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JONAS MEKAS

Jonas Mekas, Venice, 2015. Photo: Awakening/Getty Images.

WHEN I ARRIVED in New York City in the early 1990s, it seemed as though the most adventurous elements of film culture had either disappeared or were on their way out. The grindhouses of Times Square were undergoing Disneyfication. The Millennium Film Workshop had grown moribund, and the Collective for Living Cinema had vanished into memory. Even the punk-ass Cinema of Transgression crowd was settling down to have kids.

Bucking all those trends was Jonas Mekas, then in his seventies, ensconced in the brick fortress of Anthology Film Archives on the corner of Second Avenue and Second Street, running the day-to-day operations of what then seemed like a fallout shelter for the avant-garde. Whereas many of the giants I read about in my creased, secondhand copy of Movie Journal (1972) had either passed away—Maya Deren, Jack Smith, Andy Warhol—or, like Stan Brakhage, sequestered themselves

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