Mekas, Jonas

Mekas, Jonas,

1922–2019, Lithuanian-American avant-garde filmmaker, critic, and journalist. During and after World War II, he and his younger brother, Adolfus, were interned in labor and displaced-persons camps before immigrating to the United States. His first 35mm film, Guns of the Trees (1961), is influenced by the beats (see beat generationbeat generation,
term applied to certain American artists and writers who were popular during the 1950s. Essentially anarchic, members of the beat generation rejected traditional social and artistic forms.
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) and narrated by Allen GinsbergGinsberg, Allen
, 1926–97, American poet, b. Paterson, N.J., grad. Columbia, 1949. An outspoken member of the beat generation, Ginsberg is best known for Howl (1956), a long poem attacking American values in the 1950s.
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. This was followed by The Brig (1964), about a U.S. Marine jail in Japan. He also began his cinematic diaries, including Walden (1969) and Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972), on his visit back to his birthplace. These were followed by Lost, Lost, Lost (1976), relating his feelings of exile during his early years in the United States. Paradise Not Yet Lost (1980) and As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000) recall his family life in New York. Most of his films are edited in a staccato style, intercut with narration and printed titles. Mekas and his brother cofounded (1955) the influential quarterly Film Culture, and he was a film critic (1958–75) for The Village Voice. He also was active in distributing, presenting, preserving, and encouraging the study of independent and avant-garde films, and helped found (1970) Anthology Film Archives.


See his criticism in Movie Journal (1972); D. Gordon, dir., I Had Nowhere to Go (documentary, 2018).

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