Thursday, April 17, 2008

Work of Kenneth Anger

Fireworks (1947)
Rating: 9.5

(2nd viewing)

A fantastically surreal depiction of a dream Anger had where he is violently beaten and raped by a group of sailors. Fireworks explores the plight of the outsider using stylized ballet-like movements and homoerotic imagery. What's most impressive is that Anger made his debut avante-garde psychoanalysis of his own fears and sexuality at the age of 17.

Puce Moment (1949)
Rating: 8.3

A Colorfully photographed look at a diva from the silent film era going about her afternoon routine. The look of the film and the music by Jonathan Halper make it seem very 60s, but the folk rock soundtrack was added decades later. It is interesting to see Anger's perception and fascination with this glamorous lifestyle of the era presented in color as it is not often associated with the 20s. I myself always find the 20s to seem like a distant fantasy dimension, and I think Puce Moment makes this world seem more real and tangible.

Rabbit's Moon (1950)
Rating: 7.9

Anger's knowledge and fascination with different characters and folklore from around the world surfaces here as he combines a Japanese fairytale and Commedia dell'Art. Pierrot, a French mime stock character is taunted by Harlequin, the servant character from the Italian Commedia dell'Arte when he projects an image of Columbine, also a French stock character. On top of this, the film is juxtaposed with a soundtrack consisting of various doo-wop hits. Although many people dislike the re-edited 7 minute version with a more realistic looking moon, and a different soundtrack with A Raincoat's "It Came in the Night," I think I like it just as much as the original.

Eaux d'artifice (1953)
Rating: 10

This is one of the most gorgeous films I've seen. Anger's film begins with his always opulent title cards and then we are taken to the beautiful water gardens of Tivoli, Italy. Anger shot on black and white film using only sunlight and red filters and then printed the film on color stock to create a blue hue. Shooting required elaborate planning to get the lighting just right to give the flowing water a 3-D quality. We see a woman periodically between the montage of stone faced fountains jets, and streams of dancing water droplets, but she is always at a distance, dwarfed by the landscape. When we first see her she is slowly descending a staircase, but her pace is hastened and by the end she is running until her plumes and period costuming transforms into a fountain. The classical score is equally beautiful serving as the perfect companion.

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)
Rating: 8.7

What begins as a fairly restrained theatrical and perhaps opera influenced piece set to "A Slavonic Mass" by Leos Janácek ends in a visually stimulating sensory experience that looks like some sort of a surreal hallucinogenic acid trip employing frantic editing and double exposures. The characters in the pleasure dome, partaking in decadent rituals and debauchery are apparently historical figures, biblical characters, and mythical creatures symbolizing everything from satanism and paganism to Catholicism.

Scorpio Rising (1964)
Rating: 9.4

Anger refers to custom bike building as American mechanical folk art. He captures the vanity, sexuality, passion, leisure, stress (use of meth, carrying firearms) of a group of bikers in Brooklyn, New York. The footage is semi documentary as Anger simply captures the daily routines of these men while splicing in other imagery symbolizing sex and death among other themes. After accidentally receiving a religious film that was meant to be delivered to a Sunday school, Anger decided to incorporate this footage as a parallel and a means of satire. The soundtrack includes some great songs from the 60s including "Wind Me Up" which has duel meanings. The motorcycle race, Anger filmed, fittingly resulted in the death of a man after crashing right in front of the camera.

Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965)
Rating: 3.9

A tacky, pastelle, and erotic fetishization of custom cars and the men that love them.

Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)
Rating: 6.5

This feels like an extension of Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, only less interesting and not offering much different other than the incorporation of Vietnam war sympathies. Like Pleasure Dome, invokes an LSD experience with many superimpositions and satanic rituals. The film features a soundtrack by Mick Jagger which is actually more dull and repetitive than interesting. The film features footage of a Rolling Stones concert, as well as Bobby Beausoleil who was associated with the Manson Family murders, and a special appearance by Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satanism.

Lucifer Rising (1972)
Rating: 8.5

Anger mentions how mysteries are what makes life exciting and worth living, and I think this shows in some of his work, especially in Lucifer Rising which at times is very cryptic and personal.

Don't Smoke That Cigarette (2000)
Rating: 6.1

The Man We Want to Hang (2002)
Rating: 5.0

This is just a straightforward look at the artwork of Alister Crowley, but it is also an insight into a major influence of Anger's past works.

Mouse Heaven (2004)
Rating: 3.2

Pretty cheesy collage of Mickey Mouse collectible toys. Love the music though.

Anger Sees Red (2004)
Rating: 1.0


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