of experience


If you have really mastered all that is in Kamien et alia (the others I mention on page 53), the next small step upward would be to go to all of the books Antony Hopkins wrote about specific pieces and genres. (That is to say: skip his general "intro to music" writing and read, while you listen to the piece, his "Concertgoers Companion" series, his "Talking About...." guides to Concertos, Symphonies, and Sonatas, and his specific studies (e.g. the guides to Beethoven's Concertos and Symphonies). That would take you to the next level. After that (but much harder), is the step to Donald Tovey's books. The entire "Essays on Musical Analysis" series, six volumes I think. Of course, scores will be helpful all along the way, but much of Hopkins and Tovey quote the score passages to make their points, so you can hold off on the scores for a while. (Of course, I am assuming you read scores. They are of no use unless you have a sound foundation in harmony and rhythm already.)

Hope that helps.

Your complaint about the "conventionality" of most recent indie works is mine also. These filmmakers, even the most highly respected ones in the group, really are not finding/making new forms of expression and feeling possible. They are just making "slacker/Gen X/Gen Y" versions of conventional films. Cotton underwear on the women in place of Hollywood's silk, as a friend of mine puts it. Twenty-two-year-old slackers sleepwalking through the same occupational and romantic crises that thirty- and forty-year-olds have in Hollywood movies. That's not what art is about. Bresson, Tarkovsky, Cassavetes invented new forms of experience and expression. Shakespeare, Proust, James invented new forms of experience and expression. Anything else is just treading water. Cotton underwear in place of silk.....

Re: painting. Try to paint like no one else. Try to paint like yourself -- only yourself. How would you do that? First, you have to think and feel like no one else, or at least like no one else has ever done in a painting, and then you have to forget every painting you ever saw. Then you have to find a way to say YOUR truth, to express YOUR reality, to turn YOUR experience and way of moving through life into images. That's what the American indie filmmakers have not done in film. When their work looks like other movies, it shows that they are thinking with other people's brains, feeling with other people's hearts. That's what non-artists do. That's nothing. It's just recycling. Of course, seeing the world freshly, being original, being YOURSELF (and not someone else) is not easy. It's the hardest thing in the world, in fact. It's a very challenging challenge, in painting and in every other art, but it's the only challenge worth devoting your life to.

By the way, this process of learning how to use the tools "creatively" and "originally," this imperative of "being yourself," is EXACTLY WHAT IS NOT COMMUNICATED to young film students -- in my film program or any other that I am aware of. In fact, American film students are taught (by example and implication, every day of their university training) PRECISELY THE OPPOSITE OF BEING ORIGINAL, OF BEING THEMSELVES, OF SEEING WITH THEIR OWN EYES AND THINKING WITH THEIR OWN BRAINS. They are taught the virtues of "sharp focus," and "three-point lighting," and "balanced frame composition," and "clean sound," and a ton of other ridiculous, imitative, Hollywood look-alike structure. No wonder their movies are, with the very fewest of exceptions, stupid, boring, and banal. Imagine a creative writing program where the students read (and were taught to imitate and write like) Steven King and James Clavell and other best-selling authors. Imagine an art department where the students learned to paint like Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kinkade, the "painter of light." Well, that's what showing and studying Oliver Stone and Steven Spielberg and David Cronenberg and Alfred Hitchcock movies amounts to in film programs. No wonder American independent filmmaking, even at its best, is emotionally shallow and intellectually light-weight. My "Auto Mechanics" piece (which I'm sure you've already read) has more than you want to know on this subject.


This in from the creator of Lowell Blues: The Words of Jack Kerouac, Henry Ferrini. Polis is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place will be showing at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts on September 20 and 22. See the poster below for details. (I admit to not having seen the film, but anything with John Malkovich in it is always worth watching, for that reason alone.) -- R.C.

Dear Ray,

I thought you or some of your students may be interested in this film. Olson was a poet-historian with a multi-disciplinary approach to his work. I hope you get a chance to see it.

Could you please Post this. Thanks so much.


Henry Ferrini

My short film REMOVAL will be screening in Los Angeles in a Filmmakers Alliance ( showcase on Monday and I thought you might have a few friends in the area who would be interested in coming along. I'd love to hear a few eye witness accounts of how the film goes down...

