Jonas Mekas film programmes
The name of the world-famous avant-garde filmmaker and theorist Jonas Mekas is well recognized within the world of independent cinema. Surprisingly, the films of this director of Lithuanian descent, who has made the bulk of his work in New York from 1950 to 1970, are practically unknown to the Latvian public. Mekas has published the avant-garde film magazine Film Culture, was the founder of the avant-garde directors` society Film-Makers Collective, and has also contributed to the founding of the Anthology Film Archives – the largest and most prestigious avant-garde film archive in the world. His unique style of filmmaking is ever-present in both his full-length films as well as shorts. They serve as witnesses of the culture and art events of the day, as well as being statements of his conceptual take on the aesthetics of filmmaking and political (in the widest sense of the word) qualities.
The life and work of Mekas, the focal point of this film program, manifests the idea of the director as not just merely a cog in the commercial machinery of the film industry, but as an independent artist, an auteur, that originates artistic creations out of an immensely intimate and private process easily achievable by minimal and simple means. This seems to be a most pressing subject, especially nowadays in the era of digitalization and technologies available to all.
The films will be screened from 16mm reels – an authentic, nearly anachronistic format. This is an extremely rare opportunity to witness and appreciate the authentic feel of the film-media.
Award Presentation to Andy Warhol (1964, 12 min.), Jonas Mekas
"The Film Culture magazine Independent Film Award for 1964 is presented to Andy Warhol. We see Andy among some of his leading stars -- Baby Jane Holzer, Gerard Malanga, Ivy Nicholsen -- and Jonas Mekas, presenting a basket of fruit, mushrooms, carrots, apples, and bananas -- which then they eat with great pleasure. With Gregory Markopoulos as camera assistant.
"I can recall seeing only one Warhol film which was wholly pastoral and unneurotic in feeling, which contained or provoked none of these or other disturbing implications; and that turned out not to be a Warhol film at all, as I thought at the time, but a kind of homage, by Jonas Mekas, to Warhol - really a work of Mekas' own sensibility though seemingly in the official Warhol style. When I saw Award Presentation I was hung for days on the kind of imagination revolutionary enough at once to conceive of a film as something so simple and to make that simplicity so pleasurable."
-- James Stoller, Film Quarterly.
Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol (1963/1990, 35 min.), Jonas Mekas
Music: Velvet Underground, recorded in 1966. Opening segment taped at the Dom at the public performance with Nico. End section: Mass for Andy Warhol at St. Patrick's Cathedral. The film is made up of my film diaries related to Andy Warhol from the years 1965-1982. Locations are New York and Montauk: The Factory, house of George Maciunas, village gate, psychiatrist's convention, home of Stephen Shore, Warhol Estate, Montauk, etc. The "cast" includes Lou Reed, Nico, Edie Sedgwick, Gerard Malanga, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Ed Sanders, Barbara Rubin, Tuli Kupferberg, Peter Orlovsky, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, George Maciunas, Vincent Friemont, Henry Geldzahler, Paul Morrissey, Karen Lerner, Jay Lerner, Peter Beard, John Kennedy Jr., Lee Radziwill, Tina Radziwill, Anthony Radziwill, D'Allessandro, Caroline Kennedy, Mick Jagger, Jade Jagger and many others.
Zefiro Torna (1992, 34 min.), Jonas Mekas
"Images from the life of George Maciunas. Includes footage I took of George in 1952, at his parents' house, with his father and mother and sister Nijole. Bits of Fluxus events and performances, and picnics with friends (Almus, Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, etc.); George's wedding and footage I took of him in Boston Hospital three days before he died."
-- Jonas Mekas
Happy Birthday to John (1995, 18 min.), Jonas Mekas
"On October 9th, 1972, half of the music world gathered in Syracuse, N.Y., to celebrate the opening of John Lennon/Yoko Ono Fluxus show, designed by George Maciunas. Same day, a smaller group gathered in a local hotel room to celebrate John's birthday. This film is a record of that occasion. The soundtrack consists of the birthday party singing by John, Yoko, Ringo Starr, Allen Ginsberg, Phil Oaks, and many others. The film includes footage of John Lennon/Yoko Ono concert at Madison Square Garden, August 30, 1972, the Vigil in Central Park on Dec. 8th, 1980, and some other rare footages."
-- Jonas Mekas
Walden: Diaries, Notes, and Sketches
1969, 180 min.
"Since 1950 I have been keeping a film diary. I have been walking around with my Bolex and reacting to the immediate reality: situations, friends, New York, seasons of the year. On some days I shot ten frames, on others ten seconds, still on others ten minutes. Or I shot nothing. When one writes diaries, it's a retrospective process: you sit down, you look back at your day, and you write it all down. To keep a film (camera) diary, is to react (with your camera) immediately, now, this instant: either you get it now, or you don't get it at all. To go back and shoot it later, it would mean restaging, be it events or feelings. To get it now, as it happens, demands the total mastery of one's tools (in this case, Bolex): it has to register the reality to which I react and also it has to register my state of feeling (and all the memories) as I react. Which also means, that I had to do all the structuring (editing) right there, during the shooting, in the camera. All footage that you'll see in the Diaries is exactly as it came out from the camera: there was no way of achieving it in the editing room without destroying its form and content.
"Walden contains materials from the years 1965-69, strung together in chronological order. For the soundtrack I used some of the sounds that I collected during the same period: voices, subways, much street noise, bits of Chopin (I am a romantic), and other significant and insignificant sounds."
-- Jonas Mekas
"Jonas Mekas's films celebrate life. They rise up against the world's overwhelming commercialism, attempting instead to revive the pleasures of friendship, a first snowfall or the return of Spring. Mekas's genius stems from his generously including the viewer in his vision of the world, allowing us to (re)discover, in a simple image, the incredible force and necessity of poetry."
-- Yann Beauvais