EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|LIGHTNING OVER WATER (aka: NICK'S MOVIE) (directors/writers: Wim Wenders/Nicholas Ray; cinematographers: Ed Lachman/Martin Schaefer; editor: Peter Przygodda; music: Ronee Blakley; cast: Nicholas Ray, Susan Ray, Wim Wenders, Tom Farrell, Tim Ray, Ronee Blakley, Gerry Bamman; Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Chris Sievernich/Pierre Cottrell; Anchor Bay; 1980)|
|"It's a fitting heartfelt
tribute to Ray."
by Dennis Schwartz
A unique and disturbing rambling
documentary recording the painful last two months in the
life of the great and neglected American Hollywood
maverick film director Nicholas Ray (August
7, 1911 - June 16, 1979), who was withering
away from lung cancer and died at age 67. It's a fitting
heartfelt tribute to Ray, a pic that should be cherished
by film buffs, in particular, for its zeal for artistic
cinema, for showing Ray's spirited quest to try and
reinvent cinema, and its honesty in depicting the
characters involved in the filming. Ray's final film was
released posthumously, after it was completed by Wim
Wenders. It was co-directed with Ray's much younger
German filmmaker friend Wim Wenders, who at the time was
in production for making his $10 million budgeted
Hammett in San Francisco. Wenders was stymied as how to
film it, but flew to NYC on April 8, 1979 to stay with
Ray in his Manhattan loft in SoHo. Ray lived there with
his wife Susan, who was forty years younger.
The vague film was at first to be
about a fictional painter going back to China to find a
cure for his disease, but when that idea seemed too
ambitious for the emaciated Ray to undertake, it turned
into a film about Ray's dying with grace while trying to
redeem himself as the true artistic filmmaker Hollywood
rejected because he was supposedly too difficult to work
with. The experimental film, shot on a shoestring
budget, by an idol-worshiping crew, was a film that had
no rules about making a film and was improvised
throughout, changing as the situation warranted. The
idea was to catch movie magic by sort of rubbing two
sticks together, thus the title of Lightning over Water.
In April, Ray still has enough energy to give an engaging lecture at Vassar about his films, converse with Wenders about his fears of making Hammett and for Ray's film crew to be filmed interacting by another crew--making it a 'film within a film.' There are clips shown from Ray's masterpiece The Lusty Men (1952), that starred Robert Mitchum, in arguably his finest performance. It's a story about risking everything to ride the dangerous rodeo circuit, something Ray relates to his own real-life struggles to do things his own way no matter the consequences. There are also clips shown from his idiosyncratic weird but most engaging college film We Can't Go Home Again (1976), which was shot as an experimental film about student life during the Vietnam War while he taught film at the upstate NY Harpur College in the early 1970s.
REVIEWED ON 4/1/2013 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