Since my departure from planet earth, I have appointed George Binkey to keep this site filled with news of my legacy and of the people all over the world – amici cari and colleagues and x-film students - who share in this legacy.
My departure was May 31st, 2011. It was quick and quiet. I wonder as I write this if that was the way I came onto this Planet – quickly and quietly. I regret not being able to speak with my Katyta to thank her for the gloriously beautiful life we had together, but I had no control over my leaving. My angels came and whisked me away. Too fast, too completely.
So too, had I wanted to speak with my son Sean to tell him of my profound belief in him as a visual artist. Visual expression is Sean’s path to fulfillment.
The tributes given me thus far were appreciated –
at MOMA in New York and at Anthology Film Archives in New York and at Experimenta - the Festival of the Moving Image - in Bangalore, India, and at the Kerala Film Festival in Kerala, India. Pola presented my films, traveled with them, giving quite a few interviews. She told no lies. She was superb, even if the projection in all locations was lacking, with the exception of MOMA.
Here are two excerpts from critiques of the Anthology Film Archives retrospective.
Daniel Guzman in CINESPECT – “Time passes for us all. In the end, what we leave behind serves to both define us and inspire those who follow. With this retrospective, the creativity of Adolfas Mekas is brought to the forefront, calling attention to the joy that stirs anyone to pick up a camera, gather together a group of performers, and create a story. If Adolfas’ life is any example, the passion for creativity can be a wondrous and lifelong reward, something worth celebrating with anyone who has ever found delight in a darkened theatre.”
R.B of THE NEW YORKER about Hallelujah the Hills - “In this antic, freewheeling comedy from 1962, the director tells a story of love, loss and lunacy as filtered through movie madness – his characters’ and his own….”
Two additional tributes to Adolfas took
place in 2012.
During the Bard College commencement weekend, on May 26th, 2012, there was a
large gathering for Adolfas at the Film Center - friends, film grads and
colleagues. President Leon Botstein greeted those attending as they were
finishing a luscious late breakfast buffet in the foyer. He was in great
form, remembering Adolfas and his life and work at Bard with humor and a
touch of nostalgia for the uniqueness of the Professor who demonstrated to
his students the value and strength of the individual spirit.
Leon got laughs from the crowd, the longest when he described Adolfas'
funeral at the Bard Cemetery. Adolfas had insisted always that he wanted to
be buried in a plain pine box, and so he was, no decoration except a 35mm
film reel attached to the top of the casket by son Sean. When the casket was
lowered into the ground, it is usual to throw dirt and flowers after it. As
Leon recounted, in Adolfas' case the casket was overwhelmed by fresh lemons
from a basket of same provided by John Kisch….a tribute to Adolfas' homemade
Limoncello that students who came to visit will remember.
After the brindisi, guests went into the theatre, where those in attendance
could speak if they wanted. Many did. Among them - Jake Grossberg, Robert
Kelly, Ray Benkocsy, P. Adams Sitney, Peter Hutton, John Pruitt, Mark
Steiner, David Avallone , and Giuseppe Zevola, who came from Naples to
recite the poetry of the heretic Giordano Bruno. After the speeches and
poetry and a song by Mark Steiner, the short film which David Avallone
titled "Adolfas in the Movies" - a compilation of appearances over the years
of Adolfas in Bard senior project films and other student films - was
screened. A standout.
All in all, a very satisfying and gratifying tribute to Adolfas.
Our thanks to Jane Brien, Director of Alumni/ae Affairs
After the tribute at the Film Center, Pola, friends and film grads visited
the gravesite, and then went across the road to "TWO BOOTS." Hosted by Phil
Hartman, they were invited to a late lunch.
And so the day ended with Adolfas' fave pizza!
"Pola regrets that
as yet, the gravestone (a boulder picked out by B&G) has not been engraved…..but
we are working on it."
November 27th 2012 was the Opening nite
of a nationwide tribute to Adolfas Mekas by the cultural community of
Lithuania and the municipality of Vilnius. It was a beautiful, even stunning
exhibit, with photos of Adolfas on all walls, representations from the hours
and days of his life. Across the farthest wall and visible immediately as
you entered the large gallery was a huge photo of Adolfas from 1948, typical,
in a ruffled two-piece suit and beret walking towards the viewer on a bare
country road just outside the Displaced Persons camp of Weisbaden in Germany.
Self-contained, determined Adolfas, seemingly happy. The photo covers the
entire wall, probably 10 meters by 2 or 3. Extraordinary.
