Jonas Mekas – Guns of the trees

Jonas Mekas – Guns of the trees (1962) 35mm b/w 87min.

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Grand prize / Grand prix (Najade d’oro), Mostra Internazionale del Cinema Libero di Porretta Terme, 1962.
Cast / Avec : Ben Carruthers, Argus Speare Juilliard, Frances Stillman, Adolfas Mekas, Frank Kuenstler, Sudie Bond, Leonard Hicks, Louis Brigante, Barbara Tucker, Joel Walker, Sterling Jensen, Tina Stoumen, Marjorie Walker, George Maciunas, Marvin Karpatkin, Melvin Clay, Adam Barron, Anna Flanagan.

Assisted by / Assistants : Adolfas Mekas, Sheldon Rochlin, Charles Silver, Harrison Starr, Daniel Drasin.
Poetry interludes written and spoken by / Interludes poétiques : Allen Ginsberg.
Music by / musique de : Lucia Dlugoszewski.
Folk-songs by / Chants traditionnels par : Sara Wiley, Caither Wiley, Tom Sankey.

“Four young people are trying to understand why their friend, a young woman, committed suicide. A film made up of disconnected scenes weaving between past and present. The title of the film comes from a poem by Stuart Perkoff which tells that some young people felt (around 1960) that everything is against them, so much that even the trees in the parks and streets seemed to them like guns pointing at their very existence.” Jonas Mekas in Film Culture n°24, 1970.

Guns of the Trees deals with the thoughts, feelings, and anguished strivings of my generation, faced with the moral perplexity of our times. Conceived as an episodic, horizontal film, there is no apparent direct story connection between one scene and the next. The scenes act like pieces of a larger, timed, emotional mosaic. Where the direct word, or the direct image, fails — when we come to more essential things — the indirectness of the poet will seize the essence and the truth. – J. M.

It is a bitter but lyric work. It is also revolutionary in form, being unlike, in its technique, anything you ever saw. It is a poster, a declaration, a manifesto. I regard Guns of The Trees as the most important film by far of the American “New Wave.” – Herman G. Weinberg


Guns of the Trees exprime les pensées, les sentiments, les efforts angoissés de ma génération, face à la perplexité morale de notre époque. Conçu comme un film épisodique, horizontal, il n’y a aucun lien apparent entre une scène et la suivante. Les scènes agissent comme des morceaux d’une plus grande mosaïque émotionnelle. Là où le mot direct, ou l’image directe, échoue – quand on arrive à des choses plus essentielles – la façon indirecte du poète en saisira l’essence et la vérité.
J. M.

C’est une œuvre amère mais lyrique. C’est révolutionnaire par la forme, en étant différent par la technique de tout ce que vous avez vu jusqu’alors. C’est un poster, une déclaration, un manifeste. Je tiens Guns of the Trees pour le film le plus important et de loin de la « Nouvelle vague » américaine. Herman G. Weinberg

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