Lightning Over Water - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Lightning Over Water Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ July 31, 2014
"Lightning over Water" is an intriguing documentary/fiction hybrid that begins with a jetlagged Wim Wenders arriving in New York to help his friend and hero Nicholas Ray complete one last film before he succumbs to lung cancer which he is in the painful final stages of. So while those preparations are being made, occasionally a handheld Super 8 camera is used to show the film crew working behind the scenes.

While digressive at times, especially one sequence involving rehearsals for a Chekhov play, "Lightning over Water" has some very good thoughts on the subject of mortality and how truly inescapable it is. Not only that but the movie is also concerned with the changes that go along with the passage of time like when Ray and his crew travel to Vassar, now co-ed, to screen one of his old films. Plus, we are also treated to a neat view of bygone New York City, circa 1979.
June 4, 2011
This is a wonderful companion piece to Bunuel's Las Hurdes. While this seems to be more chaotic, it is obviously scripted, and both are savage in questioning the ethics and aesthetics of documentary film-making. It makes a fitting end to Nicholas Ray's career.
May 2, 2011
Documentary of last days of directore Nicholas Ray. It is sort of collebrative effort so that the whole film crew is credited as film makers. Wim Wenders is very much in the film and it doesn't follow any certain form and this makes it fresh and it hits emotional core of mine.
½ January 23, 2011
The beautiful farwell letter from the legendary director Nicholas Ray. It's about a Nicholas Ray who have decided to make his last picture about himself, together with the young german director Wim Wenders. The picture feel so authentical, so real, all the details,Nicholas Ray's appartment with all the film equipment and the Mickey Mouse alam clock. Wim Wenders, who was one of Ray's closest friend at the end of his life, narrating his feeling and thoughts in the most poetick way. the metafilm Lightning Over Water is Ray's 8 1/2. Cut, Cut! Is Ray's last word in this film.
June 28, 2010
It's it a documentary? A docu-drama? A work of fiction? I don't know. Is it really interesting? Yep.
September 19, 2009
This is a highly eclectic and formally eccentric work. At first, it announces itself a documentary about the last weeks of the great Nicholas Ray but it's all obviously scripted. Then it sort of mutates into a "film" that Ray and Wenders are making together or rather keep trying to make. Throughout Wenders throws in peculiar Brechtian kinks that distance us from both the "documentary" and the "film." It's all very fascinating but one qualm (and it's a superficial one to be sure) is that it doesn't really tell you much about Nicholas Ray. It's more an essay about the nature of collaboration and artistic influences.
May 16, 2009
It's difficult, it's not very coherent, it's got a lot of problems (don't really get the editing). However, it's fascinating and it's very moving. And it asks so many questions, without really answering any of them, that it remains engaging to the end.
March 1, 2009
Titolo italiano: Lampi sull'acqua. Nick's movie.
½ June 11, 2008
Lightning Over Water is so reflexive, egocentric, narcissistic, and self indulgent that it's BRILLIANT. As a story on its own it can be a little disengaging but if seen as a process about "film", it's mesmerizing. The inside-references, the striking way in which Nick Ray's persona is presented and re-represented on screen, the way, as Wenders puts it, it uses the rugged video quality as a metaphor for cancer to the 'glorified' aesthetic of film. Everything about it works. The sound design is fantastic (listen to how unsettling the audio for the video images are compared to the film images and how it's handled during the transitions), the rigid acting actually works in relation to the concept, especially how it ties up in the end when slices of reality becomes a big part of the story. This one demands a lot of attention. And the more you give it, the better it gets. It is important to note that the original Cannes version (the print no longer exisits) did not have the voice-over that the 87' cut has.

Nicholas Ray's last moments are recorded in a pseudo-documentary narrative style that only fellow director and co-star Wim Wenders can pull off. Ray who is perhaps best known for his iconic 50's films "Rebel Without A Cause" and "Johnny Guitar" is dying of cancer. Together with Wenders they decide to make a film about his demise. Some parts are fictionalized while others play out like a documentary. There are moments that work extremely well. The way it interplays with film and video format to convey the parallel story lines is outstanding. Then, there is Ray himself who is equally engaging and absolutely devastating to watch on screen. This is a must-see work for all cinephiles. However some of the weaker points seem to come out of the nature in which the project was conceived. There is something slightly off-putting in its glorified self-indulgence as it is a film about a film which references many other films. Also, Wenders comes off a little stiff in some crucial scenes. The pacing also feels extremely drawn-out at certain points. But despite of it, "Lightning Over Water" is still a film worth experiencing.
May 20, 2008
Wim Wenders, that german man, that new wave clown, makes this documentary into a piece of art. In the beginning of the film, Nick Ray pretends to be dead, much to the shock of those watching. It sets the tone for the movie, where the acting and the documenting play a delicate dance. Its really quite good, unique, and enjoyable to watch. Big Fan.
March 19, 2008
Difficult to watch Nicholas Ray in this state.
