Poet and hero of the American counter-culture, Jonas Mekas, born in Lithuania in 1922, invented the diary form of filmmaking. Walden, his first completed diary film, an epic portrait of the New York avant-garde art scene of the 60s, is also a groundbreaking work of personal cinema.
“Since 1950 I have been keeping a film diary. I have been walking around with my Bolex and reacting to the immediate reality: situations, friends, New York, seasons of the year. On some days I shoot ten frames, on others ten seconds, still on others ten minutes. Or I shoot nothing…. Walden contains material from the years 1964-1968 strung together in chronological order.” — Jonas Mekas
Two video cassettes, poster and 150-page book with unpublished texts by 60 authors including the personalities appearing in the film (Jonas Mekas, P. Adams Sitney, Tony Conrad, Beverly Grant, Bibbe Hansen, John Brockman, David Brooks, John Palmer, Harry Smith, Frank Kuentstler; Leo Adams, Algirdas Landsbergis, Gretchen Weinberg, Povilas Mekas, Elzbieta Mekas, Stan Brakhage, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Amy Taubin, Timothy Leary, Shep Sherbell, Dr. Alpert, Dr. Metzner, Baba Ram Dass, Gregory Markopoulos, Lionel Rogosin, Louis Brigante, Mike Jacobson, Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Corner, Marty Greenbaum, Andy Warhol, Jerome Hill, John Cavenaugh, Nick Dorsky, Barbet Schroeder, Jack Smith, Edie Minturn Sedgwick, Nico, The Velvet Underground, Ken Jacobs, Hans Richter, Standish D. Lawder, Adolfas Mekas, Shirley Clarke, Jud Yalkut, Peter Kubelka, Michael Snow, Richard Foreman, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Mario Montez, Jack Smith, Naomi Levine …)
Walden includes brief footage from the first public performance of The Velvet Underground playing at the “Annual Dinner of the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry” at the Delmonico Hotel, 502 Park Avenue, New York City 1966/01/13. A seven minute excerpt was shown at Fondation Cartier exposition in Jouy-en-Josas on 15 June 1990. The opening segment taped the Polish National Hall above the Dom [Polsky Dom Narodowy], 23 St. Mark’s Place, New York City, with Nico in April 1966 includes I’ll Be Your Mirror [1:49] and Untitled (jam track) [24:36].
his film being what it is, i.e. a series of personal notes on events, people (friends) and Nature (Seasons) — the Author won’t mind (he is almost encouraging it) if the Viewer will choose to watch only certain parts of the work (film), according to the time available to him, according to his preferences, or any other good reason. To assist the Viewer in this manner, particularly in cases of repeated viewings (forgive the Author this presumption), the following Contents, a list of scenes and their time tables, reel by reel, have been prepared.
A note in the beginning says, that this is the First Draft of the Diaries. Why should the Author permit then, one may ask, the unpolished or half-polished edition to come out ? His answer is, he thought that despite the roughness of sound and some parts of the images, there is still enough in them — he felt — to make them of some interest to some of his friends and a few strangers. In order to go to the next stage of polishing, he felt, he had to look at the footage as it is, many many more times, and gain more perspective to it — that’s why this edition. There is another reason. A few months ago, suddenly he saw his room filling up with smoke — he couldn’t even see the film cans — and only a very lucky coincidence stopped the fire next door which would have consumed five years of his work. So he gave himself word to bring out as soon as he can this First Draft version, and there he stands, and hopes that some of you will find some enjoyment in what you’ll see.