Director Jonas Mekas provides an intimate glimpse of his personal life by constructing a feature length narrative from over 30 years of private home movie footage, a song of beauty and a testament to the possibility of Paradise. Appropriately, Mekas concludes the film in song, accompanied by his tireless accordion:
I do not know where I am, and going to, where I am coming from. I have seen some beauty. Glimpses of beauty and happiness. Yes, la beauté. And it is still beautiful in my memory. And it is real, as real as this film.
“As I Was Moving Ahead... is a record of subtle feelings, emotions, daily joys of people as recorded in the voices, faces and small everyday activities of people I have met, or lived with, or observed – something that I have been recording for many years. This, as opposed to the spectacular, entertaining, sensational, dramatic activities which dominate much of the contemporary film-making.
Now, all this has to do with my understanding and belief of what acts really affect the positive changes in man, society, humanity. I am interested in recording the subtle, almost invisible acts, experiences, feelings, as opposed to the tough, harsh, loud, violent activities and political actions, and especially, political systems of our time. As a film-maker, I am taking a stand for the politics that have been practiced by some of the artists of my generation who believe that more essential, positive contributions to the upholding and furthering of the best in humanity, have been made, say, by John Cage or Albert Camus, and not by the great political figures of the 20th century.
The film is not conceived as a documentary film, however. It follows a tradition established by modern film poets. I am interested in intensifying the fleeting moments of reality by a personal way of filming and structuring my material. A lot of importance is being given to color, movement, rhythm and structure – all very essential to the subject matter I am pursuing. I have spent many years developing and perfecting a way of catching the immediacy without interfering with it, without destroying it. I believe that some of the content that I am trying to record with my camera and share with others, can be caught only very indirectly though the intensity of personal involvement.”
Jonas Mekas about As I Was Moving Ahead on jonasmekas.com
“Again, the dance of past and present takes place, although its arrangement is significantly changed. Where in Lost Lost Lost, “sometimes he didn’t know where he was,” the Mekas of As I Was Moving Ahead… is firmly planted in the present, though he views himself in the past with a barely articulate sadness: “This is me there, here, and it’s not me anymore because I am the one who is looking at it now, at myself, at my life, at my friends, the last quarter of the century.”
In the midst of his rapture of remembering, Mekas remains carefully attuned to his viewer. He keeps a running commentary on the images that float by, reminding us constantly of the viewing experience. It is a kind of diary, less about the film’s subjects and more about filmmaking itself. Mekas speaks to his viewer almost plaintively, as if wishing to reveal all: “You expect to find out more about the protagonist, who is me. All I want to tell you, it’s all here. I am in every image in this film. I am in every frame in this film.”
“Jonas has realized that, whatever paradise there is, it should be here and now. Loving care is a key to it. Like Arlecchino, the never-resting lover, he moves and moves on and moves in.”
“Een gevoeligheid voor alledaagse poëzie is de drijvende kracht van Mekas’ hele oeuvre. In zijn monumentale werk As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000) verzamelt hij korte fragmenten van “schoonheid” die hij over een periode van dertig jaar vastlegde op 16mm. De eerste sneeuwval in New York City, Mekas’ vrienden wier gezichten rood aanlopen na een avond wijn drinken bij kaarslicht, taferelen van uitbundige natuurlijke splendeur in Central Park, een zonsopgang boven de stad door een stoffig treinraam. Deze momenten, die velen doen opkijken maar weinigen echt opvallen, krijgen Mekas’ volste aandacht. Zijn camera geeft hem de kans om zich te verliezen in de momenten zoals dat zonder filmlens nooit zou kunnen. De vijf uur lange stroom aan beelden ontroert niet enkel omwille van Mekas’ precieze montage of visuele kracht. De kijker bespeurt de overweldigende ontroering die Mekas overviel en die hem naar zijn camera deed grijpen. As I Was Moving Ahead ontleent zijn kracht aan de devotie die Mekas toont voor wat hij filmt en aan de manier waarop hij de toeschouwers meeneemt in deze toewijding.”