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Film is not a medium for political thought


The benefits of shooting videos
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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Kenneth Anger was asked once why does he allow his films to be on video. And the difference, of course, is very big. I was teaching a class of Cooper Union students last year, I do that very seldom, like once every 10 years I teach somewhere, when I really need money because I hate teaching. So I had a session on film various... what happens when you put images on different materials. So I projected side by side, I projected Puce Moment as a film and Puce Moment as a video on side by side. And, of course, Puce Moment is film that has very subtle colour materials, dresses there, and the difference was so incredible that I had nothing to say about... I mean, the video washed out the colours and somebody asked Kenneth why do we allow that. Why do you put your films on video? Actually, the same is with The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. He said, 'I don't care; I have never seen how they look on video. I don't care and I will never look at them. All I need is the money'.

Yeah, but poor Kenneth, they swindled him out of... it brought money, he got some but the last $30,000 he never got because Sheldon Rochlin died and 30 for Kenneth would be a lot, got lost between Tokyo and New York and now he has to hire lawyers and try to get it. And, that is... and some films like Maya Deren are OK on... on video. Black and white, some black and white, where there's no single frame activity or Reminiscences and some and Lost, Lost, Lost are, like, OK and my films, I think, do better on video than some other film-makers that work with... I know you like her, Robin Brear, that some of like '69, '67 where it's just the film that those are the titles, that's pure colour and subtle variations of colour that usually does not work. You just see purple rain, nothing works. So it depends. Some work, some don't. Digital, I don't know yet and some cannot be transferred to digital at all.

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: Puce Moment, The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Lost, Lost, Lost, Reminiscences, Kenneth Anger, Sheldon Rochlin, Robin Brear

Duration: 3 minutes, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010