Eat or Shoot: The New York Memoirs by film pioneer Jonas Mekas. – culture

In April 1972, Jonas Mekas was stopped by Jackie Kennedy. He wants to know how the family is doing, “from a movie perspective.” And sure enough, Jackie, Caroline, and John Jr. have always had the Super 8 camera that Mekas got with them. The kids even just shot a 3-minute movie. Title: “The First Shave”. The Kennedy chef plays an ax-wielding barber, and John Jr. and Caroline argue over who to film John, who wrote “the script” and directs as the coveted 12-year-old, or Caroline, who works the camera. Makass doesn’t care, he’s happy with this real “author” movie.

Born in a Lithuanian village in 1922, Mikas is considered the godfather of New York and thus a leading American film. After being a German prisoner of war and years in various displacement camps, he came to New York in 1949 and founded the magazine movie culturewrote a movie column about decades village sound And in the early 1960s, she established the Filmmakers’ Co-op, the central venue for American film art. Here’s what Andy Warhol made with the band velvet vault Known, here Robert Frank and Yoko Ono helped each other. Frank allowed Mekas to stay in the USA under an employment contract.

However, the glamour didn’t interest Makass at all. He was only interested in art. Just like people in American cities, he writes in his memoirs, often taking up arms in self-defence, he grabs a film camera and “shoots” his pictures: “to keep me from being crushed by the ruins of the present” (“to protect myself from being crushed by the gloom of reality around me”).

Jonas Mekas: I seem to live. The New York Diaries Volume 1, 1950–1969. Spector Books, Leipzig 2019. 824 pages, €38. 2, 1969-2011. Spector Books, Leipzig 2021. 736 pages, €38.

Art is the only thing that matters, Makass sacrifices his last year for the sake of art. Like any other book, his memoirs testify to this absolute. It’s always about raising money, money for the magazine, money for movie materials, money for rent. As a result, Makass and his brother Adolphus are literally starving, eating nothing but beans for weeks, and at some point they can no longer afford them.

With all the seriousness that the art trade requires, with all the obstacles life throws in the artist’s way, with all the gloom with which Makass is born or settled into through the loss of his beloved homeland – he will only see his mother again 27 years later – his diaries bear witness to a vitality Incredible life affirmation. New York offers him freedom and a social environment that he would not have found anywhere else in the world.

Because the Mekas are not aware of any strict regulations, the diary does not follow a daily scheme, but instead collects lists, anecdotes, flyers, letters, conversations, and recurring thoughts about filmmaking. Like a color album, they also collect photographs, film stills, manuscripts, tickets, postcards, bank statements, drawings or even a telegram from Fluxus pioneer George Masionas, his fellow Lithuanian and friend: “God is a demon child who eats a baby grocer.”

Jonas Mikas

Diaries as a Collection of Materials: Excerpts from “The New York Diary” by Jonas Mekas.

(Photo: Spector Books)

Prior to the death of Jonas Mekas in 2019, he had scanned and organized all materials for his now available diary folders. There is practically nothing personal that is not related to work, no accurate descriptions of emotional upheavals, no indulgence in ephemeral moods.

Makass didn’t say a word about his first visit to his Lithuanian homeland in 1971, but we only see a photo of him walking across the meadow in front of his mother’s house with a hand-held camera. Just like this poignant photo, precisely because of its objectivity, the report on the death of Allen Ginsberg and the photographically documented vigil. One learns about the birth of a daughter indirectly through a letter sent by Mikas’ mother from Lithuania.

Unlike Makass’ first memoirs, “I Had No Place”, which mainly covers his time in the displaced persons camps in Kassel and Wiesbaden, Spector Verlag did not have a volume translated “It seems that I live”. But even a person who reads English only moderately will not have any problems following the sentences of the Mekas language changer, and what is more, in precisely the simple and humble Mekas gesture of the language, there is a special charm that can only be understood in the original. For the director, language is above all a tool. Yet the poet, who was also a makas, couldn’t help but charge each word with wit and poetic energy: “I’m worried that you might take / This is for a poem, / While it’s just a diary / Entry / I worry.”

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