Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema, 19591971, by Jonas Mekas.
I BEGAN READING Jonas Mekas's Movie Journal column in the Village Voice in 1961, three years after it first appeared and roughly around the time I saw his first feature film, Guns of the Trees (1961), at the eclectic New York film showcase Cinema 16.
At the time, I had no more sympathy for Marienbad than Mekas did, but something in the way he wrote about the film (that "horror film on persuasion" insight) and about hundreds of others--commercial movies, art films, and especially the emerging underground-film movement--made me a regular reader of Movie Journal and an increasingly avid consumer of the work Mekas championed.
Although his books of poetry and prose number more than twenty, Movie Journal, as a collection of weekly journalism, is unique among them.
(Excerpts from his "True Diaries" are included in the Movie Journal collection, as a tease and also as a clarification that the Movie Journal columns are not quite diaristic; they are better described as personal reportage.) He had also been shooting 16-mm documentary-style footage of the immigrant Lithuanian community, and that soon led to the film diaries he continues to shoot today (now in video).
Whenever people ask me what it was like to live in New York in the '60s, 1 refer them to Mekas's Waiden and, as a corollary, to Movie Journal. At the time, it made visible a community of filmmakers and artists who were in love with moving images, attracting to that cohort young people who never would have picked up a camera had they not read about Jack Smith, Shirley Clarke, Harry Smith, Warhol, and dozens of others in Movie Journal.
If Movie Journal was both prophetic and of the moment in the '60s, it is no less so today.