“I make home movies – therefore I live. I live – therefore I make home movies.” – Jonas Mekas, narrating by singing with an accordion, in Walden: Diaries, Notes and Sketches (1969)
A crude evaluation of Jonas’ life so far reveals two recurrent obsessions: movies and the idea of home.
In Free Radicals (2010), a recent personal essay film, in which Jonas frequently appears, about the older generation of film artists, filmmaker Pip Chodorov describes the moment he first realised the beauty of making handmade films. As a child his father had made lots of home movies of family gatherings, but his dog urinated on one of them. The swirling patterns of colours created by the corrosive cracking effect of the urine on the film emulsion and the the dyes in it astonished him. Just one of many instances in history of the home movie being transformed into a conscious art form by virtue of a happy accident happening to someone with the imagination to make good use of it.
Here’s a trailer of Free Radicals, featuring the boy Pip in his dog pee infused dream-world. It also shows Jonas and friends:
But for Jonas, the compulsion to make any kind of film would not come until later in life. A series of accidents of history would first have to occur to him to make that possible, propelling him towards New York and a new – and at the time unwanted – life. He must first be torn away from the place he once called his home…
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