Why was I Had Nowhere to Go (2016) made? Jonas Mekas, the 95-year-old icon of American avant-garde cinema, has made many movies -- a few of them masterpieces -- about his own life. He has published poems, film criticism and diaries. Douglas Gordon's atmospheric sound-art adaptation adds little to what we know of Mekas, who has shared portions of his life with the public for six decades.
Nowhere to Go surveys 1944 to 1954. The film's subtitle is "A Portrait of a Displaced Person," but it's more of a mosaic, one that evokes the color of memories long past. Mekas reads passages from his diary, his voice soft, lilting, accented. The entries cover his leaving his small Lithuanian village, his capture and placement first in a Nazi labor camp in Elmshorn, Germany, and then in displaced persons camps in Wiesbaden and Kassel/Mattenberg, and finally his move to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. Nowhere to Go is nonlinear; without clear organizing logic, the film alternates between his time in the camps and his early experiences in New York.
Save for a few shots of Mekas, primates, potatoes and beets, and bare feet walking in the snow -- Nowhere to Go is virtually imageless. By forcing the viewer to stare at a black screen (which transitions to first red, then white and finally blue at select moments), Gordon draws attention to sound: the grain of Mekas' voice; the notes from a violin and accordion; the ambient city noise of engines, sirens and faint honking; typewriters typing and machine guns unloading a stream of bullets. Still, Nowhere to Go doesn't have the theoretical puckishness of Gordon's 24 Hour Psycho or Zidane.