The screening is Monday evening, September 24th at 7:30pm at the Echo Park Film Center.

I'm told it's at 1200 N. Alvarado, just north of Sunset, and about five bucks in. FA are a good organisation so there should be some other interesting films in the lineup too.

----Donal Foreman

Received this from a recent graduate of Boston University's grad Film Studies program who has just started a new teaching job. His comments about how both teachers and students hide behind jargon and specialized terminology are particularly worth pondering. Many senior faculty members teaching jargon-laden courses in "critical theory" (the term says it all) could learn a thing or two from his remarks. And his viewing recommendation is one I endorse.-- R.C.

Subject: Hello from a friend...

Dear Ray,

The first week of classes at **** is already over and I am now into my second week. I love the job. Teaching is a wonderful profession, a wonderful way to spend one's time. It is never boring, always exciting. The interactions I have with students are so enriching and positive. I feel like I genuinely have something beneficial to share with them, like I can help them open up their hearts and minds to more sensitive ways of thinking about film, even their own lives. That is a wonderful feeling. And I'm learning new things all the time-from discussions with students, from my preparation of lectures/notes, from screening and readings. I am so thankful to be able to do what I'm doing, and I wanted to let you know again how much I appreciate your help.

I also wanted you to know that I am trying my hardest not to promote the same jargon-filled, self-indulgent film school rhetoric that is so prevalent in courses devoted to media theory and criticism (that's the title of the course I am currently teaching by the way). It's a challenge, not only on my end. I sometimes notice how desirous my students are for the quick and easy knowledge of definitions and categories (the stuff so readily provided by theories). They feel so proud and accomplished for knowing about the French New Wave or Rudolf Arnheim. A lot of that probably comes with their age and the false sense of elitism that a college education often breeds. That is why I am constantly looking for ways to promote a humble approach to any kind of criticism and scholarship. I'm looking for ways to challenge the categories we read about and the definitions we consider. I hope at the very least to introduce them to some good films. In fact, I showed one of the episodes from Nine Lives last class. Several students were extremely taken with the film, and a few of them went out and rented it immediately after class.

I recently saw a remarkable film at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Tsai Ming Liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone. What a beautiful film. So much pain and tragedy, so much that is unsettled in the lives of the characters. Liang's characters are so frustrating to watch. They get into the same trouble, and make the same mistakes in their personal relationships. But the frustration is extremely interesting and insightful, if we allow it to be. We must disown the notion that we are better or smarter than they are at making decisions, wiser at overcoming our flaws. We're not. Liang's characters teach us to be modest. His characters are also remarkably familiar with one another. That is, they grow close and establish bonds-not in the sugary sentimental way of Hollywood films. Liang takes his time developing the connections that grow between his characters. He keeps most of the scenes silent, without dialogue, allowing us time to really pay attention to facial expressions and gestures. We spend time with the actors. What a different experience from most films. But he doesn't overdo it.

At moments, his characters appear to be so uninhibited, free from the self-consciousness that is promoted by the myriad social codes of propriety and courtesy we follow. They are also extremely weighed down. They suffer constant disappointment. But they are never trapped. Liang has his characters live in extremely pitiable states, but offers us glimmers of hope at every turn. It was so refreshing to watch a film that depicted complications in the lives of its characters that went beyond the service of some goal-oriented narrative. If you haven't seen the film, I highly recommend it. That's all from me. I just wanted to keep in touch and let you know how I was doing.

Andre Puca

Subject: Art vs. product

Prof. Carney,

Even though I've been tied up doing other things all day, here are a few thoughts for you re: art vs. commerce. Probably unanswerable. Just thinking out loud!

I wanted to look up some info on Caveh Zahedi (after viewing his film), and found an interview he did. He said something to the effect that he had shot several scenes and showed them to audiences during the creation process. Some he liked better the original way, but changed them to what the audiences liked better, since after all, he wanted his work to be seen.

