Close Up

17 July 2008: An Evening in the Company of Jonas Mekas

We are thrilled to welcome the godfather of American avant-garde cinema, Jonas Mekas for two special screenings of his films at the Café 1001 and Curzon Soho. America's leading voice of avant-garde filmmaking, founder of the Anthology Film Archive (the world's leading repository of avant-garde film) and filmmaker extraordinaire Jonas Mekas will be in London on the 17th and 19th of July introducing films at Café 1001 and Curzon Soho respectively!

Award Presentation to Andy Warhol

Jonas Mekas
1963 | 12 min | B/W | 16mm

Dec. 7, 1964: Andy Warhol receives the independent filmmakers' award. The award, from Film Culture magazine, was for Sleep, Haircut, Eat, Kiss and Empire. The event took place at the New Yorker Theatre on 89th Street and Broadway. The original idea was to show some of Warhol's films, and then present him with the award onstage. However, Warhol did not want a public presentation so Jonas Mekas filmed him at the Factory and then showed the film at the New Yorker Theatre ceremony.

This Side of Paradise
Jonas Mekas
1999 | 35 min | Colour & B/W | 16mm

"Unpredictably, as most of my life's key events have been, for a period of several years of late sixties and early seventies, I had the fortune to spend some time, mostly during the summers, with Jackie Kennedy's and her sister Lee Radziwill's families and children. Cinema was an integral, inseparable, as a matter of fact, a key part of our friendship. The time was still very close to the untimely, tragic death of John F. Kennedy. Jackie wanted to give something to her children to do, to help to ease the transition, life without a father. One of her thoughts was that a movie camera would be fun for children. Peter Beard, who was at that time tutoring John Jr. and Caroline in art history, suggested to Jackie that I was the man to introduce the children to cinema. Jackie said yes. And that's how it all began.

The images in this film, with a few exceptions, all come from the summers Caroline and John Jr. spent in Montauk, with their cousins Anthony and Tina Radziwill, in an old house Lee had rented from Andy Warhol, for a few summers. Andy himself spent many of his weekends there, in one of the cottages, as did Peter Beard, whom the children had adopted almost like their older brother or a father they missed. These were summers of happiness, joy and continuous celebrations of life and friendships. These were days of Little Fragments of Paradise." – J.M.

Happy Birthday to John
Jonas Mekas
1971-95 | 18 min | Colour | 16mm

"On October 9th, 1972, half of the music world gathered in Syracuse, N.Y., to celebrate the opening of John Lennon/Yoko Ono Fluxus show, designed by George Maciunas. Same day, a smaller group gathered in a local hotel room to celebrate John's birthday. This film is a record of that occasion. The soundtrack consists of the birthday party singing by John, Yoko, Ringo Starr, Allen Ginsberg, Phil Oaks, and many others. The film includes footage of John Lennon/Yoko Ono concert at Madison Square Garden, August 30, 1972, the Vigil in Central Park on Dec. 8th, 1980, and some other rare footage." – J.M.

Zefiro Torna
Jonas Mekas
1992 | 34 min | Colour | 16mm

"Images from the life of George Maciunas. Includes footage I took of George in 1952, at his parents' house, with his father and mother and sister Nijole. Bits of Fluxus events and performances, and picnics with friends (Almus, Andy Warhol, John Lenon, Yoko Ono, etc.); George's wedding and footage I took of him in Boston Hospital three days before he died." – J.M.
Birth of a Nation
Jonas Mekas
1997 | 80 min | Colour | 16mm

"One hundred and sixty portraits or rather appearances, sketches and glimpses of avant-garde, independent filmmakers and film activists between 1955 and 1996. Why Birth Of A Nation? Because the film independents IS a nation in itself. We are surrounded by commercial cinema Nations, the same way as the indigenous people of the United States or of any other country are surrounded by the Ruling Powers. We are the invisible, but essential nation of cinema. We are the cinema." – J.M.