Super Reviewer
½ March 14, 2008
directed by Wim Wenders & Nicolas RayThis can be called a documentary or docu-fiction, its hard to tell cause its obvious most of what we see is staged, yet, it feels genuine and non-scripted.Director Wim Wenders fly from Germany to meet with Nicholas Ray, the man behind such classics as Johnny Guitar, Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean and Bigger Than Life in the mid-1950's. Here, in the late 70's, he is dying of cancer. He and Wim Wenders want to make a film together, they dont have a story, all they know is that they want to make a film, for Nick its more for his self-esteem and leaving a legacy, one last piece of work behind.The film begins with a narration by Wenders, he comes in Nicholas Ray's appartment, who is sleeping, Wemders decides to take a nap on a couch and later when they wake up, we see a man cross the screen with what seems to be a 16mm camera or something but ti doesnt matter, its held by Tim Ray, we see what he sees in the lense and it becomes some sort of «making of» of the film we are watching before getting back to the regular images.Lightning Over Water also known as Nick's Movie is about an artist. Its a great reflection about friendship, illness, death and the medium that cinema is. Its touching and it might be inspiring to some, but one thing is sure, its not entertaining and its definately not for everyone, most would find it boring.
March 14, 2008
A strange and compelling collaboration between Wenders and the dying Ray. Ray was such a highly unique and idiosyncratic filmmaker. His movies never seemed cliche. Wenders affection for him is undeniable.
½ March 14, 2008
I loved the way it played with reality and fiction. Although Wenders makes use of many features of documentary, he makes clear from the beginning that the movie isn't a documentary and by doing so he poses the question about what can be considered real in a film. The movie is constantly crossing lines in this respect. Sometimes you have the feeling of seeing something that was captured in a totally spontaneous way. Other times the movie follows the structure of a documentary, but it deliberately looks too staged. The scene of Nick Ray looking directly to the audience and saying ā??cutā?? it's absolutely amazing, so strong and shocking.
The half star that I keptā?¦I felt the epilogue wasn't necessary.
January 21, 2008
This is another example that reality television has aesthetic roots going back decades. A bit slow, but a great meta-film, and a wonderful historical experience to see Nick Ray in his final days.
½ December 4, 2007
I thought this film was ok, but not great. It was a really good idea, but i didn't like the way that it crossed between documentary and fiction. It just became a bit confusing and the reason i like doco's is because they are real. It was a bit too unclear for me and i think it could have been done so much better.
October 4, 2007
Amazing film, though it may be too slow for most it really does make one reflect on their own life.
October 4, 2007
I usually don't like Wenders, but this documentary about dying Nicholas Ray is bullseye. Ray wanders through his house, speaking about James Dean and Vivaldi, what a fascinating character!
August 31, 2007
Interesting but I must say I was tempted to use FF a few times.
June 6, 2007
Nick's Movie or Lightning Over Water: It seems completely odd to me that this is considered a documentary by so many. Hell, even otherwise cynical bastards call this a docudrama. Can none of you dumbasses see that there's absolutely positively nothing in this film that could ever ever in any planet in any solar system be considered even remotely documentary-like? Seriously, no one seems to really get what Wenders tries to get at here. He stages just as many moments designed to make you say, "Screw this noise, it ain't a documentary" as he does in a documentary style. He uses this staged documentary style in order to question the ethics and authenticity of cinema. The remarkable thing is that Wenders poses the questions to himself! For those unfamiliar with the film, the story follows Wenders supposedly documenting a trip to New York to pay a last visit to his dying friend, Nicolas Ray. The movie is told like a documentary with Wenders placing a voiceover documenting the narrative over varying sections of 16 and 8mm film and video camcorder footage. However, although the style seems to present a true image, Wenders goes out of his way time and time again to point out that the scenes in the film are a result of a process, even going so far as to ask Ray to read a line back to him. Like most other presumptions you get from the film, your assumed trust of the story ends up being decapitated by Wenders who teaches you a lesson while simultaneously mocking your lame intuitions. The film's ethical discussion makes this often disorienting and somewhat unorganized style worth enduring. In one scene, while Wenders and Ray talk in a hospital, Wenders tells Ray that if he starts to find himself aroused by Ray's visible terminal state, he'll have to stop the filming. By stating this, Wenders deflects a lot of criticism (which usually still bombards serious discussions of the film). But despite all of this outlandish direction by Wenders, it's credited as being directed by Wim Wenders AND Nicolas Ray. The film's general plot has a large portion dedicated to Ray's tragically deluded notions about directing one last film before dying. Something tells me that Wenders' travelogue exists more because of Ray's desire than anything, his hope to reestablish himself as a viable artist being a driving force more important and ultimately, more touching and successful, than the promise of a voyeuristic fulfillment. And by granting a classic director's last wish, this film deserves much more depth and appreciation in its criticism than it usually receives with the Oedipal studies and the articles calling this experiment "cinematic snuff." But after all, Wenders gets the last laugh, managing to fool his critics by placing seeming manipulation in the most critical parts of normal films (see the ending, you'll get it). **** out've *****
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