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Reactions to The Brig
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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Two, three years later, they're in Europe, already thrown out and they're in Berlin and the Berlin television people said, we'll put it on television. And they worked for like three weeks to produce a television version of, and everything was in it, all the melodrama and everything. And they presented it on television and Julian and Melina and the cast watched it and after it- we have to send immediately a telegram to Jonas that that is the film, this is, this is ridiculous what they did. So, it was my version that to became really the version and that faithful version carefully done didn't work at all, did not work at all.
Then is it true that when it won the prize in Venice that people actually thought it was a documentary of some real?
I, they sent me the reviews, they had some, some really, and some of them with the - oh, he's attacking the United States Army, you know, that you know, they were very nice permitting him to go into it and film. Not all, some knew but there were two or three reviewers who did not realise that it was really a theatre piece made real. I was not even there, I did not even know that it was shown, I found it from the newspapers. David Stone sent it without telling me, sent it to Venice and that's how, And P. Adams Sitney was in Venice that weekend but he was so poor and broke and the night when the film was screened and then celebration, he was so poor he was in some play he did not know he would have gone there, he did not know either. So, that's the footnote of "The Brig", which is still, there is a lot of camera, the energy of it is created with a camera, camera movements, really. And of course, I remember, five or six already after Vietnam, the play, they recreated, they staged the play and I think it was Philadelphia and they invited me to take a look at their play and they showed also the film and then, like the, after Vietnam all of it looked like so tame, so, already so much other violence was if you looked already on television or was taking place that was much more violent and this looked very, very tame so, I said during a discussion, I said, the only way today that you can still get the same reaction would be if you would actually go and hit an audience with a stick on the head, you know from the stage, and nothing, everything else is very, no matter what you do or it's look like a mild version of reality. Things have changed since, that much. But still the energy of violence remains because of the camera, I think my camera work.
And you hand-held, on your shoulder?
Yeah, I had it all attached to myself.
But it was a heavy thing you work on, wasn't it?
Heavy but not so heavy, it's manageable

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.

Duration: 4 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010