A mile-high stack of acetate slides, superimposing, swapping out, and combining images of death, sex, Hollywood, the occult, material fetish, shiny baubles, and ribald pranksterism: in its eighth decade, Kenneth Anger’s work remains resolutely home-brewed, even when collaborating with the Rolling Stones or making ads for Missoni. Like many avant-garde masters, Anger thrills viewers with collisions and explosions – what sets him apart is his apparent pursuit of ecstasy through indulgence and amplification; transcendence by way of live-wire vulgarity.
A little like Orson Welles, Anger’s life apart from filmmaking is extraordinary and full, busy with innumerable other interests, laden with revelations and lies, made mysterious by his own self-mythologizing. He is partly responsible for the mirror Los Angeles/Hollywood holds up to admire itself.
His claim to having played the Changeling Prince in MGM’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) has been contradicted but remains a part of his biographical narrative, even as a (likely?) falsehood. Fireworks, his first movie, remains one of the cinema’s greatest debuts; in consensus terms, Scorpio Rising (1964) is his magnum opus. A 2004 video, Mouse Heaven, saw Anger locating his favorite themes (death + pop culture + materialism + nostalgia + Hollywood) in the unlikeliest place: an inventory of Disneyana, with a soundtrack featuring The Proclaimers and James & Bobby Purify.
What to see?
- Mouse Heaven (2004)
- Scorpio Rising (1964)
- Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)
- Puce Moment (1949)
- Fireworks (1947)
- Lucifer Rising (1972)
- Kustom Kar Kommandos (1970)
- Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)
- Eaux d’artifice (1953)
- Rabbit’s Moon (1950)
Of Interest / Possibly of Interest:
- Missoni (2010)
- The Man We Want to Hang (2002)
Search for Kenneth Anger videos on YouTube. Etc. Caveat emptor, obviously. The following Amazon link is for a DVD set containing the larger part of his work from Fireworks through the 1970s. The best way to see his films, needless to say, is by projecting careworn 16mm prints.