Nicholas Ray

Excerpts on Nick Ray from Bernard Eisenschitz's book "Nicholas Ray: An American Journey" [translated by Tom Milne].


from pages 475-476

Jim Jarmusch: "So I ended up going back to school temporarily. Nick was teaching for a while, but after about a month he refused even to go inside the school. He was too weak to go, but I also think he didn't really like the situation of teaching in that kind of rigid institution. He insisted that if anyone wanted to study with him, they had to come to his home. In a way, he was taking the school's money to live off rather than for really teaching them, which I can understand; I kind of did the same thing to make my film. So I ended up not finishing school, but independently studying with Nick, and then becoming a friend of his. At first there were about six people who'd come once a week or so; then after two months it was down to three, and a month later, there was no one coming.

"I feel I learned more from Nick's character than about the specifics of directing, or even anything to do with film. I think I learned a lot about what kind of backbone it takes to stand up to all the confusing problems in film production. It seemed odd that he wasn't receiving any royalties or anything for his films... Before I even met him, he was like a hero to me, for his films; and then meeting him and finding that films were just one aspect of the way he thought about things... I almost feel I learned more jut talking to him about anything, books, music or baseball, anything besides the specifics of directing. He was always saying that the problem with film students was that they were only interested in learning aspects of film, and that they didn't look at paintings, weren't interested in music or other forms, and he couldn't understand that at all.

"There's a rock band, Television, whose first single Terry Ork produced. I remember going to see them -- in 1975 or 1976, I hadn't met Nick yet -- and outside the club where they were playing was a handwritten sign that said, 'Four cats with a passion -- Nick Ray'. Really passionate... He was always investigating things, things happening in other forms."


from page 488:

The day after Ray's death, Jim Jarmusch began production on his first film, "Permanent Vacation", which is "unofficially dedicated" to Ray. He had discussed the script with Ray, doing the opposite of what the latter recommended, eliminating the tensions and stresses he suggested. While filming, too, he rebelled against his apprenticeship, trying to win the trust of the actors instead of manipulating them as he rather suspected Ray had done. It was only after his second feature ["Stranger Than Paradise"] that Jarmusch thought he understood the method better. "He never said the same thing to two actors, even if they were playing a scene together. He never attacked from the front, he was very devious. Telling each of the protagonists something different, he could control the scene better. But he took enormous risks, too. He was on a tightrope, there was a grave danger of everything overbalancing, that it wouldn't work. That's why Ray's films are the finest in Hollywood, but also the most uneven." 

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