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Shooting Empire

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Video work. The Empire screening in Vienna
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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I do a lot of sort of, how put them, like I have a video about one hour long on simply memories of the factory on Andy Warhol factory period. Then I have another one about, also one hour, on notes from the Filmmakers' Cooperative, like historical reviews, memories, of historical surveys and memories and- and various subjects.
Where you interview people or you talk?
Mostly I talk or let's say when I did the factory its very often there are like occasionally on, by request, like when they did Andy Warhol show in Vienna in 1998, very big one, they wanted me, it was on the factory years, to come, I had to be, you know, at the main speaker but I could not come at the last minute, so I said, I will send you a video. So I prepared a video for, on that occasion. So I went to the actual location and I video taped that then we had a little conversation you know with Gerald Malanga but not- not, that's about it really. And then mostly me speaking and telling close-up into my video and that's during that trip I did I- I brought also they wanted to show "Empire" film. Did I tell already the joke about the "Empire"? So I will tell you an anecdote. So, I bring "Empire" film and there is an auditorium of some 120 people and I introduced the film and I say, the New York Premiere at the City Hall Cinema, they had about 300 to 350 people and some sat and walked out and came back they brought sandwiches and at the very end, if I'm not wrong, with my memory there were about 30 people left, so I said I'm curious about how you will do so and then I go and have some wine I go to eat then I come back like two hours before the end, everybody's still there. Then I go out I have more wine, I come back just before the film ends, everybody is still there. So, the film ends and I'm, of course, amazed. I come in font of the audience and I say, you people, you are amazing. You are really amazing, I cannot believe this and as I am still talking there's like a woman on my right approaching and she begins to talk almost over my voice and very loud and clear and she said, so now, since everybody stayed, so for this ticket what are we going to do for this ticket? We'll have a lottery probably; we'll have to have a lottery. And I'm saying what is this? So, then I found out, the newspapers, the press found about- about the "Empire" film, eight hours long, most boring film ever made will be shown in Vienna, there's one of the papers offered that a Lufthansa round trip ticket, free ticket to the one who will stay to the end. So they all stayed to the end to get the ticket, this ticket and there was a lottery and one of the filmmakers that we know got the ticket and what is, I forgot his name. So that was the "Empire" screening in Vienna.

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.

Duration: 4 minutes, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010