Thursday, 27 May 2010


Jonas Mekas is one of the most prolific artists working with film, and even to this day he keeps himself occupied with projects at the grand old age of eighty-seven. His four-hour magnum opus As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses Of Beauty narrates the past thirty years of his life through a careful compilation of family footage, accompanied by commentary, music and audio clips. Through Mekas’ meticulous editing, positioning disparate events side by side, precious memories lose their preciousness and become performances of ‘real life’ – a family excursion is no longer a fun day out, rather a beautiful silent play of light and colour.

Mekas, a man haunted by the spectre of memory, achieves the rare feat of putting himself on camera without needing to be in front of it. His juxtaposition of images is never gratuitous or sentimental, even as flowers superimpose images of children, and although names of relatives and friends are mentioned, the priority is never to learn exactly what role these people play in his life, rather to learn what sort of people they are or were. Any budding artist working in 8mm and 16mm would do well to watch Mekas’ work to learn how to make true meaning of home video footage. In spite of, or perhaps thanks to its extensive length, As I Was Moving Ahead is a wholly immersive experience – while these may not be memories from our own lives, they will be by the end of the film.

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