We Can’t Go Home Again (1976)
Nicholas Ray’s We Can’t Go Home Again, ostensibly the director’s most personal and complex film, was made by the director and his students during his stint as a film professor at State University of New York, Binghamton, under abysmal financial conditions (which is also what the film is about). Ray kept editing the film for almost a decade and the final version never saw the light of the day. The second cut, which dates to 1976, is as far from the studio pictures made by the filmmaker as it can be. We are far from the eye-popping days of ultra-widescreen, for one, with its 4:3 ratio. Instead of the frame becoming an infinite canvas in front of us, it keeps diminishing, sharing screen space with a bunch of similar frames. (The film was shot on a number of formats, projected on a single screen, which was then recorded on 35mm). This splintering of the visual field, the generally pathetic sound and the entire filming method highly befits both the ideological fragmentation of Ray’s radicalized students and the progressive mental and physical breakdown of Ray himself (who appears to play a slightly fictionalized version of himself). This sharing of screen space by multiple smaller frames, like a cubist painting, seems to suggest the amorphous worldview of the misguided youngsters – types from an era – who see the equally vacillating Ray as some sort of secondary father figure, one away from home. The one-eyed Ray, as if throwing light on the politics of his films, seemingly advises them, without condescension, that no ideological position must blind them of the human elements that make up the system, that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.