Sunday, February 26, 2012

François Truffaut on Nicholas Ray, From 'A Wonderful Certainty,' François Truffaut

(First published as 'L'Admirable Certitude,' Cahiers du Cinéma 46, April 1955, under pseudonym Robert Lachenay)
"The hallmark of Ray's great talent resides in his absolute sincerity, his acute sensitivity. He is not of great stature as a technician. All his films are very disjointed, but it is obvious Ray is aiming less for the tradition and all-round success of a film than at giving each shot a certain emotional quality. Johnny Guitar is 'composed,' rather hurriedly, of very long takes divided into four. The editing is deplorable. But the interest lies in elsewhere: for instance in the very beautiful positioning of figures within the frame. (The posse at Vienna's is formed and moves in V-shape, like migratory birds.)

Nicholas Ray is to some extent the Rossellini of Hollywood, in the kingdom of mechanization he is the craftsman, loving fashioning small objects out of holly wood. Hence a hue and cry against the amateur! There is not one of Ray's films without nightfall. He is the poet of nightfall, and in Hollywood everything is permissible, except poetry. Hawks, for instance, keeps it at arm's length, and Hitchcock cautiously ventures four or five shots each time, in small doses. While a Hawks settles down in Hollywood... and takes things easy, flirting with tradition all the better to flout it, and always winning, Ray is incapable of 'doing a deal' with the devil and turning the arrangement to his advantage - he is picked on and loses the battle even before he starts fighting.

Hawks and Ray perform an opposition much like Castellani and Rossellini. With Hawks we witness a triumph of the mind, with Nick Ray it is a triumph of the heart."
Hawks/Castellani/Carpenter, Ray/Rossellini/Hooper.

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