Lost Lost Lost. 1976. USA. Directed by Jonas Mekas. With Jonas Mekas, Adolfas Mekas, Ken Jacobs, Flo Jacobs, Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Beard, Ed Emshwiller, Robert Frank, LeRoi Jones, Tiny Tim. 16mm. 178 min.
“I was there, recording it all with my camera.” Personal and societal crossroads collide in Jonas Mekas’s narration while shaping footage from 1949 to 1963 into the diary-film opus Lost Lost Lost. At first a somber, arresting chronicle of his arrival as a political refugee, it gives way to an energetic document of the New York cultural scene Mekas all but single-handedly defined. Spanning Lithuanian street life in Williamsburg, anti-nuclear protests, Film Culture’s Lafayette Street offices, and the Living Theatre, Lost Lost Lost turns on a shift from Brooklyn to Manhattan, in the spirit of Alfred Kazin’s wonderment departing Brownsville on the elevated train in the 1930s. Melding social realism, intricately layered collage, and even trick film segments reminiscent of Georges Méliès—the result of Mekas and his brother Adolfas experimenting with their newly acquired Bolex camera—Lost Lost Lost foreshadows vital diary works to come. Mekas notes, “The sixth reel is a transitional reel where we begin to see some relaxation, where I begin to find moments of happiness. New life begins....” The film screens in a vintage print acquired from the artist following his 1976 Cineprobe appearance (the program notes of which remarked on the dominance of “diary...journal-type films and unconventional narratives” in the series), whose resplendent tones contribute to the film’s great expressive power.