I Had Nowhere to Go Screen 9 articles

I Had Nowhere to Go

2016

I Had Nowhere to Go Poster
  • There are enough images—of light, color, Mekas himself, fruit and vegetables, and assorted synecdochal objects—that it must be treated as a cinematic work, even though it does not behave like one in address or temporal structure. Having said all this, I find that Gordon’s use of Mekas’s echoing, portent-filled voiceover and the use of sound effects (bombs, in particular) show a real tin ear for what makes Mekas such an interesting subject.

  • In the 98 minutes of “I Had Nowhere to Go: Portrait of a Displaced Person,” there are about 10 minutes of visuals. The rest of the experience takes place on a black screen as accompanying audio tracks doing the legwork. It’s a bold gamble by director and veteran artist Douglas Gordon that doesn’t always pay off, but a big part of the experience stems from the ever-engaging storytelling at its center.

  • Mekas designates himself as a filmer and not a filmmaker, simply taking images and placing them as he wishes; Gordon is also not a filmmaker, but his impulse is more determined, yielding a partially strained yet vital companion to the understanding of one of cinema history’s greatest figures—and certainly its greatest midwife.

  • On the one hand, the film is palpably a collaboration between two moving image artists who possess a primary fascination with detourning temporalities; on the other, there is friction and resistance, not so much between the artists as with/against the idea of cinema itself.

  • Jonas Mekas has made memory and the search for home the basis of all his work, filling this absence with images of happiness, searching, and the enjoyment of life. How then can one shoot that gap that set the stage for decades of film work? ...I Had Nowhere to Go starts with a radical decision: such a thing is impossible, and the only possible counter-shot of the life in images that Mekas himself has built is to be found in the black—the vacuum counter-shot, the absence and the voice.

  • Mekas’s wit and tenacity emerge deliciously in a hypnotic, tender piece, all the more powerfully so the more laconic he is. One diary entry, in those stately, wheezy tones: “Got fired. Ha—ha—ha!” If that’s not an inspiring declaration of defiance for today’s hard times, nothing is.

  • Leaving the viewer with seemingly no place to go (the film demands to be listened to) may seem like a provocation, a form of protest against the 21st century’s proliferation of images and cursed conditions of perpetual migration and exile, but it’s just as well a sensible move for a film about a filmmaker who, camera in hand, shot his way out of oblivion to become the avatar of the American avant-garde.

  • It's akin to the experience of pulling a sleeping mask over ones eyes on a long-haul flight or train ride. The enforced blackness plunges the viewer into a dream-state and even a nightmare at times, both actually lived by one of the most resilient and enigmatic poets and filmmakers of the last fifty years... While it's definitely a biography, it's a hypnotic work of visual poetry as well—a portrait that could only be effected through the film medium.

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    Sight & Sound: Jordan Cronk
    November 04, 2016 | Toronto | December 2016 Issue (p. 55)

    The film's few visual flourishes are punctuated by a dynamic soundtrack ranging from ambience to explosions. It summons in the mind's eye a vivid image of wartime struggle and exile (Mekas fled Lithuania for New York City during World War II) that words can only approximate.

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