(Jose-Luis Guerin/ Jonas Mekas; Spain; 2011)
Akin to a series of letter exchanges, the correspondence between Jose-Luis Guerin and Jonas Mekas harkens to a nostalgic form of conversation, an antidote to the rapidity and ease of exchange afforded by social media nowadays. Digital technology allows these filmmakers greater immediacy to respond to their environment, thus allowing the exchange of filmed moments and reflections to occur more readily – yet paradoxically there is almost something a little blissfully archaic about these two men deciding to communicate via filmed fragments of their everyday worlds.
The contrast between Guerin’s still and stately reflections and Mekas’ happily chaotic visual-tumble seems to mark them as cinematic chalk-and-cheese. But their obsession is shared – the obsession to film their environment on a regular basis. Why? Mekas tries to answer this in lucid moment of unusual stillness, assessing his love of ‘taping’ the world as something he just needs to do, without knowing why. Whether we see Guerin’s crisp black-and-white framings, or Mekas’ manic and shaky whirligig-world, in both instances what emanates is a desire to ensnare a moment.
The film reminded me of the letter exchanges in Adrian Martin/ Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Movie Mutations, not just in the sense of an exchange occurring but in a joyful sense of camaraderie. Guerin clearly respects Mekas immensely, and the feeling appears to be mutual. But this is no backslapping club –this is simply a humble sharing of thoughts and reflections from two men who are driven to capturing brief moments of fleeting time.
One cannot help but wonder if the filmmakers may have become influenced by the other during their exchange. It’s possible to assess Mekas’ moments of stillness as mimicking Guerin, and Guerin’s shot of his own shadow on the footpath as he walks as being infused with Mekas. For some inexplicable reason, the almost-final scene by Guerin, of two ants trying to haul a large twig up the side of a tombstone in Ozu’s cemetery, feels as if both filmmakers could have been present when the shot was taken. Guerin may be shooting this, but Mekas is there, watching with him, pointing out where they are and telling him to just keep taping the ants to see what might happen.