Friday, November 28, 2014

Don't Expect Too Much, documentary about Nicholas Ray

I never understood Rebel Without a Cause. In what way was the character played by James Dean a "rebel"? He ran to the police to confess after the "chicken" fatality, he was upset that his father was wearing an apron and helping out around the house, and his big line--when he screams, "YOU'RE TEARING ME APART"--was because he wanted his parents to both agree and tell him what to do. He got into a knife fight because someone made chicken noises ("Is that meaning me? IS THAT MEANING ME?") And what kind of "rebel" wears a sportcoat to high school? At least it wasn't a blazer.

Saw a documentary, Don't Expect Too Much, about director Nicholas Ray teaching at a university somewhere. His students were excited about getting to make a feature film, but Ray thought that would be the perfect time to make a wildly experimental film. A little surprising considering how conventional his visual style was.

Ray said that he always loudly berated his assistant director the first day of production and that he never had to yell at anyone after that. But his students were afraid of him and alcoholism was taking its toll.

I always thought James Dean was a terrible actor. No human being behaves the way he acted. There was a scene in East of Eden that was the worst.

I've read quotes from Ray and Elia Kazan about Dean's limited acting ability.
Kazan wrote in his autobiography:
"Dean had no technique to speak of. When he tried to play an older man in the last reels of Giant, he looked like what he was: a beginner. . . . On [East of Eden], Jimmy would either get the scene right immediately, without any detailed direction . . . or he couldn't get it at all."
(I took the quote from this article:

Read something surprising related to this. According to underground film icon George Kuchar, he was offered Ray's teaching job first. Ray was their second choice. Kuchar turned it down because he was going to San Francisco to teach.  

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