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Creation of The Film-Makers' Cooperative


New developments in the arts
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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I was excited about the new, most contemporary sort of, most up-to-date developments in acting and in poetry, literature, painting, I mean the same in painting, already in dance was happening also, and but that was not yet reflected in... in cinema. Though there are, if you go to, to, I mean beginning with, Helen Levitt, In The Street, and some of the work of Sydney Myers of Morris Engel and then the Cinema Verite was coming in, they also you see then, then you a sound and image, technology, Ricky Leacock, there were things happening and it was not yet fully, it was changing, but it was not being applied or used or reflected in all of the area that I was interested in. Or wherever it appeared and there was always critics, you know, there were always called 'amateurs' or something.

[Q] And so when in relation...

OK, poets, the beat generation, even, I mean then there, there in American literature in poetry there were to the very end till now there are two, two streams going, those who were practically three, those who are really classics or and then the modern poetry that had this sort of very intellectual Duncan and Allson and that stream and then there is the Beat Generation poetry which was never seriously accepted by, in the... in the Academia, they were always like, even today the Allen Ginsberg, Allen Ginsberg, Allen is, is, was taken, received more respect and publicity and only because he was so active and so verbal but was not taken and he's still not taken as part of the really, the... the poetry of the period. Academia rules, even today.

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: In the Street, Helen Levitts, Sydney Meyers, Morris Engels, Robert Duncan, Alan Ginsberg

Duration: 3 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008