Saturday, October 22, 2011

At Anthology Film Archives

The Adolfas Mekas film, Going Home, was beautiful.  In 1971 Adolfas (who started the film program at Bard) & his filmmaker brother Jonas, accompanied by Adolfas' wife Pola Chapelle, returned to Lithuania for the first time in 27 years, and reunited with family members they had not seen since the war.  Semeniskiai, the place of their childhood, and their tiny wrinkled mother, in traditional long skirts and headscarf, look rooted in another century.  Like old home movies, the scenes of dancing & singing, the tending of an outdoors fire for a family meal, the mugging, laughing poses for the camera, evoke both the deepest joy and an ache for lost time. It is a film for and about exiles.
It made me think of my Polish parents-in-law, who also came here after the war, as did their close friend the filmmaker Stefan Sharff, who later went on to start the film program at Columbia. My father-in-law never returned to his home country, but I got the chance to go to Poland in the 80s, and met many members of his family.

There were seven people in the audience on Friday night.  Weren't there more people in the whole of the city who would come out on a fine autumn night to see such a film?  This made me resolve to become a more committed filmgoer there myself, & get a membership.  Basic membership is $60 ($90 for two people), and for that you get free admission to all the Essential Cinema repertory programs (assembled by Jonas Mekas - director of Anthology Film Archives since 1970 - & others), member-only screenings, and a $6 admission price for all other films.  If you go on December 17, you can see Jonas Mekas' Remniscences of a Journey to Lithuania, which includes footage of the two brothers' early life in America, and that same trip to Semeniskiai.  This piece shows some scenes from the visit, though I don't know if they're included in Remniscences:

The brothers worked independently during the '71 trip, and only revealed their work to each other when it was complete.  Going Home will be playing again next Wednesday, at seven.

(Pola Chapelle's album of Italian folksongs, originally released in the 60s, was re-released in 2005.  You can find out more about it and hear a sample here.)

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