An interesting quote from an interview with Cullen Gallagher about this Sunday’s (9/6/09) event at UnionDocs.
3. How have both films affected your feelings about Nick Ray?
Helpern’s documentary seems essential for understanding Ray’s methodology and ideology. Ray has always been concerned with outsiders banding together, surrogate families on the fringe of society, and particularly youth culture. You see this on-screen in Rebel Without a Cause, with the trio of James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo. And even in something like Wind Across the Everglades, you can sense that Ray has sympathy for Burl Ives and his rag-tag group of poachers — they are supposed to be the villains, but there’s such a fascination with their own communal laws and rituals. And with We Can’t Go Home Again, Ray really made a connection between life and art like never before in his career. His students and he really did come together. Their work was their life, and vice versa.
4. How did it come about that you were able to invite Ray’s daughter and collaborators to speak at this screening?
Last fall I reviewed We Can’t Go Home Again for Not Coming to a Theater Near You, and was surprised to receive comments from Susan Ray (his widow), as well as his students Leslie Levinson and Tom Farrell (both of whom will be speaking at the event). Steve Holmgren (UnionDocs programmer) and I just started sending out emails to Ray’s family and collaborators. Some of them were even on Facebook. They would suggest other people to contact, which was also very helpful. Everyone was extremely willing to get involved.
5. What are you most curious to ask them about?
I wonder what the first day of class was like — did he actually take roll call? Mark people as tardy? I’m interested in how Ray navigated the educational line, if at all, since it started out as technically a college course. I know there were clashes with the administration, and at some point they all moved off campus together. This also comes off as an intensely personal film, not just for Ray, but for everyone. I’m really curious to see what the project meant for them at the time, and how they feel about it now. And, of course, there is always the itching desire to try and understand how the film ultimately fell apart, seeing as how it was never properly released, and Ray continued to tinker with its editing. Letting go of something so close to you couldn’t be so easy, for all of them.