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"Challenging Understandings: An essay on Charles Burnett's To Sleep with Anger"
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In the jargon of the film business, there is a phenomenon called the "breakthrough" or "crossover point." It designates the moment when a filmmaker previously the property of cultists or cognoscenti, finally begins to reach a mass audience. His work passes into the vernacular. It enters the common consciousness and, to some small degree, becomes part of the way we understand ourselves.
It's always a bit of a mystery why a particular body of work does or does not cross over. Fate and film reviewers can be fickle. Within the ranks of African-American filmmakers, Spike Lee's work crossed over unusually early in his career–with his very first commercial release, She's Gotta Have It. The rest, as they say, is history. By the date of Lee's film, 1986, another African-American filmmaker, Charles Burnett, had already completed three movies (Killer of Sheep, The Horse, and My Brother's Wedding). In the years since then, he has completed three more (To Sleep with Anger, America Becoming, and The Glass Shield). But Burnett clearly has yet to become a household name. I run into many teachers of film who still haven't heard of his work, and would not be surprised if most of the people reading this have not seen even one of the films I have just listed.
When I add that Burnett is, at least in my opinion, a far greater artist than Lee, and that two of his works, Killer of Sheep and To Sleep with Anger, are among the greatest American movies of the past twenty years, it is only reasonable to ask how work so accomplished could have passed unnoticed. To start with, one must face the fact that, at least in America, film is less an art than a business–a big business–and small operators like Burnett are always going to be at a competitive disadvantage when pitted against corporate conglomerates like the major studios. Burnett, who both writes and directs his own work, is a shoe-string independent who operates almost entirely outside of the system with minuscule budgets and low-profile actors. His entire production budget on any of his films–for paying the actors, shooting the film, editing it, and making a print–is less than the advertising budget for a Spielberg or De Palma picture. (Burnett's entire crew is usually smaller than their catering staffs.)
Of course money doesn't buy quality and you can still do good work with a small budget. But the problem with working on the margins is that, no matter how good your movie is, most theater owners won't screen it if it is not backed by a distributor committed to a major publicity campaign. They know people won't go to a film they've never heard of. And anything at all unusual or original (that is to say: commercially risky) by definition has a tough time getting a distributor to back it. Like every other component of the film business, the distribution and exhibition system is weighted to favor safe projects that lend themselves to saturation ad campaigns and block-bookings into scores (or hundreds) of theaters at once. That's where the economies of scale lie. Mom and pop operators like Burnett are left out in the cold, no matter how "brilliant" their work. The result is that none of Burnett's movies has ever played outside a few major cities, and even there, most of them have only had brief runs in independent or "specialty" houses. They never make it to the mall at all.
The problem is compounded by the reluctance of major newspapers and magazines to cover work that is off the beaten path. Since someone in Burnett's position obviously can't afford to buy attention with full-page newspaper ads or television commercials, his fate hangs on his ability to garner as much free press coverage as possible. Background stories, feature articles, and interviews become critical to compensate for the puniness of his advertising budget. Unfortunately, editors at places like The New York Times and Time Magazine refuse to devote much space to such work because they say not enough of their readers are familiar with it. In a variation on the waitress's dilemma (of how can you get experience if experience is required to get a job), the circularity of their argument guarantees that, as long as they decline to cover it, their readers will continue to remain unfamiliar with it.
Given the culture of publicity in which we live, there are generally only two ways for an independent filmmaker to break out of the vicious circle of invisibility. Both involve doing a kind of jujitsu on the publicity machinery so that, if you are so lucky as to have a shot at it, you just may be able to turn its insatiable appetite for "newsworthy" material (and the insatiable appetite for "news" it arouses in its audience) to your advantage. Oliver Stone and Spike Lee are acknowledged masters of both techniques. The first is the way of the huckster or televangelist. You turn yourself into a Home Shopping Club salesman of your own work, convincing people that their lives are not complete, that they are not fully alive and in touch with the times, if they've not seen your latest and greatest.
