the brig (DVD PAL interzone) 19,90 euros TTC

16mm 1964 65’
Filmed by Jonas Mekas.
Edited by Adolfas Mekas.
Produced by David C. Stone
Stage play written by Kenneth H. Brown.
Stage Production by Julian Beck and Julith Malina
with The Original Cast of The Living Theater.
Grand Prix de Saint Mark’s, 1964 Venice Film Festival
1964 / 16mm / b&w / 68min
DVD Pal Region 0
English, with English / French / Lithuanian subtitles

“The Brig” is a modern Inferno. The men who enter it abandon all hope of mercy. Here, hell is a Marine Corps prison in which humiliation and brutality are dished out according to the book, with guards and inmates performing a mad ritual of degradation... A metaphor of protest against man’s meaningless inhumanity to man, “The Brig” by Kenneth H. Brown, began as a production of the Living Theater, New York’s most important avant-garde company. When tax collectors closed its tiny second-foor auditorium in Greenwich Village, Jonas Mekas, editor of Film Culture and reporter on the New American Cinema for the Village Voice decided that the play had to be preserved on film. To do this, director Judith Malina and her actors had to break into their own theater during the night for one last performance (with no retakes) for the benefit of Mekas’ cameras... From the moment they awake, the prisoners are at rigid attention. Throughout the men are taunted and beaten by the guards, who often don’t even require a pretext for their brutality. What Brown shows so damningly is the insanity that results when a form of government permits men to have other unchecked power over other men. The guards have been turned into sadistic monsters. One is left with the sense of the sheer stupidity of the penal system, for what it accomplishes is not punishment but the destruction of the individual. - Los Angeles Times, August 1965

The Brig is a raw slice of new American cinema filmed in an off-Broadway stage with such brutish authenticity that it won a Venice festival grand prize as best documentary. Part drama, part polemic, with shock-wave sound and a nightmare air that suggests Kafka with a Kodak, the movie does exactly what it sets out to do - seizes an audience by the shirtfront and slams it around from wall to wall for one grueling day in a Marine Corps lockup. - Time Magazine, September 1964

I went to see The Brig, the play, the night it closed. The Becks were told to shut down and get out. The performance, by this time, was so precisely acted that it moved with the inevitability of life itself. As I watched it I thought: Suppose this was a real brig; suppose I was a newsreel reporter; suppose I got permission from the U.S. Marine Corps to go into one of their brigs and film the goings-on: What a document one could bring to the eyes of humanity! The way The Brig was being played now, it was a real brig, as far as I was concerned. This idea took possession of my mind and my senses so thoroughly that I walked out of the play. I didn’t want to know anything about what would happen next in the play; I wanted to see it with my camera. I had to film it. - Jonas Mekas

"Jonas a vu dix minutes du spectacle, le dernier soir. Il décide de faire le film la nuit suivante ou la nuit d'après. Avec ses cameramen - Ornitz et une femme qui en profita pour réaliser un très beau documentaire : Jonas in the Brig, montrant le réalisateur se faufilant caméra a l'épaule entre les comédiens -, il se glisse dans le théatre par la soute à charbon. Le tournage ne dure que quelques heures. Jonas n'utilisa que ses propres prises de vue. Des raccords non utilisés, également, semble-t-il, sont faits dans la semaine. Pellicule et location d'appareils ont coûté 800 dollars; c'est pourquoi le son laisse parfois a désirer; Judith aime beaucoup le film, qui rend compte du spectacle avec exactitude et intelligence; une seule chose disparaît: la presence immobile, face au spectateur, de la structure de barbelés, avec ses angles droits et son caractère inamovible.

La pièce durait une heure cinquante. Les frères Mekas, d'accord avec Judith et Julian, avec qui ils sont très liés, l'ont raccourcie. La pièce, de toute façon, devrait durer près de vingt heures, en toute honnêteté - dit Julian. Fondateurs de la revue Film-Culture (New York), coréalisateurs de deux courts métrages, Jonas et Adolfas font partie de l'« équipe» disparate - et sans liens, souvent - qui est connue en Europe sous le nom d' « Ecole de New York». Adolfas a mis en scène un long-métrage d'allure très libre, Hallelujah the Hills (1963), qui est une charmante loufoquerie en même temps qu'un hommage à différents réalisateurs et à différents genres cinématographiques, puis Guns in the Tree (sic NDLR). Le film du Brig rapporte régulierement des pourcentages appréciables, scrupuleusement versés a la compagnie."

extrait du livre LE LIVING THEATRE par PIERRE BINER, Ed. l'age d'Homme, Avril 1968