Eat or shoot: “New York Diaries” by movie pioneer Jonas Mecca. – Culture

In April 1972, Jonas Mekas was stopped by Jackie Kennedy. He wants to know what the family is like, “filmically”. And of course, Jackie, Caroline and John Jr. they always have the Super 8 camera that Mecca has taken with them. The kids even shot a 3-minute movie. Title: “The First Shave”. Kennedy Chef plays barber with ax and John Jr. and Caroline debate who owns the film, John’s, who wrote the “screenplay” and is directing as a foam 12-year-old, or Caroline, who acts. Camera. Mecca does not care, he is happy for this real “author” film.

Born in a Lithuanian village in 1922, Mecca is considered the godfather of New York and consequently of the American avant-garde film. After being a German prisoner of war and years in various IDP camps, he came to New York in 1949 and founded the magazine film culturewrote a film column for decades The voice of the village and in the early 1960s established the “Filmmakers’ Cooperative,” the central location for American film art. Here he did Andy Warhol with the band Velvet underground it is known, here Robert Frank and Yoko Ono shook hands. Frank made it possible for Mecca to stay in the US on a work contract.

However, Glamor did not interest Mecca at all. He was only interested in art. Like people in American cities, he writes in his diary, they often take up arms to defend themselves, he grabs a film camera and “shoots” his photos: “To not be crushed by the desolation of the present” (” To protect myself from being overwhelmed by the darkness of reality around me “).

Jonas Mekas: I think I live. New York Diaries Volume 1, 1950-1969. Spector Books, Leipzig 2019. 824 pages, 38 euros. Volume 2, 1969-2011. Spector Books, Leipzig 2021. 736 pages, 38 euros.

Art is the only thing that matters, Mecca sacrifices its last cent for art. Like almost every other book, his diaries testify to this absoluteness. It always has to do with raising money, money for the magazine, money for film materials, money for rent. As a result, Mecca and his brother Adolfas are literally hungry, eating nothing but beans for weeks, and at one point they can no longer afford them either.

For all the seriousness that the art trade requires, for all the obstacles that life throws at an artist, and for all the melancholy with which Mecca was either born or settled in it through the loss of his beloved homeland – he will only see it. his mother again after 27 years – his diaries testify to an incredible vitality that proves life. New York offers him a freedom and a social environment that would not have existed anywhere else in the world.

Since Mecca is not familiar with any strict regulations, the diaries do not follow a daily scheme, but instead collect lists, anecdotes, pamphlets, letters, conversations and recurring thoughts about making movies. As a colorful album, they also collect photographs, film photos, manuscripts, tickets, postcards, bank statements, drawings or even a telegram from Fluxus pioneer George Maciunas, his Lithuanian compatriot and friend: “God is a minor devil is a baby food. baby food items. “

Jonas Mekas' "New York Diaries": Diary as a collection of materials: excerpt from Jonas Mekas' "New York Diaries".

Diary as a collection of materials: excerpt from Jonas Mecca’s “New York Diaries”.

(Photo: Spector Books)

Before Jonas Mecca died in 2019, he had scanned and organized all the material for the volumes of his diaries that are now available. There is practically nothing personal in it that is not related to the work, there are no precise descriptions of emotional turmoil, there is no pleasure in the transient mood.

Mecca does not say a word about his first visit to his Lithuanian homeland in 1971, we only see one photo in which he walks through the meadow in front of his mother’s house with a hand-held camera. As touching as this photo is, precisely because of its objectivity, a report on the death of Allen Ginsberg and the photographically documented awakening. The birth of the girl is learned indirectly through a letter sent by Mecca’s mother from Lithuania.

Unlike Mecca’s first diary, “I had no place,” which mostly covers his time in the IDP camps in Kassel and Wiesbaden, Spector Verlag had not translated the two volumes of “I Think I Live.” But even someone who reads English moderately well, will have no problem following the sentences of the Meccan language changer, moreover, precisely in the simple and not modest linguistic gesture of Mecca there is a special beauty that can probably only be understood in the original. For the director, language is above all a tool. However, the poet, who was also a Mecca, could not help but load every word with poetic ingenuity and energy: “I am worried that you may take / this for a poem, / while it is only a diary / introduction / I am worried. “

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