Underground Film Journal

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Go Read: Interview With Jonas Mekas

By Mike Everleth ⋅ August 30, 2007

Senses of Cinema has up an awesome interview with Jonas Mekas, the godfather of American underground film. It starts with talk of his current work with dancer Verginie Merchand, but then gets into a long discussion about his filmmaking career and philosophies, as well as what Mekas thinks about the current state of underground film vs. what it was like back in the day. One interesting historical note: The Anthology Film Archives that Mekas founded and is currently the greatest place on Earth, was actually named by avant-garde filmmaking legend Stan Brakhage. Didn’t know that.

I’ve also pulled two choice quotes that I particularly liked. First, here’s Mekas’ thoughts on politics and filmmaking:

My idea of politics is very different. The ‘politicians’ I like are John Cage, Buckminster Fuller and maybe George Maciunas and those of the Beat Generation, those who changed humanity in a more subtle way. They change the style of life and everything is positive; nothing is negative. All those who support the political systems and movements and politicians end up very negative and the results are negative. Gandhi was maybe one who was a chance for the positive. But the main political movements end up in horror, as we well know. That’s why I am critical of Godard. He sided himself with the wrong political movements, the wrong politicians.

Next, here Mekas talks a little about the misconceived notion of the underground today vs. yesterday:

People think that today there is so much and that back then there was nothing. It’s not true. There were a lot of different showcases for different kinds of films in 1953, ’54, ’56, whatever. Of course there are many more today. But in 1960 or ’65, in New York, there were only 20 avant-garde filmmakers and they knew each other. The energy was more concentrated. That never happens anymore. The energy has dissipated. There was something I read a long time ago which said that on Earth there is always the same amount of spirit, and if humanity expands into billions and billions, each person gets much less.

Now go read the entire thing. It’s great.

P.S. Here’s the Underground Film Journal review of Mekas’ classic text Movie Journal. And special thanks to GreenCine Daily for the tip!