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Nicholas Ray/Oregon filmmaker

December 18th, 2008 by Anne Richardson · No Comments · 1950's, Oregon filmmaker

Robin Wood once noted that no one ever gives a bad performance in a Ray film, not even Anthony Quinn. Jonathan Rosenbaum, in Senses of Cinema.

A documentary made by Nicholas Ray in 1971 is making its world premiere at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. On the basis of the description by Spanish director Victor Erice, it appears that We Can’t Go Home Again treats themes Ray previously visited in The Lusty Men.

Victor Erice writes:“The passage of time has done nothing but confirm the value of We Can’t Go Home Again, in spite of the fact that nobody seems to remember it, and in spite, too, of its unfinished condition.

“It stands as a testament to the social conflicts that afflicted America in the early 1970s. It is a portrait both of that particular time, and, as few films can claim, it is simultaneously a portrait of the filmmaker’s soul.

“Is this a groundbreaking movie, is it ahead of its time? Most likely, yes. But that, after all, is of no importance. Labels, as we know, say little about the true nature of a work. We Can’t Go Home Again is a failed movie, but one that turns its failure into something exemplary. It is alive. It helps us recognize, touch, the aching face of a community—so intensely moving, and so different from the official portraits of the time.

“The ‘home’ referred to in the film’s title is none other than the lost one of our Origin, the Origin of Art in general, and of cinema in particular, that to which it’s now impossible to return.

“This film captures the fleeting breath of a Utopian experience when life as a community undertaking and cinema as a collective creation aspired to unite. It is no coincidence that the title of this film, We Can’t Go Home Again, evokes that of one of Thomas Wolfe’s last novels, whose ending reads like this:

“«You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory»”.

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