Over the weekend, I did some early, digital spring-cleaning and rediscovered this little filmic find. It’s two months old by now, but when your subject matter is an 85-year-old’s use of digital media, and that 85-year-old happens to be the “godfather of American avant-garde cinema,” it’s better late than never.
On January 1, 2007, Jonas Mekas’ Lithuanian-accented voice rang out in Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s Zebulon café, declaring the filmmaker’s intent to shoot a video a day for the following 364 and dedicating the effort to Francesco Petrarca – a Renaissance humanist with a love interested that, for a year, he just couldn’t shake. Twelve months later, on December 30, 2007, we see Jonas smiling to the camera, noting that even he had some doubts about the project, and thanking those friends that stuck with him along the way.
Between those two vids, there’s one for every calendar day in 2007.
### Jonas’ bio could double as the history of “New American Cinema,” but he’s probably most well known for his work with Any Warhol and a variety of Factory friends (aside: If you read POPism – and you should if you want a pleasant escape to 1960s New York’s gritty art-cum-party scene – you’ll find that although Jonas’ name doesn’t come up often, Andy regarded him with an incredible amount of respect and admiration). While Lou Reed exemplified the sound of the Factory scene, Jonas got it on film. For that reason, Day 361, when Jonas goes to New York City’s Union Square and splices decades old Warholian footage with b-roll from the present-day, is one of the best.
Despite the $1.99 download fees (you can’t expect an octogenarian to get all this new media stuff right), you can catch a preview for every day’s video. I’m not sure if it’s because the revered name of “Jonas Mekas” is attached, or that an 85-year-old filmed them (the media seems to like it when that kinda thing happens), or that the footage is just plain good, or if it matters, but the videos are worth skimming through. Evanescence captured for posterity through the trained eye of a master.
So, what’s next? Jonas is taking a break until July, 2008. At that point he’s starting 1,001 Nights. I’m sure Jonas could spend three consecutive years documenting his daily, nighttime adventures, but this time he’s asking for help. More details will appear on JonasMekas.com about how filmmakers across the globe can contribute their own footage to the project.