Friday, June 17, 2011


Said Jonas Mekas.

I thank the internet for being the medium through which I discovered the work of such a profound leader in 20th Century film. Considered the midwife of avant-garde cinema in America, Jonas Mekas made it his life's work to archive, promote and produce many experimental and abstract films that would have otherwise disappeared into obscurity.

He co-founded what was to become the Anthology Film Archives,  one of the largest collections of experimental film anywhere in the world. I took great interest in his background as a Lithuanian born internment camp survivor in WWII. Uprooted from his home, made to suffer through an extraordinary circumstance and outliving the horrors of war and death, you can feel the immediacy and the urgency with which he records his experience. In April 1966 he wrote in his film column in the Village Voice,

"Let’s record the dying century and the birth of another man… Let’s surround the earth with our cameras, hand in hand, lovingly; our camera is our third eye that will lead us out and through … Nothing should be left unshown or unseen, dirty or clean: Let us see and go further, out of the swamps and into the sun"

He was very inspired by John Cassavetes' Shadows, stills of which I've posted here in the past. He himself realized that all his practice footage amounted to a enough footage to assemble a personal video diary, which he titled "Diaries, Notes and Sketches" or "Walden".  In this carefully edited video, we are aware of a dream like state that the footage induces upon each viewer, playing to Mekas' own memories, not only of New York but of his lost Lithuania. Below are some stills, and some of the footage itself.

Jonas Mekas, Walden, 1969 (excerpt) from RE:VOIR on Vimeo.

An amazing essay on Jonas Mekas can be found on Senses of Cinema  HERE

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