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Far from the factory of Hollywood, American film culture would never have made it this far without its greatest advocate. Jonas Mekas was the most important cinephile in film history. His legacy contained multitudes: wartime refugee, New York movie buff, daring exhibitor, revolutionary critic, boundary-pushing filmmaker, poet, musician, wine connoisseur, the center of every party. Until his death at the age of 96 this week, the Lithuanian-born immigrant remained a resilient embodiment of the essential link between creating, and advocating for creativity, in all facets of life.
At the closing-night party for the New York Film Festival in September, Mekas stuck around until 1 a.m., hanging with the likes of Julian Schnabel, Louis Garrel, and Ed Lachman. Mekas acolytes were everywhere, across multiple generations of film history, and they delighted at the opportunity to spend time by his side.
Wine - Mekas - Hours - Greenpoint - Apartment
I once drank wine with Mekas for two hours in his Greenpoint apartment while he shared insights into the changing nature of film culture and his continuing ability to create new work as the years wore on. At the time, he was in his late eighties, had recently finished a new diary film, and launched a website where he was posting daily videos. He had recently spent time with Martin Scorsese on the set of “The Departed,” and had plans for many new books, exhibitions, and international tours with his work. Much of that came to fruition over the next decade. Before he uprooted himself to live deeper in the borough, he often hung out late into the night at hipster enclave Pete’s Candystore, drinking and sharing stories with innumerable colleagues. “People think I died in the ’70s,” he told me. “They forget that life continues.”
Mekas’ epic biography speaks volumes about how he spread his influence. With his brother Adolphas, Mekas fled Nazi...
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