Jonas Mekas and Saint Marilyn Monroe

In the February 9, 1961, issue of the Voice, Jonas Mekas mused on a major studio production and the ultimate Hollywood star


Marilyn Monroe, the Saint of Nevada Desert. When everything has been said about “THE MISFITS,” how bad the film is and all that, she still remains there, a new screen character, MM, the saint. And she haunts you, you’ll not forget her.

It is MM that is the film. A woman that has known love, has known life, has known men, has been betrayed by all three, but has retained her dream of man, and love, and life.

She meets these tough men, Gable, Clift, Wallach, in her search for love and life; and she finds love everywhere, and she cries for everyone, when everybody is so tough, when toughness is everything. It’s MM that is the only beautiful thing in the whole ugly desert, in the whole world, in this whole dump of toughness, atom bomb, death.

Everybody has given up their dreams, all the tough men of the world have become cynics, except MM. And she fights for her dream, for the beautiful, innocent, and free. It is she who fights for love in the world, when the men fight only wars and act tough. Men gave up the world. It is MM that tells the truth in this movie, who accuses, judges, reveals. And it is MM who runs into the middle of the desert and in her helplessness shouts: “You are all dead, you are all dead!” — in the most powerful image of the film — and one doesn’t know if she is saying those words to Gable and Wallach or to the whole loveless world.

Is MM playing herself or creating a part? Did Miller and Huston create a character or simply recreate MM? Maybe she is even talking her own thoughts, her own life? Doesn’t matter much. There is such a truth in her little details, in her reactions to cruelty, to false manliness, nature, life, death — everything — that is overpowering, that makes her one of the most tragic and contemporary characters of modern cinema, and another contribution to The Woman as a Modern Hero in Search of Love (see “Another Sky,” “The Lovers,” “Hiroshima, Mon Amour,” “The Savage Eye,” etc., etc.).

It’s strange how cinema, bit by bit, can piece together a character. Cinema is not only beautiful compositions or well-knit stories; cinema is not only visual patterns or play of light. Cinema also creates human characters.

We are always looking for “art,” or for good stories, drama, ideas, content in movies — as we are accustomed to in books. Why don’t we forget literature, and drama, and Aristotle! Let’s watch the face of man on the screen, the face of MM, as it changes, reacts. No drama, no ideas, but a human face in all its nakedness — something that no other art can do. Let’s watch this face, its movements, its shades; it is this face, the face of MM that is the content and story and idea of the film, that is the whole world, in fact — if you know what I mean.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.