The other tack might be called the "if you can't fight 'em, join 'em" strategy. You get on the news by being news: by playing the part of the reporter and reporting on "culturally significant" events or issues. In short, you join the theme-of-the-month club, and make movies about racial tensions, political corruption, the Holocaust, the JFK assassination, AIDS, Vietnam, anorexia, or any another fashionable issue. In a bungee-cord leap of logic, your movie becomes morally equivalent to the theme it deals with. The ploy works all the better because most journalists don't have a clue as to what real art is about, and by default "topicality" becomes the measure of a work's importance and seriousness. If your work is judged to be sociologically "important" enough, and you're very lucky, you'll land interviews on Nightline, Charlie Rose, and Fresh Air, and get mentioned in a George Will column to boot. If it's faintly "controversial" and a panel discussion can be organized around it, all the better. The publicity monster loves drama, and nothing provides better drama than an easy-to-follow argument.
The obvious problem for most independent filmmakers, in the first place, is that they are not comfortable (or very good) at functioning as snake-oil pitchmen, and in the second, that journalistic standards of "relevance" are completely irrelevant to their work. (It's small consolation that Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and virtually every other important artist wouldn't have passed the sociological "significance" test either.) Burnett, in particular, fails egregiously on both counts: He is soft-spoken and thoughtful–almost professorial–in interview situations; and his films simply don't push topical hot buttons of any sort, and certainly not in a way that is "journalistically discussible" in five hundred words or less.
The video revolution and growth of cable broadcasting was supposed to change all this. In the brave new world of "niche programming" every taste and desire, however eccentric or highbrow, was supposed to have a place reserved for it somewhere in the smorgasbord of narrow-band broadcasting. Unfortunately, the real estate in the Global Village got bought up by Wall Street and the "democratizing" of the viewing experience got sidetracked by corporate bureaucratizing. Suffice it to say that even at this late date, nineteen years into Burnett's career, only one of his films has ever been shown on HBO or Cinemax, or has found its way to your local Blockbuster.
That film is To Sleep with Anger, and since it is, in all likelihood, the only one of Burnett's films that anyone reading this has even a remote chance of locating, I want to focus on it as a kind of test case. How can a movie this good have fallen into the cracks–both critically and commercially? One can start with the puzzling and off-putting title, which is not exactly calculated to ring Pavlovian salivation bells of the Fatal Attraction "must-see" variety. In fact, the only bells "to sleep with anger" rings are the wrong ones: that it is either about sex (the "sleep" part), or murder (the "anger" part). It goes without saying that it is neither. (I must confess that even after having seen the film many times, the significance of the title still eludes me.)
Yet no doubt the title alone didn't make or break the movie. The larger problem was that Burnett made an African-American film that violated virtually every convention about the depiction of African-Americans on screen. There are no drugs, no gangs, no guns, no policemen, and no hookers. There are no views of urban life, no identifying ethnic patois, costumes, or mannerisms, and no rap or hip-hop scoring on the soundtrack (and not even any references to such realms of experience). Burnett makes us realize the extent to which the African-American experience has been cinematically stereotyped. His characters are not teenage ghetto dwellers with boom boxes on their shoulders, but middle-class mothers and fathers who head stable families, live in well-kept houses in suburban neighborhoods, and care as much about their jobs, their marriages, their children, and their relationships with their neighbors as any white suburbanite does. His film may have an all Black main cast, but in another respect, it represents a breathtakingly color-blind vision of life. Its narrative may be anchored in specific observations about the Black family (and, in particular, the distinctive role of women in it), but its net effect is to suggest that what all families have in common is much more important than the skin colors that distinguish them.
The family experience is at the heart of To Sleep with Anger, as it is at the heart of all of Burnett's work. The film features six characters, of more or less equal importance, who are distributed into three biologically related families: an elderly married couple, Gideon and Susie; their older son, "Junior," and his pregnant wife, Pat; and their younger son, "Baby Brother," and his wife, Linda. (Junior and Pat have a daughter named Ronda; Baby Brother and Linda have a son named Sonny.) Beyond their connections with each other, the six adults are enmeshed in further relationships with other relatives, friends, and acquaintances. I emphasize the networks of relationship because it is crucial to the effect of his work that Burnett creates a real sense that his characters exist not as loners, but as members of an extended community of interdependent figures. It is of the essence of Burnett's vision that his characters are always accountable to something larger than themselves. He is a poet of families, neighborhoods, and communities. No one in his films lives or dies alone; everyone is continuously affected by and responsible to a host of others, and any one person's action always ripples outward to affect others. I would note, as an aside, that there was even more of this–more neighbors and more sense of neighborhood–in the shooting script of To Sleep with Anger, but that Burnett was forced to cut some of it by the his producers, who were concerned that the scenes with still other characters would distract the audience from the film's "stars."
