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This report is taken from PN Review 247, Volume 45 Number 5, May - June 2019.

Jonas Mekas Recalled Christine Blackwell
Jonas Mekas, widely known as ‘the godfather of avant­garde cinema’ and largely credited with developing diaristic filmmaking, passed away in New York last January at the age of ninety-six. During his lifetime he not only witnessed firsthand at least four avant-garde art and literary movements in formation (the Beat generation, Pop Art, Fluxus, post-modernism), he also befriended and participated alongside several of the artists in each, filming everyday moments of their lives as well as of his own. His films employed chance and thus lacked plot or linear narrative, yet they were lyrical and captured fleeting moments of joy and beauty just as they became memory.

Mekas left a huge cultural legacy as a filmmaker but also as a critic, organiser, poet and perhaps most importantly, as a friend to and protector of avant-garde artists. In 2010 he said:

The avant-garde is always the front line in any field. That’s where it’s all very fragile, and on the front line is where usually most of the bullets hit… It’s that area that I felt needed somebody who would defend it from all those critics and those attacks. So that was my function, to try to help those very fragile new developments.

In 1954 he founded the influential journal Film Culture. Then from 1958–75 he served as film critic for The Village Voice. All the while, he continued making his own films, notably Walden and Lost, Lost, Lost. His contributions also included the co-founding of the Film-Maker’s Cooperative and ...


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