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I find a kindred spirit in Marie Menken


Discovering the work of Stan Brakhage
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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After '55, when after seeing at the Living Theatre, the first New York show of Stan Brakhage, his first six films, I... seeing that programme was another point where my life practically changed about cinema, my thinking. So that is cinema that Desistfilm, that's cinema, that's what where cinema is today, and Maya Deren, of course, the mother etc, Maya Deren is past, Maya Deren is the past and this is, this is now. Maya Deren is where cinema, when the American avant-garde, sort of the end of the first stage, and here is where it really begins with, here is where the energy is. So to me, Maya was always the past, not the present, when to many she was the present and, you know, we were friends and she was helpful to me, I was helpful to her and, but she was like a classic, like the past to me, she was never present, after seeing this first programme of Brakhage films. So my friends were already from the past... post- Maya Deren, not there were, you know, still friends of the Maya Deren circle. I never really had real contact. I respected, albeit, Parker Tyler or them for their mind, intelligence and, but they were not my... I was in the new generation and so that's where, you know, my friends became, you know, Ron Rice and Jack Smith and Barbara Rubin and completely different, of course, Robert Frank post-Maya Deren cinema. So, was Maya Deren our mother or was our grandmother, but not mother. Mother is one that begins. She ended a period, a period in which I found myself and felt at home. It was a new period that was began with, I really would say, with Stan Brakhage.

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: Desistfilm, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Parker Tyler, Jack Smith, Ron Rice, Barbara Rubin

Duration: 2 minutes, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008