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The fragile, artistic temperament


The prolific Ken Jacobs
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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Ken Jacobs I met, but we never were, like, introduced, but we sort of looked at each other and we... I saw his first film and I said, you know, nothing because there were some other people who were there and they responded and attacked him when he showed his first little documentary on Orchard Street and that was maybe 1952 or '53, must be '53 and I met... Actually, I met him already not very much longer after that, couple of years when... no, that was in '53 and I met him only... actually, met him in like '62 maybe or '61, or maybe even before that at the Charles Theatre in 1960, so that was seven years later. And we, of course, became good friends. We made some trips together to the very sort of anecdotal trip to... with the prints of Flaming Creatures and Blonde Cobra to the Flaherty seminar and Vermont when we had, like... we were... some were semi-invited, we were invited and they knew that they were coming, but since they did not like the documentaries, they did not like... did not... they were afraid of Flaming Creatures, they gave us, like... and in the country, of course, one eats earlier there and after all the seminars, Flaherty seminar film-makers just... they go to bed earlier, get up earlier and by... when we arrived at 9:30 they were all practically sleeping and our screening had to be 10:00, 10:00 at night, so nobody... We insisted that we were going to screen and only one person came and he was Louis Marcorella from Paris, so he saw the film and they did not even give us a place to sleep, we slept in the truck and the car and outside. I filmed that, that appears in Lost, Lost, Lost.

What can I say... I mean, he's one of the still great inventors in cinema that's always doing something different and new than anybody else. And one who is continuing, even today, that I'm speaking that is late 2003, and I think that his work and not only in direct cinema, but in... I don't know, this nervous, nervous... what is the correct title?

[Q] System?

Nervous System performances where he used project... he builds his own projectors that... he manipulates images, frame by frame, and backwards and forwards are quite... and using some little distortions... are quite incredible. Some of the best visual pieces that I have seen during, like, the last 15 years came from Ken Jacobs. And he's the only one, really, that is really doing that. So he never lacks invention, he like keeps moving and whatever he does is practically perfect. He's... he's an amazing artist, an amazing person.

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: Flaming Creatures, Blonde Cobra, Lost, Lost, Lost, Nervous System, Ken Jacobs, Louis Marcorella

Duration: 4 minutes, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010