Nicholas Ray

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Nicholas Ray was a director and he wore an eyepatch. He was one of the most important and artistic directors in Hollywood’s lull of the 50s. A favourite of Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, an idol and mentor of Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch, many of his films had a massive impact on our conception of 50s cool, such as Knock On Any Door and Rebel Without a Cause. His pictures In A Lonely Place and Knock On Any Door were major components of Humphrey Bogart’s cult following in the 50s and 60s. His Rebel Without A Cause is arguably the most important James Dean film. Others, Johnny Guitar in particular, were a really big deal in France. Speaking of Johnny Guitar, it, The Searchers and Rio Bravo are basically the only truly important 50s westerns.

A consistent and open user of illicit drugs, he was shunned by Hollywood in the early 60s. His career went off the rails in many ways, but after a 10 year hiatus, in the early 70s he began the most experimental part of his career. He began the experimental film “We Can’t Go Home Again” with his students (he taught filmmaking at Binghamton Uni, NY) in 1973, and made the documentary Lightning Over Water with Wim Wenders. He continued to edit We Can’t Go Home Again until his death in 1979.

“There was theatre (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray.”

—Jean-Luc Godard, 1958.

Blow-up (1966, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni)

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“You knew you were in the presence of a great man with Antonioni; he was an auteur supreme. He wanted everything exactly right. We had also heard how particular he was about colours. I’m colour-blind so I can’t tell, but he was supposed to have sprayed the grass at Greenwich Park because he wasn’t happy about the green. He was even said to have changed the colour of the marijuana in Blow-Up because he thought it was the wrong shade.

I have never had such close coaching from any other director, and many actors wouldn’t stand for it. Finally, on take 13: ‘Cut. Print. Good. Peter, come with me.’ So he took me off set and said to me, ‘Peter, I understand. You wish to show the world what a fine actor you are.’ He got that right. ‘When you work with other directors you give them your performance and they film it. Not with me, Peter. You see I have chosen you for how you look. I have chosen all your clothes. If I move my camera six inches, I would ask you to do that line in a different way.’

Upon this, he put his arms around me and held me close to him and said, ‘Peter, believe in me. Trust me. I am not God, but I am Michelangelo Antonioni.’

-Peter Bowles on the making of Blow-up (via)