Viennale 2014 Review: OUT-TAKES FROM THE LIFE OF A HAPPY MAN Transforms Memories Into Reality
As the title suggests the glimpses one gets to see are those that Mekas did shoot but not use in his diaries from 1960 to 2000. They show his life as a younger man, his family, New York and the drifting way of living we are used to experience when we watch one of his films. They share the light-impregnated look, the attention to detail in movement and mood with earlier works of Mekas but there is more to the film.
First the poetic voice-over reflexions about memory, image and life by the trembling-soulful voice of the Lithuanian born Mekas are even more impressionistic due to the timelessnes of the images. The pattern of the volatile impressions is neither constructed via time nor space let alone plot. What keeps them together is that they are lost and unused. Nevertheless I recognized some title cards or images from earlier films which even added to the feeling of remembering through watching.
But Mekas contradicts the notion of film as memory here. He states in a voice-over sequence that the images are real for there are no memories left. This way of feeling about his films was always important to Mekas. In his The Song From Moscow the final title card reads: "I barely remember this"
A quite melancholic statement that gains due to its truth. Cinema is still the present even if you look back, even if it is just the outtakes. It is like the feedstock of Mekas lifework and he uses it brilliantly in an almost naive way. It seems that these images are reborn in front of our eyes.The very moment they are projected their evanescence vanishes and transforms into a cinematic reality.
This reality manifests itself through something that is hard to write about. It is the notion that every time one watches a film by Mekas his world, his voice, his use of music and his images feel new and fresh although one always has the feeling of déjà-vu.
It is also important to note that the film material was transferred to video as if also the material transforms the past into the present tense. Sometimes we watch Mekas at his cutting table (we should not forget what that is) and in these moments one recognizes that he also seems to see those images he shot years ago for the first time.
He states that the filmmakers is awake when all the world is asleep. Mekas composes a poetic rhythm that preserves time. It is very easy to get lost in the overwhelmingly floating way Mekas edits his images but there are also some sad shades of suicide, emptiness and loneliness.
This loneliness is both, the romanticism and the reality in Out-Takes From The Life Of A Happy Man. Again Mekas shows the films stay with us when they are floating by. Just like reel memories.