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.

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