As much as one may disagree with their opinion, his producers were onto something. Burnett's achievement, even in the version of the film that we have, is to prevent the audience from focusing on any star or stars–or from seeing them as separable from their multitudinous ties to others. There are few filmmakers whose work goes more against the grain of the studio star system. To star–to dominate a scene in the Jack Nicholson or Meryl Streep way–in Burnett's work is, in fact, to fail. Responsibility and responsiveness, not power and control, are the ideals they must live up to. (As we shall see, there is one "star" in the conventional Hollywood sense in To Sleep with Anger–a character named Harry. But it is evidence of Burnett's avoidance of Hollywood star-struckness that Harry's need to star in every scene in which he appears is proof not of his superiority, but of his moral and emotional irresponsibility.)
In Burnett's work the morally responsible individual is never separable from the group, and the group itself takes on a life almost as tangible as the lives of the individuals within it. This is the feeling that Robert Altman's films are sometimes said to communicate, but the chasm that separates Altman's work from Burnett's is that, no matter how many co-equal figures Altman peoples his films with, his characters are never intimately involved with or emotionally dependent on each other. Altman's characters may interact physically, but they almost never touch one another emotionally. There is all the difference in the world between a crowd of strangers whose paths accidentally cross–Altman's territory–and the emotional interdependencies and sensitivities of a tight-knit circle of family, relatives, and close friends–which is Burnett's.
Burnett's figures are also woven into a temporal fabric–of history, biography, and memory. While most Hollywood movies create American Adams who, with the first shot of the film, seemingly spring into existence full-grown and free of encumbrances, the characters in To Sleep with Anger continuously refer viewers and each other to other times, past customs, and previous relationships. (It is not accidental that Burnett dresses the set of Gideon and Susie's house with dozens of old family photographs.) The mere fact that two of the main characters are an old married couple in their sixties or seventies is one way of anchoring the film's present experiences in a continuously felt past. While old people in Hollywood movies are often treated as if they were no different from children–innocent, simple, and out of touch with life–in this film, Susie and Gideon's seniority and stature as heads of an extended family make them walking, talking volumes of family history. They are the communal memory bank. In addition, Burnett's scripting of the interactions between the various family members emphasizes the extent to which, as in any multi-generational family, past conflicts and positions are almost always more truly the subject of the present moment than the present is. In Burnett's vision of life, the past is never really past: present-tense interactions are always inflected by old grievances. Everything the two brothers say to their father throughout the film is colored by the fact that they have been rivals for his affection in the past; even when Gideon talks with Baby Brother about something else, his long-standing objection to Linda's being a working mother who doesn't stay home with her child inflects his words. Similar manifestations of how the past lives on in the present are felt in the subtext of nearly every conversation in the film, though it is important to point out the delicacy of this effect. Burnett never exaggerates or emphasizes it in order to make easy dramatic points. As in every other aspect of his work, he trusts his audience not to need to have things italicized or underlined.
One of the subtlest aspects of the film is the way the language of the characters itself becomes a repository of historical references. Brief, unexplained allusions abound to scattered bits and pieces of Southern folklore, Black magic, and past family events: from the names of long-lost friends and relatives; to superstitions about "tobys," "bay leaves," and "swamp-root;" to mysterious or ominous happenings like "hanging somebody from a persimmon tree," and "getting your life-line crossed with someone else's." (Burnett told me that he had to fight to keep many of these oblique, slightly cryptic, folkloric references in the film. While his producers protested that "it wouldn't make sense to a viewer in Iowa," he was determined to keep the historical and cultural weave as dense as he could. While his producers wanted the dialogue "thinned down" to make it intelligible to as many viewers from as many different backgrounds as possible, he stood his ground on keeping it historically, culturally, and socially "thick.")
