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Jonas Mekas’ most recent project was to film a year’s worth of short videos exclusively for the Apple iPod and release them, one per day, at his Web site. Apple was hoping that Mekas, a respected pioneer of American avant-garde cinema, would help solidify the company’s self-branded otherness. While there’s no shame in enjoying a Beat-era survivor’s attempts at reformatting his message for a new millennium, cinephiles would be remiss if they didn’t get to know the Mekas of 40 years ago: The roving film-lover who tripped with Allen Ginsberg, influenced Andy Warhol, watched Yoko Ono destroy her lover’s band, and founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, a group of influential leftist artists. Released in 1985, Mekas’ He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life was the first of three autobiographical videos that featured film from Mekas’ late-’60s, early-’70s journeys. Big stars make appearances, such as John Lennon, photographer Willard Van Dyke, and Italian director Roberto Rossellini, but so do everyday nobodies, people Mekas saw on the street. The beauty of the film is that Mekas treats all subjects with the same level of mild interest, a reminder that when the game ends, the pawn and the king go back into the same box.
HE STANDS IN A DESERT COUNTING THE SECONDS OF HIS LIFE shows JAN. 31 AT 4 P.M. IN THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART’S EAST BUILDING CONCOURSE, 401 CONSTITUTION AVE. NW. FREE. (202) 842-6799.