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My films are my diaries


Defending Paradise
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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Paradise not yet Lost falls after Reminiscences... There were other films in between that includes the material that I've filmed in 1977, my second trip. It was also a period when I became sort of more... on many occasions with my friends here around our big table here we used to discuss and talk, you know, about culture and where things are today and where things are going. And a lot of it with Peter Kubelka, I used bits of those conversations in the film and it has to do with some of the... what we considered good things that we still have and that those good things and which I call the 'fragments of paradise' that are still here and it's like our duty, our... that we defend them and sustain them and don't permit them to disappear, but the opposite: that they should grow, they should grow and of course that's the beginning of that theme that continues now through much of my thinking and works in that period.

Though some people, you know, accuse me of being escapist, I say that I'm very realistic and down to earth and I'm not a pessimist. I consider the situation that we have now is not very much different maybe from what it was 10,000 years ago or... there are always, always little islands of... groups of people or individuals that keep the best that there is and the rest of the population is always somewhere else and fighting and nobody knows what they're doing, what they're caring about, and we... I try what I can to say, I mean why... why I'm keeping in Anthology Film Archives? Because I consider that this in cinema, this... this is like the avant-garde film to me some of those works are... are ecstatically beautiful. These are fragments of paradise and I have to do everything to keep them to see that they don't disappear, even if the rest of cinema disappears, I don't care, but this I will do everything that it wouldn't disappear. So this kind of obsession or craziness that keeps me alive, I would say. No, I go a little, you know, further in that theme, you know, that we are talking about image but we're all creators... makers of images, you see, in... in whatever we do, whatever you say, so cinema, yes, images of one kind. But, you know, the imaginations and we create images that affect everything and everybody around us so that, you know, that's the extension of my thinking of little paradise that, you know, I should do everything not to think, not to project, not to project images into the world around me that would affect the world in the wrong way, you see... you... the way I see it. But that's, you know, the difficult thing for all of us to do. But one does one's best.

Jonas Mekas (1922-2019), Lithuanian-born poet, philosopher and film-maker, set up film collectives, the Anthology Film Archive, published filmzines and made hundreds of films, all contributing to his title as 'the godfather of American avant-garde cinema'. He emigrated to America after escaping from a forced labour camp in Germany in 1945.

Listeners: Amy Taubin

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor for "Film Comment" magazine and "Sight and Sound" magazine. Her book, "Taxi Driver", was published in 2000 in the British Film Institute's Film Classics series. Her chapter on "America: The Modern Era" is part of "The Critics Choice" published by Billboard Press, 2001, and her critical essays are included in many anthologies, mostly recently in "Frank Films: The Film and Video Work of Robert Frank" published by Scalo.

She wrote for "The Village Voice" weekly from 1987 into 2001 both as a film and a television critic. She also wrote a column for the "Village Voice" titled "Art and Industry" which covered American independent filmmaking. Her first weekly film criticism job was at the "SoHo Weekly News". Her writing has also appeared in "Art Forum", the "New York Times", the "New York Daily News", the "LA Weekly", "Millennium Film Journal", "US Harpers Bazaar" and many other magazines. She is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Online.

She started her professional life as an actress, appearing most notably on Broadway in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", and in avant-garde films, among them Michael Snow's "Wavelength", Andy Warhol's "Couch", and Jonas Mekas' "Diaries, Notebooks and Sketches".

Her own avant-garde film, "In the Bag" (1981) is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Friends of Young Cinema Archives in Berlin.

She was the video and film curator of "The Kitchen" from 1983-1987.

She has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from N.Y.U. in cinema studies. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts in both the undergraduate and the MFA graduate programs, and lectures frequently at museums, media centers, and academic institutions. In 2003, she received the School of Visual Arts' art historian teaching award.

Tags: Reminiscences, Paradise not yet Lost

Duration: 5 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010