Another way that Burnett complicates a viewer's sense of the interrelatedness and interdependence of his characters is by employing a skillful use of cross-cutting in the editing of the film, involving alternating between shots of two or more apparently independent, but simultaneously occurring events. For example, early in the film, a character named Harry (whom I will describe in more detail below) who is staying as a guest in Gideon and Susie's house, chooses not to accompany them to church on a Sunday morning, and Burnett cuts between glimpses of him silently prowling around the empty house looking at old family photographs, and glimpses of Gideon, Susie, and their children and grandchildren participating in church services. A little later on, when Harry talks with Baby Brother, Linda, and Sonny about good luck charms, amulets, and superstitions, Burnett cross-cuts between shots of their conversation around the kitchen table and shots of a church baptism taking place at the same time. Still later in the film, during an emotionally upsetting house party, Burnett cross-cuts from one part of the party to another–from a family quarrel taking place on the front lawn, to gospel singing in the living room, to a confrontation between Harry and a distant relative in the kitchen.
The effect of the cross-cutting is complex. Not only does it force us to hold different events in our minds at the same time, but it suggests subtle and surprising imaginative connections between them. It tells us that apparently unrelated places, characters, and things may actually be related in some deep yet almost unaccountable way. In the three examples I cited, tip-toeing around an empty house and sitting in church, stroking a rabbit's foot and plunging into a baptismal pool, and emotionally edgy events taking place in three different parts of a house party, mysteriously connect up with each other and comment on each other. That suggests a larger point about Burnett's vision. His acts of social contextualization are ultimately in the service of encouraging a viewer to see beyond the immediate social realm–to perceive imaginative correspondences and interdependencies between disparate realms of experience.
The filmmaker Burnett most resembles, in the imaginative complexity of his vision, is not Altman but Renoir (and, in fact, his cross-cutting in the party scene I described seems indebted to Renoir's editing practice in the party scene of The Rules of the Game). In that film, Renoir used the arrival of a bumbling aviator at a house party (and, in the parallel plot, the introduction of a romantic poacher into the servant's quarters) as a way of revealing the imaginative stresses, strains, and fault lines in his society, and Burnett uses a character named Harry (played by Danny Glover in the performance of his career) for a similar purpose. Harry shows up on Gideon and Susie's doorstep one day, unannounced and unexpected, as a long-lost relative with a shady past, moves into their guest room, and gives the mobile of their lives and those of the four other principal characters a dizzying spin.
When he steps out of the deep South and into this comfortable Los Angeles suburb, he unsettles all of their polite middle-class customs and understandings–because he brings along with him a truckload of emotional baggage they never really left behind them. As a hard-fighting, hard-drinking, man's man, Harry represents the return of the repressed to this upwardly aspiring, suburban family. He brings back to consciousness suppressed and almost forgotten memories of nightmarish racial incidents, back-country superstitions, and dangerous ways of living. As Burnett cunningly drops him into the narrative, Harry stresses the family structure just enough to reveal the cracks and weaknesses that were already present in it. He summons demons, but ones that were lurking just under the surface and waiting to emerge.
But there is more to this dark visitor than first meets the eye. Burnett drops broad hints that, as his name suggests, old Harry just possibly has demonic powers. In Burnett's playfully macabre presentation, virtually everything Harry comes into contact with shivers with an ominous supernatural resonance. The minute before he arrives at Gideon and Susie's front door, a china teapot crashes to the floor and a long-lost lucky charm is discovered among the pieces. A little later, when Harry reaches to shake Pat's hand, her unborn baby stirs inside her and she gasps in pain. When she extends her hand a second time, her baby moves again, even more violently. When Harry glances down at Gideon in bed, he writhes restlessly in his sleep. And, more generally speaking, Harry's arrival coincides with catastrophic upheavals in the lives of everyone around him. Are these events mere accidents and coincidences, or are they demonic omens? Burnett gleefully (and diabolically) refuses to answer the question one way or the other.
To attempt to resolve whether Harry "really" is or is not the devil is to miss the point. Answering the question either way would only trivialize the movie. Burnett's goal is to prevent us from resolving Harry into anything simpler than the shimmering uncertainty he is. Harry stays tantalizingly and mysteriously just slightly out of focus. In some scenes he is hilarious; in others he is scary. At moments he seems the gentlest and most polite figure in the film; at others the most threatening. He is a chameleon, a Rorschach test for our imagination. Burnett's achievement is to keep him from congealing into a mere "character." Or to put it more accurately, Harry shows us how complex and multivalent something like "character" can be–how it can defy reductive pigeonholing, how it can keep moving away from past understandings, how it can contain multitudes.
