As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000, Jonas Mekas)

After an opening monologue about not understanding life or people, and not really wanting to understand them, hours and hours of home movies! Mekas in voiceover assures us they are edited in “random” order, but chapter 8 starts with a shot of a campbells soup can, then we glimpse Warhol on a ferry a minute later, so it’s not as random as he’d like us to think. Not randomly selected, either… each is a scene from the previous 30-or-so years chosen for its “glimpses of beauty.” So even though it seems weird to release home movies, with details a hundred times more meaningful to Mekas and his family than to a distant viewer like myself, it’s edited for wide appeal so really very nice.


I don’t mean to represent the entire five-hour film with a screenshot of Andy Warhol, it’s just that I was watching on the TV then I moved into the kitchen for ten minutes and brought the movie with me (miracles of technology) and happened to grab this frame.

There’s also sped-up film, rapid editing and some superimpositions – not just untouched boring ol’ film footage. His voiceover isn’t concise, but he has plenty of time. “I’m not so sure what I’m doing, really.”

I like that he keeps calling us his friends.
Or maybe he thought only his friends would ever watch this.

Alternate title: Children and Cats (Sped Up)

The sound quality could use a boost. I recognized Allen Ginsberg, and titles introduce Hollis Frampton, P. Adams Sitney, Nam June Paik, Ken Jacobs and Richard Serra.

I’m guessing it was New Yorkers (more specifically, regulars at the Anthology Film Archives) who voted this a decade-best film. Seems like it’d have added significance for a New Yorker.

Recommended listening: “Springtime in New York” by Jonathan Richman

“That moment everything came back to me, in fragments.”
Some repeated title cards (like “This is a political film”) and the chapter headers give it a sense of structure.

Random dude on IMDB:
“This is the work of a man at peace with his own happiness. We should all be so lucky.”

Mekas explains himself:

My film diaries 1970-1979: my marriage, children are born, you see them growing up. Footage of daily life, fragments of happiness and beauty, trips to France, Italy, Spain, Austria. Seasons of the year as they pass through New York. Friends, home life, nature, unending search for moments of beauty and celebration of life friendships, feelings, brief moments of happiness. Nothing extraordinary, nothing special, things that we all experience as we go through our lives.

NY Times:

At almost five hours, the movie is brief only when compared with Mr. Mekas’s 78 years of life. The film is a first — the home movie as epic. With its intentionally rough-hewn cuts, it is a journal, with hand-typed titles interspersed throughout that skitter past like lightning flashes and are meant to evoke moments. It’s a fleeting storm of a film, with pockets of rhythms that suggest the ebb and flow of a naturally unfolding event — though for some, its length may call for coffee and blankets.