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April 07, 2011


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James R

Interesting how Ray's film got the "I Was a Teenage Jesus" tag thrown at it, yet I'm not aware of anyone saying the same thing about Pasolini's Gospel According to St Matthew, which starred an actual teenager as Jesus...

Stephen Bowie

Sorry to divert from Nicholas Ray (which I agree, has its moments), but this reminded me ... whatever happened to your weekly reports on import DVDs & Blus?

Glenn Kenny

Well, Stephen, I intend to pick up some slack in that respect here soon...those Eureka!/Masters of Cinema Antonioni Blu-rays are SWEEEEET...but the grind of doing it as a weekly column (not to mention the costs...I got comped by a few companies, for which I was/am grateful, but a good number of those foreign DVDs were out-of-pocket purchases, and not cheap) just wore me out after a while. Thanks for asking.

@ James R.: Well, the Pasolini came after the Ray, and unless you're me, the joke is never as funny the second time around. Also, the fact that Ray had directed "Rebel Without A Cause" gave the gag some added oomph, I think.

Stephen Bowie

Glenn: Well, keep up the good fight. Any & all import reportage is welcome. Don't really understand why so few US movie buffs are into that. And between the crummy exchange rate and my overburdened AV shelf, I haven't been as on top of it lately, so I'm relying on the internets to keep tabs these days.


Royal Dano's really great in JOHNNY GUITAR as a consumptive robber.


If you can get on Eureka's mailing list, they have special offers each month (including some great pre-orders) with a lot of titles that will run you less than $15 U.S. and there's free international shipping on EVERYTHING. I pre-ordered that new 2-disc Fritz Lang Indian Epic set for just under $20 with the exchange rate, which is a damned good price, and I'm pretty sure that Metropolis Blu-Ray that came out late last year was less than $30.

The Siren

Asher, I also like Dano in Moby Dick. King of Kings is a pretty big role for him in terms of screen time, but he was always memorable, with that face that looked like it had been left out on the back porch for a decade or so...


Though I had a thing for Biblical epics as a kid, I never saw this one. Sounds like it might actually tap into the pathos of the Christ story, if only periodically, something most of the Jesus pics don't really seem to do. Leave it to Ray...


Here's another auteurist tack on King of Kings. It's got one of Miklos' greatest scores -- fantastically ambitious music that can stand comparison with any of the great religiously inspired music in history,even though he hated the movie, apparently.

Kent Jones

Glenn, I'm curious if you could elaborate on the accentuation of the negative in Eisenschitz's biography. I mean, he is pretty frank about Ray's drug problems and erratic behavior, as he should be. And just as frank about the greatness of a lot of the work. "The whole production history of THE LUSTY MEN was a headlong rush, a chapter of accidents (which a strictly professional point of view would deem unfortunate). Out of this consciously controlled panic there emerged, for those with eyes to see, not just a film but the potential for a new kind of filmmaking." That's a fairly characteristic passage, and it strikes me as pretty far from an accentuation of the negative.

Peter T Chattaway

Good point about "defining Christ by absence". I once timed all the various scenes in this film and found that there are only about 77 minutes' worth in which Jesus plays a significant role, in a movie that is 157 minutes long (or 170, if we count the overture, credits and entr'acte). So he's basically in less than half of the movie.

It's also interesting to consider that this 1961 film was the first Hollywood movie to depict Jesus directly since the silent era (i.e. since the late 1920s). There had been a few foreign and independent films, and of course we hear Jesus' voice in The Robe (but we don't see his face) and we see his face in Quo Vadis (but we don't hear his voice) and we see the back of his head in Ben-Hur (but we don't see his face *or* hear his voice), but no big-studio "talkie" had treated Jesus as an actual *character* until this.

Ordinarily, we might assume that filmmakers in those intervening years were nervous about causing offense to the Christian community or even to Christ himself, but there are those who have speculated that Hollywood was also nervous about stepping on the toes of Cecil B. DeMille, whose silent movie THE King of Kings was thought by some to be the definitive treatment of this subject. In any event, DeMille died in 1959 and Ray's movie -- King of Kings, no "The" -- came out nearly three years later. Could be coincidence. Then again, maybe not.

Glenn Kenny

@ Kent: Looking at what I wrote above, I see that I ought to have added at least one "seems to," as I was discussing my experience of the book when I read it all the way through many years ago. EIsehschitz's perspective on and praise of the films is indeed stirring, provocative, and apt. But he's almost too good of a researcher! Each account of a given film contains at least one detail, and frequently quite a few more, of a major Ray misstep, or fuckup, or abrogation of aesthetic and/or practical responsibility, so that the aggregate impression for me at the time was that of a guy who was lucky to be able to pull his trousers on in the morning, never mind create a handful of the greatest works of the American cinema.

Kent Jones

Glenn, agreed. He had an extremely unorthodox mind and sensibility and some kind of instinctive drive to stand at odds with everyone and everything, no matter the situation. Who else could have created a film like ON DANGEROUS GROUND, with a structure like that? I think Eisenschitz does a very good job of laying it all out, far better than Peter Biskind does in his 70s book when he's writing about Altman and Hopper.

Glenn Kenny

Indeed, Kent. The differences are many, but they could come down to fundamental ones of temperament. Biskind's is (and I think he would be hard-pressed to deny this) pretty cynical and misanthropic, and has only gotten more so over time; that's just one part of what made his recent Beatty book, with its insistence, among other things, that no good deed from showbiz people ever comes from a genuinely good place, so hard to get through. Eisenschitz is more like a dogged and persistent detective looking into the "case" of someone he cares very much about—who has created things he cares very much about—and laying out the accumulated evidence dispassionately but with a sometimes unmistakably heavy heart.

Kent Jones

Glenn, I haven't read the Beatty or the indie book, but as I think about it now, the 70s book seems even sillier today than it did when it came out. The whole idea is at once calculating and loony - let's revisit the golden age of American cinema in the 70s…and focus on how craven and fucked up and duplicitous everyone was.

Going deep into an artist's life rarely if ever yields a pretty picture. In Ray's case, maybe even less pretty than usual. But what does it matter? The work speaks for itself.

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