A decade after quitting Hollywood, legendary Nicholas Ray accepted a teaching job at Harpur College in Binghamton, NY. There, with the collaboration of his students, he began a project unlike anything he had done before…
Neither densely layered classical narrative nor non-narrative avant garde, neither a political film not pure autobiography, neither fish not fowl, this gnarly masterpiece hasnt found its ideal critic (even Rosenbaum usually perceptive about Ray's classic 50s films, only betrays his limitations when he talks about it). There's hardly any other film like it for its portrayal of the early 70s.
My memory has immediately failed me but if I may paraphrase, Ray's last bit of voice over narration goes something like this: all we can do is help each other - that is all we can do to survive. Everything else is vanity.
Well it's certainly "experimental." Some elements of that experiment come off nicely: there are some provocative pairings of images, some good ideas and some funny and poignant moments. But a lot of it is fairly incoherent and tedious. Not to be missed if you have a chance to see it, though.
"Make it new." Ray makes something in this one. It plays like a time capsule, broadcasting the slipping of one decade into the next. I found the most arresting element of this experiment to be the black screen on which the footage plays, like watching a TV within a screen to enhance the overall tumult. It talks all at once and not at all. It captures the abstract, the concrete, the slippery nature of reality
A film very much of its time,avant-garde, political and stretching social mores.Filmed on Super 8,16mm,35 mm and video.The film was made by Ray and a group of students he taught and lived with, in a kind of film making commune at Binghamton university,in the 1970's.Not an easy watch,but one worth doing.If only to see that the old maverick had lost none of his fight. In fact,this rebel certainly still had a "cause"!