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Films of the late 1950s and early 1960s


Narrative films and poetic films
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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[Q] You had this kind of revelation when you saw the Brakhage films in 1955, but nevertheless you went ahead to decide to make Guns of The Trees which couldn't have been more different from what Brakhage was doing.

You see, there is a difference between what I like and what I support, and what I do and make myself. I consider that all my major films are sort of narratives, narratives. I think that the last film, As I was Moving Ahead... this is a narrative, is a fiction, practical film. The same Lost, Lost, Lost. There is a... it is a maybe, you know, the material is documentary, but there is a novelistic theme like of one dropped in, how you gain in how you go and become willing to change and how you look how your film thinks, I mean in Lost, Lost, Lost. I mean, at the beginning is Paul Strand and the end is completely, the whole history of the, of how the, the American independent from avant-garde its style and techniques that change it is, is in that, but that goes also with my own change. As I said the very end of the, you know, film of Lost, Lost, Lost. I guess I have been here before, now I have memories, it's... it's a film about exile, but also about memory it, it's... there are several layers in that film. So, I'm not, only now as you give if you will have occasion to see there are two or three, two films that will be shown in the New York Film Festival. I'm going already to, I'm leaving the narrative, I mean, that's Quartet No 1 and The Song of Avignon and also The Travel Songs, they're not narratives any more they are, I don't know what they are. But they're more like you know poem, poems film poems, but not narratives and those materials, you know, are again real, from real life and, but with no intention of making a diary or... so I like, was very taken by what Brakhage was doing and that's... it's like to being taken by some poem that you read, so you will never write like he's writing or she's writing, but that did not mean that now I am going to make that kind of film myself. No. That, that helped me to... I mean, to begin to turn to get be less and less interested in... what I was doing, less and less interested in what was happening in Hollywood, and the script of Guns of the Trees, you know... Guns of the Trees, whatever the film is, is already structured completely different. It's a collage, film.

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: Guns of the Trees, As I Was Moving Ahead, Lost, Lost, Lost, Quartet I, Song of Avignon, Travel Songs, Stan Brakhage, Paul Strand

Duration: 4 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008