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I saw an amazing movie recently, and want to spread the word: Phil Morrison's JuneBug. Really great. The best film I've seen all year. A bright reflecting pool, with the stillest of surfaces, apparent calm and peace, but slowly revealed to be miles deep and dark, with all sorts of wonders swimming in the depths ... but only visible to those who can look with averted vision to see through the reflections and make out the flickers. Try to catch it. Spread the word. Bring a friend. Tell a friend. We must support the good things to make more good things possible.

Philip Morrison is a filmmaker worth watching. A quiet, deep feeling, deep seeing artist in a land of cleverness, entertainment, and noise.

To read an exchange between Phil Morrison and Prof. Carney, click here.

To quote the young John Keats (from memory--forgive any errors): Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,/ And many goodly states and kingdoms seen/ Round many Western islands have I been,/ Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold./ Oft of one wide expanse have I been told....

About ten years ago, a student of mine, David Kang, recommended that I look at Wong Kar Wei's work. Call me dumb, but I hadn't heard of it up until the time David put me onto it. Long story short: I did and I haven't stopped looking since. A few days ago, I saw 2046. It was a Saturday evening screening and I sat in a 300-seat theater with no more than 15 other people (alas), and applauded all alone when the credits rolled at the end. I don't know whether 2046 is a movie or an opera, but whichever it is, I do know it is a masterpiece. A modern version of Turandot. Princesses in towers. Princes lined up to court her. Riddles being posed. Heads rolling at wrong answers. Well, actually, the inversion of all of that. Turandot inside-out. Turandot as a man. The princes as women. But totally operatic in its emotional enormity and extravagance. And brilliant and devastating. Nessun dorma. Vincero. Splendera!

You owe it to yourself to see not only this film, but all of Wong Kar Wei's work. There are only a few certifiable geniuses making films nowadays. (Abbas Kiarostami, Mark Rappaport, Lars Von Trier, and Mike Leigh are the names of some of the others.) Anyone who cares about the present or future of the art should make it a point to master the complete works of each of these artists. Wong Kar Wei's work too, of course. Give thanks such a director exists.

Ray Carney also highly recommends Andrew Bujalski's new (and as of this date--Summer 2005--unreleased) Mutual Appreciation. It's just as good as Funny Ha Ha (click here to read about it), or maybe even better (but rankings are invidious). It deserves to be well-known.

Bujalski is one of the shining lights of the younger generation American indie movement. He is the Renoir of Gen Z (or whatever the heck letter we have devolved down to in this new and otherwise fairly unfunny century). Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation give us new eyes and ears. They let us hear emotional dog frequencies--and watch the butterfly flutters of feeling that bring us together and pull us apart. Bujalski makes us laugh at our foibles--and shed a tear of self-recognition at our fumblings of love.

It's a cause for celebration when a new artist comes on the scene and helps to write the history of the present, helps us to understand our own lives. His career is one to watch. Please support him in any way you can.

I received this announcement in my email the other day. I highly recommend Su Friedrich's work, particularly Sink or Swim, The Ties that Bind, Hide and Seek, and Rules of the Road. She is one of America's artistic treasures.

"Outcast Films at is pleased to announce the release of acclaimed veteran filmmaker Su Friedrich's films on DVD. Digitally re-mastered from the original 16mm negatives, this collection of 13 films is essential for every library, media center, as well as women and cinema studies programs. This collection of DVDs includes the filmmaker's classic works such as SINK OR SWIM, HIDE AND SEEK, THE TIES THAT BIND, DAMNED IF YOU DON'T, and THE ODDS OF RECOVERY, as well as EIGHT BONUS FILMS."

I recently came across the following statement by Peter Coyote and want to reprint it here. San Francisco-based Rob Nilsson has been laboring tirelessly and brilliantly in the American cinematic vineyards for almost forty years and it's high time the importance of his work (which includes the award-winning Signal Seven and Heat and Sunlight as well as the more recent "Nine at Night" series) was acknowledged and honored in his native land. Like many other American independent artists, his films are better known in Paris, Tokyo, and Copenhagen than in New York and Los Angeles. So much the worse for America. It's a sad reflection on American film reviewing and theater and festival programming. If you haven't discovered them already, I highly recommend Nilsson and his films, and enthusiastically agree with Coyote's assessment.

