Peter Sempel, known for Dandy and Just Visiting This Planet (shown at the 13th and 15th Mostra Film Festival respectively), has chosen underground director, poet, and intellectual Jonas Mekas for subject of his most recent documentary Jonas in the Desert.
In fact, Mekas had already taken part in Just Visiting This Planet singing a gipsy aria. Like Sempel’s former work, Jonas in the Desert is not a documentary in the strictest sense of the word. Rather, it is a journey through the world of the artist – one of the exponents of independent U.S. movies; founder and director of the New York Anthology Film Archive – and captures his ideas, his creativity, and art.
In this way, he shows much of Mekas’ personality and of his creative universe. Sempel brings together image and music, phrases and conversation, statements by many of the cultural icons such as Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, Kenneth Anger, Allen Ginsberg, Yoko Ono, Al Pacino, Martin Scorcese, among others, and passages from Mekas’ films. Sempel’s style echoes throughout the work of the artist itself; nevertheless, it acts more as a complement than a mere tribute. The result is a precise expression of the essence of Jonas Mekas.
Cosmopolitan lotus-eater and fringe filmmaker Peter Sempel was born in Hamburg but raised in the Australian Outback, where he was deprived of utilities and befriended by a lazy kangaroo. The influence of his rearing can be felt as much as seen in the grainy compositions and quality of light with which Sempel builds his celluloid collages. While his subjects are most often intensely urban, larger than life, and neoteric by nature — Einstürzende Neubauten’s Blixa Bargeld, Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, Berlin new wave diva Nina Hagen, 84-year-old mime/female impersonator Kazuo Ohno, the Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Australian expat Nick Cave, actor Dennis Hopper, and filmmaker Kenneth Anger, to name a few — the images Sempel creates around them are as intimate, as strange, and as beautiful as an old sun-bleached photograph found in a forgotten starlet’s attic. —http://www.sfweekly.com