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Jonas Mekas (1922 - )
Related: Film Culture (magazine) - Filmmaker's Cooperative - American cinema - experimental film - underground cinema
BiographyJonas Mekas (1922 - ) is a Lithuanian filmmaker, writer, and curator who has often been called "the godfather of American avant-garde cinema." He was the founder of the Anthology Film Archives, the Filmmaker's Cooperative and Film Culture magazine.
During the Second World War, Mekas was held in displaced persons camps before emigrating to the United States with his brother, Adolfas Mekas, in 1949.
Though his narrative films and documentaries are still highly regarded, he is best known for his diary films, such as Walden (1969), Lost, Lost, Lost (1975), Reminiscences of a Voyage to Lithuania (1972), and Zefiro Torna (1992). In 2001, he released a five-hour long diary film entitled As I Was Moving Ahead, Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty, assembled by hand from an archive of fifty years worth of recordings of his life. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonas_Mekas [Feb 2005]
Jonas Mekas (b. 1922, 24 December 1922 Semeniskiai, Lithuania ) graduated from college in 1944, and a mere two months later he faced incarceration of an unimaginably more brutal sort: He was sent to a labor camp just outside of Hamburg as one of the Nazis' POWs. He is therefore far more justified than the average person in using the metaphor of slavery to describe his involvement with New Cinema, beginning in the 50s.
At that point he invented the film column at the Village Voice in New York, calling it his "Movie Journal". These entries (as collected in Mekas' 1972 book of the same name) trace decades of a self-inflicted obsession, which eventually left the writer too exhausted to continue working for the newspaper at all.
Mekas also founded the journal Film Culture in 1955; shot his own film diaries that he left unedited for years; screened others' works and consequently was arrested at least once on obscenity charges; and began the Filmmaker's Co-op in 1962.
When he and his brother landed in New York, their last choice of a place to go, neither knew much English. Lithuanian, the writer's native tongue, is like all Baltic languages in that it has no ties to the familiar Romance or Slavic structures and pronunciations. Because of that, Mekas felt that as a writer he could not reach out. He decided (as later reported in a 1973 New Yorker article) "that the cinema was the tongue in which we could reach everybody."
At first, Mekas resisted the second flowering of avant-garde filmmaking, and even wrote against it from a neorealist standpoint. He was almost sued for libel! It was in the Voice columns that he slowly converted himself to the religion of New Cinema. The double whammy of John Cassavetes' Shadows and Leslie and Frank's Pull My Daisy tipped the scales at last.
Meanwhile, the Mekas brothers were living on free gourmet food samples and rice, while trying to raise money to make their own film -- without getting arrested for shooting without a permit. There were more screenings and obscenity charges. Jonas claimed that if everyone could sit through Andy Warhol's Empire there would be no more war. But it slowly became more difficult to tell porn from art and narrative from experimental. Everyone began to feel set adrift.
By the late 60s, the bankruptcies and legal hassles were allayed by the Film Art Fund. This made the Anthology Film Archives possible. To this day Mekas still publishes, acts as patron of the cinematic arts and works on his own films.--http://picpal.com/mekart.html, accessed Feb 2004
Jonas Mekas: Just Like a Shadow (2000) - Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas: Just Like a Shadow (2000) - Jonas Mekas, Patrick Remy, Michel Mallard, Jerome Sans [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
As editor of Film Culture and founder of the Anthology Film Archives, and through his own films, Mekas shaped an art form that had a wide influence on mainstream movies, video art, and web design. His own works are visual diaries in a staccato style, fully edited within the camera. This book consists solely of about 150 pages of enlarged frames from Mekas's films, along with a brief interview in which the 78-year-old Lithuanian-born artist reflects on his career. Presented as static images, the frame blowups at times resemble fuzzier, less-evocative iterations of Cindy Sherman's pictures. There are numerous familiar faces repeated throughout (John and Yoko, Taylor Mead, Lee Radziwill, and, ad nauseum, Andy Warhol), the cumulative effect of which isAsomewhat inaccuratelyAto circumscribe Mekas within very specific cultural terrain and make this book little more than a scrapbook. At best, this book lets film/video artists see a little of an early master's films; at worst, it's a record of some pretty unmemorable imagery and a catalog of Mekas's circle of friends during his relatively brief heyday. Useful only for those libraries specializing in film or video art. --Douglas F. Smith, Oakland P.L., CA Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Film critic and experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas has been a central figure in the New York avant-garde almost since arriving there from Lithuania soon after the end of World War II. He documented and was associated with the Fluxus movement, Warhol's Factory, and the Living Theater, and as the founder of the Filmmaker's Co-Op and Anthology Film Archives he has been a tireless and essential advocate of avant-garde film and performance. During all this time he has never been without his Bolex camera, which he has used to write a long, intimate film from which the photograms in Just Like a Shadow were extracted. As Mekas himself sees it: "The cinema is nothing but a photogram, one single photogram!" And indeed the cinematic quality of this collection is unmistakable. Journeying through Mekas' story, we encounter a great many of Mekas' fascinating friends, such as Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, Robert Frank, the Kennedy family, Salvador Dali, Yoko Ono and John Lennon, Nico, Gerard Malanga, Allen Ginsberg, Henri Langlois, Stan Brakhage, Jack Kerouac, Lou Reed, Miles Davis, and many others, witnessing all those moments, happy or not, which he captured with his camera and his irreverent eye. --Product Description
The Baudelairean Cinema (1982) Carel Rowe
The Baudelairean Cinema: A Trend Within the American Avant-Garde (Studies in cinema) (1982) Carel Rowe [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Jonas Mekas Presente Flux Friends (2002) - Editions du Centre Pompidou
Jonas Mekas Presente Flux Friends (2002) - Editions du Centre Pompidou [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
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