"If there were any justice in the world, Rob Nilsson's actors from the Tenderloin Group would be as widely recognized and hailed as any of the current crop of nobodies gracing the pages of People and US magazine. In Rob's new film, NEED, the latest in Rob's nine-picture series, the performances are every bit as bold, daring, unremittingly true and startling as they have been in all the others. Do whatever you have to do to see these films and these actors. Done for less money than the "perk packages" some stars receive they are gritty, true and moving. But, if there were any justice in the world John Cassavetes would still be alive and recognizing Rob Nilsson as his long-lost heir."

Peter Coyote

A letter recently received by Prof. Carney:

Hi Ray,

Very much appreciate your putting the Coyote quote up on your site. It means a lot to me.

And here's another quotation from Karen Black who attended both screenings of NEED at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Makes me feel someone actually sees what I've been up to.

Hope you're squaring off with the academic Fascists. When I think about this country and what to value these days, I come up with only my daughter, friends, some good bakeries, brew pubs and an occasional amazing meal from a foreign tradition. The Arts are full of entitlement junkies, pop poseurs and out and out charlatans. I'd like to be a Liberal, but that's impossible given the absurdity of most of their chatter. I certainly can't be a Conservative. I'll be dead soon enough without that. So maybe I'm just a Dissenter, or with Conrad Aiken, "a yea sayer with nothing to say yea to."

Yet I say "yea" to the occasional film which rises to the level of honesty and a search for "the way things seem to be." But when was the last one? Hard to remember. Oh yes, I was very moved by Mike Leigh's VERA DRAKE. What a terrible wasteland we've fostered with the determination to make art a handmaiden of politics. I was a reluctant warrior 25 years ago, but I saw through it even then. Pointing out injustice is to put a finger on your own heart. Look next door. Watch the squirrels. It's the nature of things. Then comes Art to give you some sort of reason to feel. Along with your daughter, a brew pub, sex, passionate friends and the untrammeled universe no mind could ever comprehend... let alone create.

Keep punching!

Ray Carney replies:

Thanks Rob. Funny, funny coincidence that you would write today of all days. Dealing with some "academic issues" right now. Have to post a disclaimer on my BU Film Studies pages. (Click here to read it.) Don't mind doing it, since the wise ones will understand or already understood without being told. Don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind's blowing. But, as do your comments, it brings home the fear that people are consumed by.

Delighted to include KB's quote on the site alongside the other. And that too is another coincidence! Near the top of my Mailbag page 34 I have an exchange with Jay Duplass, where he and I meditate on the difference between films with and without "life" --in other words about the difference between the morbidity of Hollywood and the truthfulness of particular independent works -- in almost exactly the same sense that Karen Black intends. But I have to thank you for her quote. She describes the difference much better, much more clearly, and more passionately than either Jay or I do. Ah, if only one critic or reviewer in America understood what she, you, and I are talking about........ if only.......


Watching Rob Nilsson's film "'Need", I became aware that I was watching an entirely new kind of film. Shockingly new the way cinema verite was new in its time, the way "Easy Rider" was new, the way the impressionists were outcasts because no one had seen the world through a painter's eyes that way ever before. And new in the way that once these new forms of art were seen, nothing could ever be the same again.

One is not watching a scripted movie and so one doesn't watch actors doing their lines , achieving their emotions well, or very well, or not so well. We're just not watching actors at work. And one isn't watching an improvised movie. I've seen them and I've been in them. In an improvised film, one knows somehow that the actors feel a camera directed at them and that they'd better come up with something. We're watching them improvise.

In Rob Nilsson's work, there is no script, yet this is not really improvisation. So what is it? Well, it's life. We seem to be watching life unfolding as it will, without a prompted direction, without any given path.. As if we could, for these precious moments, stand inside the rooms and touch the very skin of these people, mark the walk they take to the window in the night. For Mr. Nilsson has created a technique that makes it possible that the stories can be inside the players and the players aren't playing, it seems. They are just living.

This is historic film making in the true sense of the word. Historic, because if everyone suddenly began to make movies the way Rob Nilsson makes them, Hollywood would vanish. The world of filmmaking would be an entirely different one. When something truly great is spawned, there is always the obvious question: why didn't anyone ever do this before!? And the sad answer may be that no one ever will.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to become invisible and follow an interesting stranger down the street and into his apartment, to be able to watch him and wait inside his room to find out more about him? Now you can. Great movies have changed: now they don't have to be dandified, orchestrated mirrors of life. With Rob Nilsson's work, they are life.

Karen Black,
Actress, Writer, Singer

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