Nicholas Ray and Nicolas Rey on St. Nicholas Day


Happy St. Nicholas Day! As a child I was enamored with saints. In the Dutch tradition, I used to put out shoes so I could get a little gift. I usually received nothing since my family isn’t Dutch. Like most Americans we just celebrated Christmas but unlike many American homes we also celebrated Epiphany, the Three Kings Day. I just like to celebrate as many holidays as possible. To celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6, I want to blog about two filmmakers, Nicholas Ray and Nicolas Rey.


NIcholas Ray


Nicolas Rey











After a film screening in Paris a few years ago, two Frenchmen told me Nicholas Ray was one of their favorite directors. I thought to myself “Wow cool. These young men like old movies.” Ray’s most famous work is probably the teen film Rebel Without a Cause although the film noir In a Lonely Place is likely his most critically acclaimed. He directed one of my guilty pleasures Born to Be Bad starring Joan Fontaine. Carol Burnett did a funny parody of it on her show.


The Frenchmen I met moved in the experimental cinema circles of Paris, I assumed they meant Nicholas Ray because Jean-Luc Goddard wrote “Le cinema, c’est Nicholas Ray.”, meaning “cinema is Nicholas Ray.” Nicholas Ray was one of the Hollywood directors lauded by the French New Wave and auteur theory associated by French film magazine, Cahiers du Cinema. Ray also directed the experimental film, We Can’t go Home Again during his time as professor at Binghamton University film department in New York where experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs also taught. With all these experimental connections, I just assumed the Frenchmen meant Nicholas Ray but did they mean Nicolas Rey? Fig-1

Nicolas Rey is a much younger French experimental filmmaker born in 1968. The American Ray was born in 1911. Nicolas Rey was born Nicolas Rey. Nicholas Ray was born Raymond Nicholas Kienzie. Rey was a member of the Paris do-it-yourself film lab, L’Abominable. From what is available about him online, which isn’t much, most goes over my head. I gather he is a philosophical avant-garde documentarian whose fans scored very well on the verbal SAT.  Here is an interview to learn more about him.

labominable-27-1024x768I really don’t know to which Ray or Rey, the Frenchmen made reference. Nicolas Ray is the more famous and made an experimental film. Rey is the younger one, a contemporary of the Frenchman and perhaps a peer as surely the two Frenchmen have screened Rey’s works. Perhaps they are fans of both? Say one name but mean two filmmakers? Why say “I like Nicholas Ray and Nicolas Rey” when you can just say it once?

I can easily contact the two Frenchmen for clarification. I have their contact information but why end the mystery?