Thursday, June 2, 2011

Deceased--Adolfas Mekas

Adolfas Mekas

September 30th, 1925 to May 31st, 2011

I only recall seeing two of his films...Hallelujah the Hills [1963] and the The Brig [1964)]..."A ultra-realistic depiction of life in a Marine Corps brig (or jail) at a camp in Japan in 1957. Marine prisoners are awakened and put through work details for the course of a single day, submitting in the course of it to extremely harsh and shocking physical and mental degradation and abuse." [IMDb]

An IMDb reviewer wrote...

The Brig was an off Broadway play. A special performance of it was performed for Jonas Mekas' camera. If it hadn't been, it could have been long forgotten about. The acting is first rate. The sync sound was captured live directly onto the the film. The dialog sounds somewhat garbled, but that works here, since the marine captains' verbal abuse of their soldiers is as nonsensical as their actions. So this could be shown universally and people everywhere would get the point about what's going on. It all takes place in one setting and is captured with a hand-held camera. Thus we feel like a silent witness to the action. The black and white photography is instrumental in capturing such a bleak world. So whether by design or by luck, the film of The Brig is no doubt every bit as rewarding an experience as the original stage play was. Simply put, this film is a work of modern art that successfully captures modern art. It should be preserved for all time.

Hallelujah the Hills [1963] clip...

A very bizarre low budget comedy about two men who take to the woods to purge their obsessive attraction to a woman named Vera who dumped them both for a shmuck.

"Avant-garde filmmaker Adolfas Mekas dies at 85"

June 1st, 2011

Associated Press

Adolfas Mekas, a member of the avant-garde New American Cinema movement of the 1960s and a longtime professor of film at New York's Bard College, died Tuesday at a hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 85.

Bard College announced the Lithuanian-born artist's death but did not give the cause.

Mekas immigrated to the United States in 1949 after time spent in a Nazi concentration camp and later in displaced-persons camps in GLinkermany.

In the U.S., he and his brother Jonas founded the journal "Film Culture" and the Filmmakers' Cooperative independent cinema-distribution house. His feature "Hallelujah the Hills" played at the Cannes Film Festival in 1963.

Mekas founded the film program at Bard in 1971 and taught until his retirement in 2004.

"Adolfas Mekas, Avant-Garde Filmmaker and Teacher, Is Dead at 85"


Bruce Weber

June 2nd, 2011

The New York Times

Adolfas Mekas, a Lithuanian immigrant who became an influential avant-garde filmmaker and teacher and who, with his brother Jonas, founded Film Culture, the seminal journal for cinéastes, died on Tuesday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 85.

The cause was heart failure, his wife, Pola Chapelle, said.

Though Jonas Mekas, a prolific director and avant-garde film archivist, became the better-known sibling, Adolfas Mekas made a handful of films that endure as avant-garde landmarks. The best known of them, “Hallelujah the Hills,” a comedy that spoofed movie history in telling an elliptical tale about two young men and their slapstick pursuit of the same girl, was among the critical and popular hits of the inaugural New York Film Festival in 1963.

“Hallelujah” was praised at the festival alongside films by Alain Resnais (“Muriel”), Roman Polanski (“Knife in the Water”), Luis Buñuel (“The Exterminating Angel”) and Joseph Losey (“The Servant”).

The New York Times called the film “a modest little Vermont-made farce” that “surprised and delighted” the audiences “by boisterously affirming that life can be a ball and movie-making can be fun.”

Mr. Mekas (pronounced MEEK-us) and his brother arrived in New York in 1949, having survived a Nazi labor camp at the end of World War II. Sons of a farmer with a love of books and movies, they plunged into the bohemian intellectual life of the city in the early 1950s, founding Film Culture, a pioneering journal that began in 1955 with the then-presumptuous notion that moviemaking was a serious art form and a potent influence on the culture at large.

With contributors including Andrew Sarris, Stan Brakhage, Richard Leacock, Rudolf Arnheim, Arlene Croce and Peter Bogdanovich, it championed the avant-garde, though it gave thoughtful coverage to mainstream movie-making as well. (The journal ceased publication in the 1990s.)

Mr. Mekas, who lived in Rhinebeck, N.Y., was a founding member of the film department at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., and taught there from 1971 to 2004; he directed its film program from 1971-1994.

Adolfas Mekas was born in a Lithuanian village called Semeniskiai (pronounced sem-uh-NEESH-kee) on Sept. 30, 1925. During the final year of World War II, he and Jonas were leaving Lithuania to join an uncle in Austria when they were captured by the Germans and sent to a labor camp. After the war ended, they lived in refugee camps, one of which was in Mainz, near Frankfurt, where they were able to attend university classes. They first thought of leaving for Israel — “They weren’t Jewish,” Ms. Chapelle said, “but they thought it was romantic, to fight for a new country” — but emigrated instead to the United States, settling in Williamsburg, in Brooklyn.

“It was all just misery and displacement and suffering and loss,” Jonas Mekas wrote of their early years in Europe. But arriving in New York City changed their lives.

“Now, suddenly everything was bright, exciting and available,” he wrote. “The streets of New York were open markets, like something out of Cairo. We bought three or four oranges on our first day. Here we are! We can buy fruit!”

In 1971, the Mekas brothers returned to Lithuania for the first time since their departure, and each made a film of the trip, Jonas’s called “Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania,” Adolfas’s “Going Home.” They were shown together at the New York Film Festival in 1972, an evening described by Vincent Canby in The Times as “rather more brimful of Mekases than one might ordinarily seek out, yet it’s also successively moving, indulgent, beautiful, poetic, banal, repetitious and bravely, heedlessly, personal.”

In addition to his brother, who still lives in Brooklyn, now in Greenpoint, and his wife, whom he met at a movie screening and married in 1965, Mr. Mekas is survived by another brother, Costas, of Semeniskiai, and a son, Sean, of Rhinebeck.

His other films include “The Brig” (1964), directed by both brothers, an adaptation of a grim play performed by the Group Theater about Marines confined in a military prison, and “Windflowers” (1968), an elegiac, Vietnam-era story of a draft dodger who is shot trying to escape from the F.B.I.

At his death, Mr. Mekas was working on a film about Giordano Bruno, an Italian thinker who was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1600. Mr. Mekas described Bruno as “the first beatnik” and called the film, with typical cheek, “Burn, Bruno, Burn.”

His wife said she was initially drawn to him by his unexpected, demonstrative humor; on their first date, he threw his hat out the window of a taxi cab, she recalled. Another time, after a film opening at the Museum of Modern Art, he rolled up the red carpet, put it under his arm and walked away with it, as if to take it home. (No one stopped him, she said, but he brought it back.)

“These two guys,” she said about the Mekas brothers. “I always told our son: ‘They came to this country with $10. They couldn’t speak the language, and they started the first serious film journal in English. Not bad.’ ”

Hans Richter...experimental film--"Filmstudie" [1925]

No comments: