The Rise of a New American Cinema, 1959 – 1971 – Jonas Mekas

1960s: Days of Rage


“Back in the day when I was an aspiring young artist, one of my bibles was a well-worn copy (gotten at the late-great independent bookstore Paperbacks Unlimited) of Movie Journal, a collection of columns by filmmaker/impresario Jonas Mekas that had originally appeared in the Village Voice from 1959 to 1971, trumpeting trumpeting the rise of something called a ‘new American cinema.’ The working-class suburb northeast of Detroit where I grew up was hardly a hotbed of avant-garde culture, and Mekas’s compendium of rants and raves introduced me to a creative world I could only imagine via the descriptions he provided. The roll call of names—Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith, Barbara Rubin, Carolee Schneeman, and dozens of others—was an elite group of underground luminaries to search out and from which to learn, not an easy task in the days before VCRs and DVDs, much less YouTube and Vimeo. ……

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