Arthur Vibert's letter (on page 88 of the Mailbag, accessible through the blue page number menus at the top and bottom of the page) still resonates regarding the tension between art and commerce. When does the process of creating art give way to creating product for commerce? I'm recalling a Picasso quote I sent you a while back:

"From the moment that art ceases to be food that feeds the best minds, the artist can use his talents to perform all the tricks of the intellectual charlatan. Most people can today no longer expect to receive consolation and exaltation from art. The 'refined,' the rich, the professional 'do-nothings', the distillers of quintessence desire only the peculiar, the sensational, the eccentric, the scandalous in today's art. I myself, since the advent of Cubism, have fed these fellows what they wanted and satisfied these critics with all the ridiculous ideas that have passed through my mind. The less they understood them, the more they admired me. Through amusing myself with all these absurd farces, I became celebrated, and very rapidly. For a painter, celebrity means sales and consequent affluence. Today, as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich. But when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand old meaning of the word: Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya were great painters. I am only a public clown - a mountebank. I have understood my time and have exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries. It is a bitter confession, this confession of mine, more painful than it may seem. But at least and at last it does have the merit of being honest." (Pablo Picasso, 1952)

How does an artist know when they are beginning to cross the line over to commerce? It's sad to me of the compromises that are evidently being made in order to make a living, although that may not be the only reason revision of the original artistic occurs. People want their truth not to be a bitter pill to be swallowed, but sugar-coated to make it easier to swallow. As Oscar Wilde once said (I love this quote!), "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh." Where does this cross over the line from art to product as useless entertainment?

I feel fortunate that I'm free to pursue my understanding of creating "art" without the pressures of having to make a living. And those pressures are certainly not new to civilization. I treasure the freedom to create what I want when I want to share with whoever I wish. Blessed are those who are free to create without having to earn their bread... Why oh why can't some of the super-billionaires of the world be patrons of some of our best artists and allow them to create their art without restriction? (If I was a billionaire, I would certainly publish ALL of your works, and keep them from being lost to the world.)


Subject: film student comments

Professor Carney,

As a film student and aspiring independent filmmaker myself, I felt obliged to send off a quick letter to you, although I'm sure that you're up to your neck in work for the new school year.

I am a tremendous admirer of John Cassavetes, and am reading your "C on C" right now; excellent work, and from my personal perspective, a real source of inspiration and ideas. Although up until only recently a true biography of the man didn't exist, knowledge of the circumstances surrounding his works is crucial information for any young filmmaker. I consider your book a definitive text.

Sorry to read about your Ur Shadows debacle that is on-going. I hope to one day get a chance to see that version of the film; I congratulate you on your principles regarding the fight and offer my very best wishes in your bold crusade to keep it in existence. Remember: Citizen Kane was very nearly burned at the hands of William Randolph Hearst himself, and at least one offer was made to have The Last Temptation of Christ and its original negative destroyed. And yet those works have thrived, as, I suspect, will Cassavetes' first film.

Incidentally -- although I know your controversial feelings regarding Citizen Kane and its importance -- I am a also a tremendous fan of Welles. Have you followed the pushes to get his later, independent works available to the public? Unfortunately, his works have different and various copyright holders and both his daughter, Beatrice, and his longtime significant other/collaborator, Oja Kodar, have failed to come to any mutual agreements to get his total body of work available. It is always both the fans and the academics who suffer.

As both an aspiring filmmaker and teacher of theory, thank you for your important work.

Very sincerely,

Chad Kushins

Ray Carney replies: Thanks, Chad, for the good words. I have a link higher up on this page that has an overview of Gena Rowlands's attempts to control and censor what is written about Cassavetes and attempts to suppress his unpublished writing and keep his undistributed films from being screened. Yes, it's a sad situation -- for film and for lovers of film. But let me make one thing very, very clear: There's no need whatsoever to feel sorry for me. The fact is that I feel incredibly lucky. Incredibly fortunate. Not to be immodest, but what if I hadn't been born, what if I hadn't been around to fight these battles, what if I weren't here to save the first version of Shadows from destruction, to lobby to have the alternate versions of other Cassavetes films released on DVD, to work behind the scenes to make other unreleased works by him available for viewing in the future, to work to preserve his work and honor his life and art? You see what I mean? What a gift I've been given to be able to fight these battles. What a lucky life I've had, to have been able to do the things I am doing. To have been given these opportunities. It has been a great gift from God. I feel so fortunate. So blessed. -- George Bailey