In fact, Harry is not really the most important figure in the film, and the only reason to dwell at such length on his unresolvability is in order to use him as a means of appreciating a similar open-endedness in most of the other characters and scenes. Just as when Burnett fought to retain the unexplained folkloric and historical references which his producers wanted to take out, he deliberately presents experience "thick" and (to some degree) "unanalyzed" in other ways throughout To Sleep with Anger. He creates a world rich with imaginative possibilities, a world where multiple understandings are necessary, a world of suspended, unresolved, enticing, confusing possibilities. He deliberately leaves most of the important events and characters in the film just slightly under-explained and under-interpreted.
Needless to say, this goes against the grain of mainstream film, where the goal is to limit and control the viewer's understanding of characters and events as completely as possible: shot by shot, scene by scene, minute by minute. Most films inform us, as early and succinctly as they can, how we are to feel about the major characters and what the fundamental narrative problems and tasks to be accomplished are. The meaning of characters and events is glossed and updated throughout the film (by means of lighting cues, mood-music orchestrations, and various stereotypical forms of characterization and plotting) in order to ensure that a set of clear and specific understandings emerges during the viewing experience.
To Sleep with Anger plays by different rules. The film is broken free from both narrative and tonal tendentiousness. Narratively, Burnett frees scenes from making plot-points in which each event can be evaluated based on whether it furthers or delays the accomplishment of the ultimate goal. Rather than tracing a tight narrative trajectory in which each scene poses dramatic questions that lead inexorably to the next scene, Burnett's narrative is left somewhat anecdotal and episodic–basically consisting of a series of brief glimpses of family life before, during, and after Harry's stay.
The film is as tonally open-ended as it is narratively non-tendentious. Burnett frees scenes from being organized around any one definite feeling or mood which would predetermine or pin down the meaning of the individual events within them. Seldom has the tonal slipperiness of semicomedy been used more brilliantly to prevent the viewer from rushing to judgment about what things mean. Scenes are slyly pitched at an in-between tonal place where they are serious one minute and funny the next; or, even more interestingly, both serious and funny at the same time. Let one scene stand for all of the others–my own personal favorite moment in the film: the "changing of the guard" scene in which Harry edges in to replace Gideon as the head of the family after Gideon has a stroke. Harry takes over the living room easy chair, lustily cutting his toenails and giving orders to Gideon's sons, while Gideon sits half-paralyzed and impassive on the couch in front of him. The scene is utterly unclassifiable. Harry is so outrageously funny (keeping up a line of comic patter); Gideon is so pathetic. Harry is so over-the-top (as he manipulates the sons); Gideon is so still and passive. Harry performs with such comic gusto and panache that we can't dislike him, yet, at the same time, his conduct is utterly appalling and shocking. The first time I saw the movie, I didn't know whether to love Harry or hate him. I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, gasp in dismay, or run out of the theater.
It is a wonderful artistic place to be brought to: a place that momentarily stuns our powers of analysis; a place beyond all of the black and white valuations and snap judgments of morality; a place almost beyond knowledge, in which the tremulations of emotion are the only form of understanding fast enough to keep up with the experience. A filmmaker friend of mine once defined his ideal of the perfectly modulated cinematic tone as being "a way of keeping the viewer from figuring things out too quickly, a way of preventing simple understandings so that the real complexity of an experience can get through." According to that definition, Burnett deserves to be called one of the great tonal masters.
The effect of this non-tendentiousness throughout the film, is to keep us guessing and wondering (and, to some degree, changing our minds) about the meaning of what we are watching. We can't simply kick back and recline into one feeling or mood the way we almost always can in the other sort of movie. We can't predict where a scene is headed, or mark our progress toward some ultimate goal on an imaginative road map. Things aren't laid out in that linear, plot-centered way. We're forced to stay on our toes–studying, watching, thinking–remaining open to many different possible feelings and understandings at once. If the effect is just a little bewildering, it is also exhilarating in its vision of human possibility.
Nothing and no one in To Sleep with Anger will declare one simple meaning. As I mentioned, Harry can seem dissolute, diabolical, and dangerous and yet also be wonderfully witty, charming, and entertaining. Gideon and Susie can be a loving couple and yet also bicker with and criticize each other. Susie can be a level-headed, church-going, modern housewife, and yet also subscribe to oldtime folk rituals and superstitions. Scenes mix magic, folklore, religion, and middle-class ordinariness; the natural and supernatural; seriousness, pathos, absurdity, and delicate comedy beyond ever being sorted out.
