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Once a poet, always a poet


The Very Beginning of the Beginning
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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I started sort of writing plays. They were never performed and the only time that my play was performed was last season in Lithuania in Vilnius, in the National Theatre. It opened the theatrical season and it was a smash success there were, they said they'd never had such actually at a... attendance, but hundreds turned away, mostly young people were turned away mostly young people and they were, they were my audience, and they said that now maybe the leader consider that these plays are rejuvenated and it turning, Lithuanian theatre into more contemporary sort of direction because it was very... always Chekhov, always Chekhov, Chekhov, Chekhov, or Shakespeare.

[Q] Can you describe what kind of, just the genre of the play?

It's a, very, very like a col... consists of like 100 little segments, like a collage, and it gave the actors and the director liked and that's what all the reviews stressed and the letter that I got, it was very open towards actors play. They could do and improvise whatever of, lack, they became very free, permitted themselves to open themselves completely. It's a collage, but it's turning around and we sort of, placed in time, now with memories of the past, but the main thing that the title was The Very Beginning of the Beginning. The Very Beginning of the Beginning. And it's... very that's the main theme is very simple almost like in Guns of the Trees. They're young man, and woman takes back their, yes, it's interesting, like Guns of the Trees, my first film. They expect their first child and they begin to look more critically around themselves, but you know, towards real influencing and what, in what context and what surrounding the child will begin to, you know, walk the first steps etc. So, many questions suddenly come in and that's, that's, so those pieces of collage at work. Guns of the Trees also consisted of like maybe not 100 maybe 30 or so little pieces, more or less I, I see that in that play if only that placed in, and now 50, 40 years later, 40 years later and already what, I was in Guns of the Trees in 1961 on the, like we were all fearing and afraid it actually took place many of those things, so, and yet also, his plays situated in Lithuania, so there is a Soviet Union behind also, the memories of history, but also there is Cuba and its very, very... and also New York, it's a collage of, in... in time and geography and...

[Q] When did you write it?

I wrote it about 20 years ago and I, and I wrote it in, sort of, half Lithuanian and half English. It, it was staged in Lithuanian and I had English version which I was perfecting and I left it on the plane. I have to recreate it, I mean, it does to, I have to rewrite... re-translate.

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: National Theatre, Vilnius, The Very Beginning of the Very Beginning, Guns of the Trees, Anton Chekov, William Shakespeare

Duration: 4 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008