Adolfas in his Sunday Best walking outside the
Weisbaden Displaced Persons Camp, Germany 1948.
Alongside the gallery there is a screening room. During the reception that
evening the screening of films continued - Adolfas' films, short and long,
and features and shorts by Bard Film Grads - Anne Meredith, Ashim Ahluvalia,
Elliot Caplan, GJ Echternkamp, Erica Beeney, Jan Peterson, Jeff Scher, Chris
Hume, Ozan Adam and many others who generously gave their films for
projection during the tribute. So many, in fact that the organizers have
determined that in order that all films be appreciated, the showing of films
will be distributed among the three festival cities - Vilnius, Kaunas and
In the gallery room surrounded by the photos are glass cases, with texts
from Adolfas' diaries and other writings, sayings and sketches by him. One,
I remember: "WHAT'S A LONG LIFE WITHOUT A FIRE BURNING WITHIN." My god, and
goddess, didn't he have a fire burning within!
On another wall there are 5 large monitors, on which is projected,
continuously, Adolfas giving various lectures from his famous course at Bard
College - Cinemagic. Benches are provided and earphones invite you to sit
and listen in. Many did.
It was spectacular. On opening nite, after regaining my composure, (I broke
down in front of the visitors and organizers and US embassy reps when the
Mayor of Vilnius, dear Arturas Zuokas, handed me flowers in a somewhat
formal ceremony). I spoke a few words thru tears, and our caro Giordano
Bruno, Giuseppe Zevola, jumped in to save me. He was brilliant with his
recitation of Bruno.
I did a few hours of interviews for radio and tv and Sean too was followed
by the local paparazzi, etc. Some Lithuanian relatives showed up - luckily
most of the younger ones speak english. Other old friends and new friends
from municipal and national government greeted us. Sebastian, Jonas' son,
was there, and we were able to hang out together for the first time in a
long time. Beer is very big on the Lithuanian menu! And my nephew Sebastian
knows very well the best founts of Birzai beer.
Earlier in the day at the Academy of the Arts in Vilnius, John Pruitt gave
his first lecture on Adolfas, and his lifetime contribution as man and
artist. He was well-received by students and faculty.
In February the whole tribute/exhibit moves to Kaunas and in March to
Klaipeda on the Baltic, two other important Lithuanian cities. It's been
hectic, but gratifying and worth every bit of the time I spent gathering
material for the organizers, Kris Kucinskas, Arturas Jevdokimovas and
Adolfas has to be smiling and wishing he had some of that Birzai beer to
share with Bard Film grads! I'm no beer connoisseur, but I'm certain Birzai
beer is better than Jenny.
One other thing, a postscript - John Pruitt, Sean and I went back to the
Gallery to take some shots of fotos hanging, probably supplied by Jonas,
that I did not have and had never seen. While we were there, a man sat in
front of the monitors that showed the Cinemagic lectures. He moved from one
to another and so on. At closing time as we were all leaving, the man
introduced himself as Navascas, Professor of Sculpture at the Academy of the
Arts, in Vilnius.
"I never expected this," he said. He (Adolfas) is speaking not just about
film. It is universal. I will have my students come to see and hear this
Mekas. Brilliant. It is brilliant."
This account was emailed to George by Pola Chapelle, The Widow Mekas
Hallelujah the Hills played the Film Forum, on January 24th Thursday - 3
screenings during the day and evening - It was included in the 2 weeks of
screenings of New American Cinema features of the 60's. For the last
screening of Hallelujah the Hills at 7:25pm - Peggy Steffans and Marty
Greenbaum (the summer Vera and Leo) spoke with the audience about the
filming of the film and about working with Adolfas. The theatre was packed.
A good time was had by all.
Brief excerpts from reviews:
"You don't get a more blatant example of cross-cultural foreign exchange
than Hallelujah the Hills - Adolfas Mekas' 1963 answer to Franco anarchy
that combines silent-comedy slapstick, bizarre love triangles, a dance-off
on a cliff and a clip from Griffith's Way Down East into one nutso absurdist
tangent. The influence of late Godard shows up in many of the
leftist-radicalist run-and-gun productions here..… Only Mekas' comedy
however, captures the early free-form spirit of the New Waver and namechecks
Breathless to boot."
"The L Magazine"
"In this antic, freewheeling comedy from 1962, the director Adolfas Mekas
tells a story of love, loss and lunacy as filtered through movie madness -
his characters' and his own……"
"The New Yorker "