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Walking out of the Mike Wallace Show


Flaming Creatures lands me in court
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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Since the case was very bad, everybody said, Jerome Hill, a good friend and supporter of... I mean it's a long chapter on Jerome Hill himself I mean it was... he was really a very, very generous and understanding supporter from the beginning of Film Culture magazine and Film-makers' Cooperative later Anthology Film Archives etc. So, he said he will get himself and his friends to put up money and to hire the best possible attorney, lawyer, defense attorney that they could get, which they did, and they chose whom did they choose? They chose Emile Zola Berman, Emile Zola Berman, what a name! But he was very known as somebody who had not lost, ever a lost a case. And very much respected by other lawyers and prosecutors, you know, always listening to what he had to say. So he managed and we had witnesses and testifiers, Susan Sontag was one, Allan Ginsberg, a few others, seriously talking about the importance of this film and still, you know, I lost and got six months suspended sentence, but at least I did not, that was Emile Zola Berman was aiming for that because they could have put me in jail for a couple of years so he was aiming for suspended sentence, and he got what he wanted. We appealed and we lost again. And we re-appealed to the Supreme Court where we were about to get a chance until a very extreme Republican component of the senate there, of the Supreme Court... decided that to use, I mean, they, one new judge was about to be appointed to the Supreme Court and that was the judge Fortas, Fortas and the Republican wing, the hard-core wing of the Supreme Court did not like him and they heard that he likes Flaming Creatures; he would have defended it, that he would have voted to throw out the case, and Fortas was, so then the Supreme Court, some members made hundreds of copies of Flaming Creatures what a promotion and distributed through the... around to undermine that, look what this is guy is promoting, look what he likes, and he was rejected. He was, he lost, he was thrown out. Our case was not thrown out, it was Fortas who was thrown out; he never go to Supreme Court and we lost our appeal. So that is the end of the story.

It's not exactly the end because when I was in Paris two, three months ago I was in company around the dinner table with a young lawyer who was on a case of some obscenity case going there in Paris that somebody had lost and he said he is, he wants, now it's some years back to show that it would be thrown out, I said, ah why don't I do that. So, he said, he offered free services to look into Flaming Creatures case and I really don't know about the legalities of something like this, but he would like to do that now or to reverse that my case should be thrown out or taken, should not be in those books as a criminal any more, taken out. Cleared. So, he's, I haven't done anything about it, but he's ready, you know, he's waiting to do it, all the information and sort of look into it.

[Q] But just to clarify, the 'Flaming Creatures' case was never thrown out but Genet...

Oh, they did, Genet... they did not! They were smart, they did not include it, I will ignore it, people will ignore it, the prosecutors said, we'll concentrate on this one, only, they threw out themselves the other case. They knew that that would complicate the case, they were smart.

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: Film Culture, Film-maker's Cooperative, Film Archives, Flaming Creatures, Jean Genet, Paris, Jerome Hill, Emil Zola Berman, Susan Sontag, Alan Ginsberg, Abe Fortas

Duration: 5 minutes, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008