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Filming memories


My films are like haiku poems
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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I managed always to do many things at the same time. None of those things that I do are so huge or so big that they could not be... I mean, none of them take all of my day, and I always managed. I mean, one... I sometimes think and I have sort of thought about it, that even my filming procedures, that is affected by the fact that I'm doing so many things. See, if you have a... making a feature film and you have a script, I mean there must be months of time that you have to really allocate to it... it cannot... cannot be done any other way. And I had only fragments of time so my filming is... was reduced only to... became very fragmentary because I'm shooting only when I have time or when I, not only time, I think that the diaristic form of cinema to which I gravitated, requires, which is not a scripted film, which... real life... the only way, the only way... time that I filmed, if one can film, record such materials, is when you really feel right, this is it, you know, this is, I should be filming this. And that does not happen 24 hours a day or seven days a week. That can happen suddenly when you walk somewhere and you, you see something and it, and it responded, it provokes something in you, it has some memory, it has something and you want to film it. So, you film it and you never know when that will happen. It comes in a way that something close to the haiku form of poetry to the... where the haikus deal with the brief moment specific place and feeling of... it's very down-to-earth and very realistic and very down-to-earth in haiku poetry there are no fantasies or it's always connected to a specific place, to a specific time of the year, specific experience of the moment. So the same because I'm filming what's really happening and there and now and... what I'm about to filming something about what I feel very strongly and so it is, I think the haiku or kind of poets work comes closest to I think why I work the way I work in my films. So, it's not only the fact that I don't have long periods of time, you know, you don't need any time for something like that. So, my filming does not require time, therefore I can do it, what required... Anthology Film archives, the fundraising, there were some, you know, of... to take care of films and that concrete and time-consuming sometimes work, or editing when you begin when I begin to put those little pieces into, into my film, volumes of two hours and three hours or whatever. And that requires time and more than one thinks because there, you know, time goes so fast, you get so involved. But that I do only late at night when I'm not, when I know that nobody will interrupt me, no work or demands of any other kind, not even telephone calls, so usually all my film editing, putting together such work, is usually done around, after, very seldom before 9, afer 9pm. Evening comes then I can go into my editing room and that can go until, you know, 2, 3am or, you know, long stretches. So, I work with the sort of nightly, when everybody sleeps and nobody's portables go through my brain, the clatter of the noises. So there, time runs fast and you need a lot of time. But filming does not require, in my case, any time because I'm part of it, a part of whatever is happening, so I'm there anyway.

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: Anthology, Film Archives

Duration: 5 minutes, 58 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008