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First meeting with Ken Jacobs


The circumstances surrounding the first screening of my movie
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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In '52, '53, and to '53, I was running Filmmakers' Showcase which was a showcase of Filmmakers' Cooperative, where, I think, I met you and Richard for the first time.

[Q] That was in '62. Yeah.

Yeah. And I wanted to have a... I had heard about Cornell films, to have to see them all, to have a full program of his films so to have some idea what he's all about. So, I called him and he said, with some hesitation, he said, yes. So, it was arranged and I, the screening was supposed to be like tomorrow and today is today, and I decided, for the first time in my life to buy a portable radio. So, I buy a portable, go and buy a portable radio, and come back to the cooperative and turn on, and this is going back to my extra-sensory activities, I turned on - the first thing I hear that JFK was shot! It comes. So that's what I bought for the first time in my life, I wish... I had decided to buy a radio and turn it on and there, the announcement comes that President Kennedy was shot. So, and the screening of Cornell is the next day. So, I knew immediately that there will be a call from Cornell. So I sit down, I practically, I wait for that call. And a call comes in, and the call... Cornell said, 'So, should we still have this screening? What do you think?' So, there was a long pause and I had to think fast, but I cannot think fast because I had already a feeling that he thinks now it shouldn't take place, this is now not proper. So I said, 'Yes, Joseph, you know, when the world is so bad, things like this are done... happen, I think we should take a stand, we should show, we should show and look at something beautiful like certain movies'. And so, again, a long silence, long silence. 'Maybe you are right'. So... and that's how the first show of Cornell took place.

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: Joh F Kennedy, Joseph Cornell

Duration: 3 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008