Written for the Abril 2012 issue of Caimán Cuadernos de Cine. — J.R.
Nick was a gambler — a gambler who often lost.
– Susan Ray in Don’t Expect Too Much
One of the paradoxes of Nicholas Ray’s legend is that in order for it to function, he can’t be regarded simply as either a Hollywood director or as a struggling maverick, but as both. Seen exclusively as the former, he becomes the faceless but coherent and competent metteur en scene of A Woman’s Secret (1949) or Flying Leathernecks (1951). Seen exclusively as the latter, he becomes the personal but incoherent auteur of We Can’t Go Home Again (1973).
A similar problem has informed the career of Ray’s most important disciple, Jean-Luc Godard, another tormented romantic widely regarded as a leftist visionary when he made La chinoise and Week End in 1967, when his work was still sufficiently close to commercial cinema to reflect some of its slickness and glamour. But following May 1968, once he deliberately divested himself of that slickness and glamour and his films had to be judged on their political insights and their political utility alone, he was no less appropriately regarded as misguided and obtuse.… Read more »