“Ray” and aestetics 2003


Ray                                                                                                   Directed by Taylor Hackford

Starring Jamie Foxx

New and original music by Ray Charles


            “Don’t let nothing or nobody turn you into a cripple”

In order to evaluate this film we must recognize that there were three distinct artists who created it.  Ray Charles is the inspiration and creator of the music that is not only an evolving theme in the film but also contributes to some of the most powerful moments in it.  Jamie Foxx plays Ray Charles wonderfully with the aid of the man himself, who worked with Foxx during the filming of the movie.  Through the director, a great work of art was created based on first hand experience from one of the artists.


 1.“Ray” as a dramatic film

a.    The arraignment of episodes in this film is an effort to show the plot in two time frames.  The first time frame, which encompasses the time between 1949 and 1979, is the development of his career as well as the actions and decisions accompanied this development.  The other time frame is much shorter and has more significance in the life of Ray as supposed to the development of his music.


a.    In the first, or currant, time frame the actions that show his life at the time are centered on the development of his music from imitation to an R&B Gospel sound to incorporating country sounds. Surrounding this subject of Ray Charles’ search for his own sound are the mistakes and successes of a human being.


b.    What this film does extremely well in terms of plot is showing the motivations and context of Ray’s professional career and adult life through flashbacks to his childhood. The flashbacks are a tool that provides essential background themes without disturbing the plot as a structurally unified sequence of episodes.


2. Ray as a character in conflict

a.    There are three main conflicts in the film and we see the ultimate value of the film in the resolution of these conflicts.  The conflict that is first introduced is the one pitting a talented blind man against those who want to cheat him.  The underlying conflict and theme is the guilt Ray feels over the death of his little brother and the physical hallucinations this creates.  The last conflict is the fight against addiction and it is only through conquering this addiction that he can resolve some of the guilt about his brother’s death.


a.    The crisis for the first conflict is set up in the scene where Ray rejects the people who were cheating him and he is sitting in his room at church and an honest man knocks on the door

b.    The crisis for the heroin addiction builds throughout the film and finally culminates when his wife threatens to leaves him and he is facing real jail time. Through the withdrawal and therapy we see the addiction die with the echoing of the first line in the film, “Don’t ever let anything make you a cripple again”.  This revisit from his mother also alleviates some of the guilt lingering from his bother’s death.


3.  Ray is a dynamic character because in the course of the film we see very clearly the effects the world has on him. He does not know who he is in the beginning, imitating blues musicians because at that point his life is like heroin, “null and void”.  He is also very naïve and spends several years being hustled until he learns to only trust himself in business. Ray evolves into creating unique music based on his own experience, rather that mimicking the sounds of others.  As his wife says when they first meet, “God gave you the gift to sound like anyone you want, even yourself”


1.Evaluating “Ray” as a work of art

a.    Along with the use of flashbacks as a dramatic technique and the values at the core, the use of striking visual transitions and Ray Charles’ own music gives tremendous value to the artwork.


a.    The most prominent recurring image in the film is of the multi colored bottles hanging from a tree in Ray’s childhood.  We begin with this image and when Ray is going blind, we can feel this more acutely both because of the image’s beauty as well as the loss we feel in not being able to see it any more.(this may be a sign that I need glasses but when I saw that tree slowly become blurry, my eyes started to water just like the boy’s.)  One of the other striking visual techniques is the transition using grainy views of the tour bus in different cities. These kinds of visual stimulants are there to help us better identify with Ray and his blindness.


b.    The music is the most significant aesthetic component used in this film.  What better way to show musical development than by having the musician, now at the end of his career, supervise the recreation?  There are many scenes in the recording studio or with the band practicing and these are effective in showing the process rather than the end result.  This gives the viewer a great feel as to how the music was made into the finished artwork as well as the challages facing the musicians.



2. “Ray” is an outstanding work of art because the techniques of plot and aesthetic elements were used imaginatively and intelligently to not only accurately tell an amazing story but also convey deeper meaning and understanding to the viewer.


1.”Ray” as great art

a.    This film is a great work of art because through the creators, we feel the pain of Ray Charles, we feel his joy, despair, and shame.  We feel these things because we identify with him, no matter how foreign his actions or appearance might be.  We see Ray Charles as a great artist, but the public has seen that ever since he started playing and so we have the real connection and symbiosis because we feel him as a man instead of an icon.


a.    The reason we identify with him is because among other common values, he is just looking for the same thing as everyone else, happiness.  This is the transcendent value that is present throughout the film.  We may not know what it is like to read the bible in Braille, but the search for meaning and enjoyment in life is a universal experience.


                                                  i.    Some of the values are personally specific, such as the boycott of segregated music halls, but most are brave efforts to overcome tremendous obstacles.  Most people at some point in their lives have difficult decisions to make and challenges to overcome and many of these times people make mistakes.  The deepest connection to the film comes when Ray makes mistakes, not when he succeeds.  We can respect and admire his revolution in the record industry but when he is in the spasms of withdrawal, we emphasize.  A better connection is thus created using empathy rather than respect and admiration.



b.  This film gives a great degree of aesthetic pleasure through its well-executed construction and to add to this symbiosis is the fact that I already had an appreciation for the man’s music.  This adds a whole other component to the value of the film because its raises an appreciation of the music as well as the film itself.


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