Sleepless Night Stories


Jonas Mekas, 88-year-old Lithuanian-American poet, filmmaker, co-founder of Anthology Film Archives, and all-around proselytizer for the avant-garde, has spent the last half century or so with a motion picture recording device of some sort running at his side—who could better relate to Christopher Isherwood’s I Am a Camera? What Mekas sees (and narrates) is periodically fashioned into a movie, Sleepless Night Stories being the latest. Ostensibly fragments captured on or spun off from insomniac night-time perambulations (“I am not going to sleep until I hear something beautiful!” reads one of the typewritten intertitles), most of the film seems to be its director visiting with and toasting to various notables from his circle, including Harmony Korine (smug), Louis Garrel, and Antonin Artaud (in a gallery exhibit). At times Mekas’s loyalty to his friends can be touching, as in his on-camera eulogy to filmmaker Marie Menken, which opens into a sloppy jam session and the camera rushing for the window. (“Luxembourg!” cries Mekas, and sure enough there it is.) More often, Mekas’s focus on “names” comes off as a cloistered insensitivity to the wider world: Rehearsing a horseback Carolee Schneemann performance piece at a gallery in Reykjavik, a model faceplants to the floor as Schneemann looks on—yet the intertitle describes this as “what happened to Carolee.”