Subject: Krishnamurti and Lenny Bruce

Hey Ray- How are you? I was reading Krishnamurti today and thought about that Lenny Bruce quote you like so much, the "Truth is" one. Well here is the quote:

"So long as you are unwilling to be nothing, which in fact you are, you must inevitably breed sorrow and antagonism. The willingness to be nothing is not a matter of renunciation, of enforcement, inner or outer, but seeing the truth of WHAT IS. Seeing the truth of WHAT IS brings freedom from the fear of insecurity, the fear which breeds attachment and leads to the illusion of detachment, renunciation. The love of WHAT IS is the beginning of wisdom. Love alone shares, it alone can commune."

Have you read him before? I'm re-reading "The Book of Life" for the third or fourth time. He is really great writing about the nature of thought. As good as any Zen book I have come across. Well, I'm taking the plunge. I'm off to Zen Mountain Monastery for a month. Thanks for mentioning Daido Lori to me, otherwise I probably wouldn't be going. I'm a little bit scared, but I guess it is a good thing. Never thought I'd end up at a Monastery in my life, but...

I got to see some of Rosenblatt's later films this past month. I love his films with Ella, his daughter. I guess he is finishing a new one with her. They are such different tones than his other films. What a magical child/father combo. Hope you are well and thanks for your ongoing thrust to purify. It encourages me to be at my best. By the way, what do you make of 2012 and a 10th planet/pole shift in our solar system. Is that stuff real or just crazy end of times philosophy?

Lucas Sabean

RC replies:

Subject: The nothing that is not, and the nothing that is

Thanks, Lucas. Great soul-thoughts to ponder.

Of course. Krishnamurti is a long-time fave. He got me started down the path in my salad days. High school and college, I mean.

Good luck at ZMM! Hope your knees make it in one piece. You're very daring and brave. A lot of things can crawl out from under the carpet. Or the tatami, I guess I should say. John Daido Loori is one of the enlightened masters. Along with Charlotte Beck and Steve Hagen and a few others.

A stay in a monastery can be very useful, of course, but (as you know) mindfulness can be practiced everywhere, all the time, with every breath. A monastery is not required.

I agree with you about Jay's recent things. Did you see "I Like It A Lot" (if I'm not misremembering the title) and "I Used To Be a Filmmaker?" Good good stuff. When she comes into it, she brings a new gentleness, sweetness, generosity, and humor to his work. Try to find his "A Pregnant Moment" if you can. It's not about Ella, but very deep.

Let me know how the ZMM experience goes. And remember the important thing is not to pressure yourself while you're there--not to try to do anything, to attain anything, to achieve something, to get anywhere. The point is just to be willing to be how you are, where you are, while you are. Easier said than done, of course. We always prefer the pressure, the drama, the endless, pointless hamster track of thinking we're achieving something. In a word, we prefer delusion. It's very hard to just be.



P.S. Don't worry about 2012. There are better things to worry about. Much bigger things. (How's that for cold consolation?) Or I should say: not to worry about. Worry does nothing but waste your emotions. As Wallace Stevens says, one must have a mind of winter. (If site readers don't know what I am alluding to, a starter course can be found in the first reply on the top of Mailbag page 55).



89 < Page 90 < 91

Introduction and Page 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 / 32 / 33 / 34 / 35 / 36 / 37 / 38 / 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 / 43 / 44 / 45 / 46 / 47 / 48 / 49 / 50 / 51 / 52 / 53 / 54 / 55 / 56 / 57 / 58 / 59 / 60 / 61 / 62 / 63 / 64 / 65 / 66 / 67 / 68 / 69 / 70 / 71 / 72 / 73 / 74 / 75 / 76 / 77 / 78 / 79 / 80 / 81 / 82 / 83 / 84 / 85 / 86 / 87 / 88 / 89 / 90 / 91 / 92 / 93 / 94 / 95 / 96 / 97 / 98 / 99 / 100 / 101 / 102 / 103 / 104 / 105 / 106 / 107 / 108 / 109 / 110 / 111 / 112 / 113 / 114 / 115 / 116 / 117 / 118 / 119 / 120 / 121 / 122

Top of Page


© Text Copyright 2007 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.