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He Stands in the Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life (1986)

A film collage tracing the story of the lives, loves, and deaths within the artistic community surrounding Jonas Mekas.


Jonas Mekas
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Credited cast:
Kenneth Anger ... Himself (archive footage)
Robert Breer Robert Breer ... Himself (archive footage)
Alberto Cavalcanti Alberto Cavalcanti ... Himself (archive footage)
Richard Foreman Richard Foreman ... Himself (archive footage)
Hollis Frampton Hollis Frampton ... Himself (archive footage)
Allen Ginsberg ... Himself (archive footage)
Marcel Hanoun Marcel Hanoun ... Himself (archive footage)
Jacqueline Kennedy ... Herself (archive footage)
John F. Kennedy ... Himself (archive footage)
Peter Kubelka Peter Kubelka ... Himself (archive footage)
Henri Langlois ... Himself (archive footage)
John Lennon ... Himself (archive footage)
George Maciunas George Maciunas ... Himself (archive footage)
Yoko Ono ... Herself (archive footage)
Hans Richter ... Himself (archive footage)


A film collage tracing the story of the lives, loves, and deaths within the artistic community surrounding Jonas Mekas.

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February 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Er steht in einer Wüste und zählt die Sekunden seines Lebens See more »

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User Reviews

He Surfs the Internet Counting the Crappy YouTube Videos
8 May 2010 | by ruedesursulinesSee all my reviews

Jonas Mekas, by some considered the "godfather of American avant-garde cinema", with this effort proves himself moreso the godfather of countless crappy YouTube videos. The film is a collage of various home movie clips shot by Mekas circa the 1970's to 1980's, jumbled together randomly. Faces, feet, bits of bodies, a chicken, a duck, wide lapels and plenty of lawn parties, all captured in a wandering, choppy hand-held fashion. Most sequences are presented in fast motion time-lapse because if they were shown at normal speed they would crawl by at such a sluggish pace that the sheer monotony would drive the viewer comatose.

The whole thing reminded me of very early John Waters stuff like "Mondo Trasho" only without the knowing camp aesthetic. Instead, we get the impression of a filmmaker so pretentiously self-important as to believe that total strangers might have an interest in seeing two hours of outtakes of his technically poor, aesthetically vacuous, flotsam of random home movie rubbish. Like "Mondo Trasho", this film contains very little dialogue, the soundtrack mostly consisting of forgotten ditties from the early to mid-20th century that seem to be selected primarily because they weren't under copyright and thusly wouldn't cost anything to use. They certainly weren't selected because people might enjoy hearing them.

There is only one minor saving grace to all this, namely the fact that Mekas was lucky enough to rub shoulders with some other folks who are truly innovative noteworthy artists, people like Hans Richter, Roberto Rossellini, Allen Ginsberg, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Andy Warhol. However, the brief bits of footage that we get of these persons, totaling maybe 1% of the film's total runtime, cannot even remotely make up for the two hours lost in each of our lives.

Oh sure, there will be indignant people who won't like this review, believing that I'm "missing the point", that perhaps the film is a grand meditation on the transitory elusiveness of life and the passage of time or some such twaddle, that my comments are too critical, etc. What I have to say to them is: watch this film several times, it's the punishment you deserve.

In short, if your idea of fun is wading through two hours of random garbage video just to get to a few very brief unimportant snippets of archival footage of Fluxus artists or John Lennon eating an ice cream cone, then this is the film for you!

2/10 (the few brief archival bits were the only thing that saved this from a 1/10)

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