Coinciding with the turn of the century, Jonas Mekas, already in the twilight of his life, undertook an emotional review of his personal world that Xcèntric now recovers on the occasion of the centenary of his birth. From the audiovisual diary in which all his work is set, in As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty the Lithuanian filmmaker captures 30 years of his life in the form of flashes of existence, moments of the beauty of everyday life.
“I am not really a filmmaker”, says Mekas at the start of chapter six of the film. “I do not make films. I just film. I am obsessed with filming. […] . I go through this life with my Bolex and I have to film what I see, what is happening right there.” Filming as something inseparable from living—as a way of staying alive: this is how Mekas came to his artistic task. When he edited a film, he aspired not so much to bring the memory of that moment to the present, but to create the illusion that everything was there again, that everything was happening again before his eyes.
As I Was Moving Ahead… is, in this sense, perhaps his most emblematic work. Even though it is an audiovisual diary, it is not an overall representation or a self-portrait, but a collection of fragments of life assembled at random and filtered through the effervescent enthusiasm of one who saw the camera as an appendage of himself. In his capture of edgy, shaky and often overexposed images, Mekas’s presence is palpable in every frame he presents of his loved ones. The film is an invitation to dive into the ocean of timeless fragments that Mekas presents from a calm place, free of nostalgia. “I know nothing about life. But I have seen some beauty”, says the filmmaker at the end of the film, infecting us with his way of celebrating the happiness that life can offer.
As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty, Jonas Mekas, 2000, 16mm, 288 min.
OV with Spanish subtitles. Print from Canyon Cinema.