Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hail Belenus Blake Johnston!

A belated welcome to the world of the magically-named Belenus Blake Johnston, son to Hannah and Dan, brother to Somerled. His nascent presence shall, for a while, explain mum Hannah's absence on this blog!

The ecstatically happy, newly-augmented family are all doing well.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Kenneth Anger: Filmmaker, Demi-God

I've finally begun watching the films in the recent DVD release of Volume 2 of the films of Kenneth Anger, which includes Scorpio Rising, Invocation of My Demon Brother, Lucifer Rising and others, spanning the years 1964-1981. Volume 1 came out in 2006, with films made from 1947 to 1954.

I do not own it yet, though I want to get one for myself. I ordered it for my class on Cinema and the Occult. It is a very nice "boxed set" with a nice booklet with writings by various filmmakers and students of his, including an introduction by Martin Scorcese (which gratified me because I had always thought his early student work owed a lot to Anger), an excerpt from a longer essay by Guy Maddin from Film Comment, and one very intriguing piece by none other than Bobby Beausoleil, who portrayed Lucifer in Lucifer Rising and eventually completed the film's soundtrack from a California prison (where he has been incarcerated since 1969, having committed murder after being prompted by everyone's favorite Summer of Love occult revivalist, Charles Manson).

Anger's use of music, some popular (like all the girl groups, Elvis and Bobby Vinton songs in 1964's Scorpio Rising) and some original (like Mick Jagger's synthesizer drones in Invocation of My Demon Brother), his purity of vision, his arresting images, his ability to weave moods and ritualistic set pieces and cultural trappings into shocking and memorable dreamscapes is something that has really never been equalled. Nor, I suppose, could it be, since his films were not only ahead of their time, but also products of their exact eras, collaborators and momentary inspirations.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Frazerian Cinema

Chas Clifton has posted in his blog about the notion of The Scary Countryside and urban anxiety about nature. He also mentions the notion that Frazer's monumental work The Golden Bough is in part responsible for the attitude that the British countryside is a place full of dark secrets, being a repository of ancient beliefs and practices...

The notion of a Frazerian Cinema intrigues me. I am reminded of an essay written by Tanya Krzywinska on landscape imagery in British horror films, in particular its association with paganism (I have an earlier version of the article but it will soon be published in a collection called Cinematic Countrysides forthcoming from University of Manchester Press).

I also wonder if this might be an intriguing subject for a chapter in The Celluloid Bough, in terms of the pagan revival ushering in an era of obsession with "earth mysteries" and stone circles, monoliths and other so-called sacred sites. We have not completely finalized what the final structure of the book will be. Right now we are working with one based on a wide-ranging introduction, and chapters arranged by decade which will contain overviews and sub-chapters on individual films. This is the simplest approach, of course, being easy to organize.

But we've also talked about the idea of theme-based chapters, which I think might be very interesting. This would allow for chapters on our individual areas of interest such as color in cinema, music, popular culture, teen witchcraft, satanic panic, etc. Frazerian Cinema (or rather, the ideas and expressions of what a Frazerian Cinema might encompass) would be a fitting subject for an entire chapter.

And of course our title is a direct homage to Frazer, so...