“He appeared out of the glory of Hollywood, the mythos of Hollywood, the dreams of Hollywood,” recalls Ken Ross, one of Ray’s students, in Don’t Expect Too Much, Susan Ray’s fascinating documentary about the making of We Can’t Go Home Again, Nicholas Ray’s experimental feature film. “He was bigger than life,” says Ross. Richard Bock (then known as Richie) adds, “And he was cool, I mean, he was a cool guy.” Once at Harpur, Ray immediately enlisted his students in the making of We Can’t Go Home Again; a glimpse at Ray’s address book, full of stars’ names, gave some the idea that he might be their ticket to Hollywood. With his hang-loose attitude toward drugs, booze, and sex, and his receptivity to the countercultural zeitgeist, Ray related to his students on their own level, serving as a kind of scruffy Yoda –– teacher, mentor, surrogate father, and hip confessor –– to the group of kids. They coalesced into a filmmaking commune centered on the farm he rented in upstate New York.

more from Peter Winkler at the LA Review of Books here.