No. 18: Mahagonny
Director: Harry Smith Run Time: 141 min. Release Year: 1980
Starring: Allen Ginsberg, Jonas Mekas, Lotte Lenya, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe
Harry Smith’s final film; an epic four-screen projection. Smith worked on this cinematic transformation of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1929) for over ten years and considered it his magnum opus. The film was shot from 1970 to 1972 and edited for the next eight years. The “program” of the film is meticulous, with a complex structure and order. The Weill opera is transformed into a numerological and symbolic system. Images in the film are divided into categories— portraits, animation, symbols and nature— to form the palindrome P.A.S.A.N.A.S.A.P. The film contains invaluable cameos of important avant-garde figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, and Jonas Mekas, intercut with installation pieces from Robert Mapplethorpe’s studio, New York City landmarks of the era, and Smith’s visionary animation.