This is too distanced to connect to me. Primarily, the problem is that for Mekas the images are intimate and familiar, emotionally charged, had to be since he is revisiting childhood here. But this is conveyed in a casual, almost indifferent way, a New York artist's way which is what Mekas was at this point. It's an unappealing effect to see.
Mekas returns after so long, sees his old mother and old school friends, things have changed, others have stayed the same, but we experience this in the same desultory way, from a filmic distance. He follows his old mother around trying to capture, from his end, an ordinary day: the sitting and walking, the work. There is no touch, no warm embrace.
Imagine. We only see him once in the film before the camera, and that is a cold image where he simply feeds logs to a fire where his mother cooks pancakes. What I mean to say is that we don't get the deep experience of the return, we get a diaristic snapshot of Lithuanian life. We don't see the returning son here so much as the formal filmmaker. It's cold, utterly cold.
Mekas had a famous falling out with Cassavetes in the early days, apparently for reasons of narrative form in the latter's Shadows. I can only imagine the warmth and ragged truth of the film Cassavetes, a Greek, would have made about his return.
This awkwardness is interestingly reflected in the film here. Mekas is returning with his camera, looking to capture a slice of remembered life and contrasts. All through the film, what happens is that the people in spite of his efforts continuously arrange themselves to be filmed: they sing around the camera, his cousin's family poses for a photo. It's interesting because the very presence of the artificial eye creates artifice, disrupts the living flow.
Cool tidbit: we see at one point Wittgenstein's house in Vienna, designed by him. An ugly, square thing, fittingly for a logician. Austrians are thinkers, taxonomists in the big dance of things. And Mekas, if nothing else, wants to film outside the box. The film ends with Vienna in flames, a fruit market burning, because, Mekas muses, the city doesn't want it, it wants to clear room for something modern. That was cool.
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