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Collecting books from a bombed out shop


Acting and theatre
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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In Lithuania... Lithuania had one outstanding theatre director. His name was Miltinis. He studied, he was roommate of Jean-Louis Barrault. He studied, his education came from Paris, and then he returned to Lithuania in maybe '33 and not '34 and rejuvenated Lithuanian theatre actually. And when the Soviets came in he became really their number one theatre director practically in the Soviet Union. But he came with his... the independent Lithuania before the Soviets took over he created his own theatre in, not in the first kind of city, not in the capital, but in the next sort of larger, largest town or city in Lithuania. And it became the best theatre that Lithuania had.

So he came, I was already writing, writing for the local and editing the local paper when he came to our town and I met him there and I reviewed, the... it was, I think, Pirandello, something by Pirandello that Henry IV or VI or something like that. And I also met him during the intermission and he asked me, I was, you know, the punk, local punk, and I was what, 17 or something, or 18? And I started instead of praising started criticising him and he was amazed. So later he calls me already when after, you know, I would like, 'Why don't you start a theatre in your own town?' So I thought why not? So I get together some of my friends there and he sent some of his actors to teach us and we created a local and new theatre in which I, you know, I was one of the actors but we only did, you know, two plays and then, you know, I had to, to move out of that town. And that was it. My brother was in it also, but he was much better than I, and I was not sure if I wanted to be an actor but I want... I was not sure.

So then in the displaced person camps, there was another theatre director, he came from Stanislavsky School and worked with Stanislavsky, Theabortask was his name. And he started to, you know... he cannot live without theatre, so he started a little theatre group and that was in Kassal, in Germany, and he insisted that I join the group, so my brother joined and I joined and, and then I decided I don't... I don't want it, but he... I said a smart actors as usually you had to be ready to adopt rules and... disconnect the mind and that was my understanding that you are wrong, you're wrong. The best actors have always been also the smartest, you know, you look at Olivier and Gielgud and other or Barrault, they're also very intelligent which a stupid actor... you cannot make them into great actors if they're stupid, you just... In any case, that's how it was this argument to persuade me to go back. I never went.

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: Miltinis, Jean-Michael Barrault, Theabortask

Duration: 4 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008