Saturday, December 2, 2017

"A Dance with Fred Astaire" by Jonas Mekas (Anthology Editions)

ISBN: 978-1-94460-09-7 Anthology Editions LLC

Once in a while, a presence comes upon the landscape and shows an incredible amount of character and interest.   Jonas Mekas is clearly in that bracket of a human being.  Filmmaker, head honcho of the Film Anthology in New York City, as well as the Filmmaker's co-op, and writer.  There are many great writers who write about film, but Mekas is the best, because he clearly shows his love for the medium, and by his writing, he expresses that enjoyment of seeing the projected light on a screen.   There have been a few great books by Mekas on film and his life, but "A Dance With Fred Astaire" may be my favorite of his books.  

For one, it's a perfect entrance way to his world for someone who is not familiar with New York / European / World filmmakers, because if nothing else (besides his talent as a filmmaker/writer) Mekas connects to his world like no other individual.  He knows or knew everyone from Andy Warhol to Fritz Lang to Jacqueline Kennedy.   He is the other side of the coin of Warhol, in that in his own fashion he also attracted talent by just standing there.  Of course, that is not true.  He was the publisher and editor/writer for the greatest film publication ever, "Film Culture."  And his weekly column for the Village Voice was the most passionate and smart writing on artist's films and their world.  Like Warhol and his Factory, artists were drawn to Mekas, either by his passion or personality, but it was truly a wonderful culture that produced many flowers that bloomed into films, art, writing and so forth.  

There are so many amazing chance meetings that are listed in "A Dance With Fred Astaire."  For one, Fred Astaire himself who was invited by Yoko Ono to participate in her film by dancing in it, with Mekas following his steps best as possible.  So yeah as a reader, you are trying to put all of this in one's head:  Yoko, Jonas, and yeah, of course, Fred Astaire, with John Lennon.  Or the time he visited Jacqueline Kennedy and she casually told Mekas that Kennedy received an 8mm camera which he kept in his coat pocket the last few years of his life.   She went to the closet, found John's coat, got the camera out and showed it to Mekas.  At the time there is still film inside the camera.  One wonders what is on that film???   And where is that film and camera now?   There is also the incredible connection between Tony Conrad, Henry Flynt, and the UNABOMBER!   

"A Dance with Fred Astaire" is full of illustrations and the book is beautifully designed by Nicholas Law with art direction by Bryan Cipolla.  Creative Director is Johan Kugelberg, who has done numerous great books on cult faves.  Remarkable. 

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