Diaries, Notes and Sketches aka Walden

Jonas Mekas, USA 1969, 180’
The Brig

I’m shooting a diary, so I live, I live, so I shoot, says Jonas Mekas, a legend of the American avant-garde, in one of the scenes. From the 1950s on, the director of Lithuanian origin did not part with his handy Bolex 16 mm camera and recorded everyday life. The materials shot between 1964 and 1968, gave rise to Walden, his first film diary, an impressionistic chronicle of moments, both important and completely prosaic. An unsteady though not annoying camera catches various meetings, scraps of events and experiences. After Central Park we chase Stan Brakhage, dive into the first concert of The Velvet Underground, run into Jack Smith, Yoko Ono and Nico - the list of the 1960s counter and pop culture icons is truly impressive. Walden thus becomes a subjective panorama of New York's artistic and social life, an urban cinematic symphony for the Beatnik generation - at the same time personal and committed, emotionally unstable and unafraid of some exaltation. And just like Alan Ginsberg’s literary works - in constant pursuit of the authentic. 

announcing a retrospective at the 2022 New Horizons IFF in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birthday

Mariusz Mikliński

Jonas Mekas

Jonas Mekas (1922-2019) was a Lithuanian-American filmmaker, poet, activist and precursor of avant-garde cinema of the 1960s. He left his native Lithuania during World War II and in 1949 went to New York, which remained linked to his artistic activity for the remainder of his life. Mekas was one of the founders of Film-Makers' Cooperative, an independent filmmakers’ association engaged in distribution, education and exhibition of avant-garde films. Beginning in the 1950s, he recorded his everyday life on a 16 mm camera. The footage was used to create his monumental and intimate film journals: Walden, Lost Lost Lost or As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty. Mekas collaborated with counterculture icons like Yoko Ono, Allen Ginsberg and Andy Warhol; according to legend, he was the one who encouraged Warhol to make films. Mekas fought against American censorship and was an advocate of artistic freedom: In film we need less perfection and more freedom, he said in one interview, and his works, which he kept producing until the last days of his life, confirmed these words.

Selected filmography

1961 Działa wśród drzew / Guns of the Trees

1964 Klatka / The Brig

1972 Reminiscencje z podróży na Litwę / Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania

1976 Lost Lost Lost

2000 Kiedy szedłem przed siebie, widziałem krótkie mgnienia piękna / As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty

2012 Ścinki z życia szczęśliwego człowieka / Out-Takes from the Life of a Happy Man

2019 Requiem 

Cast & Crew

director Jonas Mekas
screenplay Jonas Mekas
cinematography Jonas Mekas
editing Jonas Mekas
cast Stan Brakhage, Shirley Clarke, Nico, Timothy Leary, Judith Malina, Yoko Ono, Norman Mailer, John Lennon, Andy Warhol, Jack Smith, John Cale, Carl Theodor Dreyer
producer Jonas Mekas
sales Re:Voir
language English
coloration colour
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