In short, Burnett creates a complex world. His scenes capture some of the actual feel of family life–a place where joys, pains, embarrassments, and farce are twisted so tightly together that the strands can't ever be separated. Compare the ending of the film for a crash course in what tonal and psychological complexity means: Susie and Gideon are in love but still bickering about the jokes Gideon tells Sonny; Baby Brother is clearly trying to mend his irresponsible and lazy ways, but still is as disinclined as ever to pitch in and help Junior fix the roof; Linda is trying to be nice to her husband but still acting slightly naggy (as she makes him wince by zestily plucking his chest hairs!); Hattie and all of the others continue to be their comical, unpredictable, cruel, kind selves. The tonal suspension, the multivalence of feelings, the playful mix of moods in a scene like this is what makes this world so interesting and valuable. To resolve or unify these counterpoised forces–as a conventional Hollywood ending would do–would be to destroy everything that is most valuable in it. These unresolved tensions are life at its best. In the plate tectonics of Burnett's work, the shifting stresses, strains, differences, and frictions of experience are not something to be gotten beyond or resolved (a horrible thought), but to be lived into, to be accepted, appreciated, and relished.
There is one final difference between To Sleep with Anger and most other American films. Although there are a few fights and arguments in the course of the movie, in the deepest sense, Burnett creates a drama not of action but of consciousness. I don't want to give away the plot for those who haven't yet seen it, but suffice it to say that although Harry creates emotional upheaval in the lives of Gideon, Susie, and their children, physically or practically speaking, he doesn't actually "do" anything to anyone. (It goes without saying that there are no supernatural special effects, no magical transformations, none of the mystical mumbo-jumbo of a Spielberg picture here.) All of the important events that take place and the important effects characters have on one another are internal–moments not of action, but of feeling and awareness. (That is incidentally why Harry doesn't even need to be present during most of the film's important dramatic confrontations. He doesn't need to do anything beyond mirroring and magnifying the family members' pre-existing tendencies.) Harry is the catalyst for a family battle, but it is one that was waiting to happen all along, and one that illustrates Marianne Moore's conviction that "there never was a war that was not inward."
By the final scene, since everything is, in effect, returned to the way it was before Harry showed up, in terms of practical, worldly, external events, it would be fair to say that nothing at all has happened or changed in the course of the film. We and the characters are back where we started. But, in another sense, the sense in which a film can be a drama not of outer but of inner eventfulness, not of outward wars but of inward ones, it would be hard to depict more monumental happenings or changes. Burnett dramatizes a dark night of the soul in which, having lived through the danger of almost losing all that they had, the characters have finally learned its true meaning. In terms of actions, that kind of eventfulness may not be much; in terms of consciousness, it is everything. Burnett's drama of consciousness shows us that the greatest adventures are adventures of the spirit.
We live in a culture that comes into conflict with many of these ways of understanding life. It is a culture that is devoted to myths of rugged individualism, and that has faith in the ability of each person to be the "star" of his or her own life story, and to shape his or her destiny independently of others. It is a culture that believes in the individual's power to break free from the constraints and contingencies of history. It is a culture that encourages us to subscribe to the possibility of black and white understandings, clear-cut moral judgments, and straight paths of progress. It is a culture that brilliantly understands the dynamics of material and worldly conflict, competition, and success, but is relatively ignorant of, and indifferent to, the dynamics of spiritual crisis and emotional conflict. It is not surprising that popular films should reflect the values of the culture that creates and supports them. And it is not surprising that filmmakers who provide us with a different vision of life should find it tough going.
That is why, in the end, it seems clear to me that it was not the size of its advertising budget, the indifference of journalistic reviewers, or any other accidental factor that doomed To Sleep with Anger. It was the film itself. Burnett calls us to an understanding of ourselves profoundly different from the understandings most other American movies offer, and he pays the price for that difference. One might say that, throughout his career, Burnett himself has attempted to be a kind of Harry in his viewers' lives. As a filmmaker, he has attempted to unsettle us, to challenge our customary understandings, to encourage us to rethink what truly matters. The problem he has come up against is that most viewers and critics do not want new understandings.
Excerpted from Ray Carney, "Forgotten Films," DoubleTake Magazine, Volume I, number 2 (Fall 1995), pp. 123-128.
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