Inside the Mind of Anger

I found the anecdote about Anger at the top of these reviews fascinating, so I thought to copy them here:

What fools these mortals be
by Antonius Block 15 hours ago (Mon Jan 29 2007 19:58:51)
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UPDATED Mon Jan 29 2007 20:42:50

This past weekend I was able to see a collection of Kenneth Anger’s shorts, with Anger in person to introduce them and field questions. Which he did, more or less. Those familiar with his work should not be surprised to learn that he speaks with the same logic as his films. That is, by associations: one idea leads to another, which leads to another, and so on and so forth, through endless tangents that somehow manage to revolve around certain themes or obsessions. Introducing the films, he spent more time telling us about his urologist and upcoming surgery (Feb. 23rd) to have his prostate removed, or on the Iraq war and Babylonian paganism as it relates to birth control, than he did the films he was screening. Fielding questions, it mattered not what anyone asked him, for he invariably never got around to addressing their questions but would just start veering off on whatever tenuous association the question reminded him of. A simple query about the different versions of his work would elicit a string of musings on everything from his decision not to enter Hollywood because his good friend Gale Sondergaard was blacklisted, to the fascism of boyscouts and syphilis. He called Pauline Kael a bunch of bad names (eliciting scattered applause) as much for her overwritten reviews as for her decision to focus on “minor artists like Peckinpah,” while noting that, politics aside, Leni Reifenstahl was the single greatest female filmmaker to ever live. And yet, as hopeless as his digressions were, they were very revealing and managed to give a portal into his mind, which helped me make some sense of these very ambiguous movies.Being a student of Dr. Kinsey, the one theme he kept returning to over and over again was the utter ruthlessness of the sperm to enter the egg, which in his view is the underlying cause of war and violence. This intense male energy, as he sees it, always yearns for an outlet, and if it is not put to good use, it ends up being put to bad use (i.e., war). And this yearning is pivotal to so many of his movies: you see it in Pierrot’s endless longing for the moon in Rabbit’s Moon, in the protagonist’s attempts to ‘light his cigarette’ in Fireworks, or in the blind hero worship in Scorpio Rising.Stan Brakhage said that to watch an Anger film once is like reading a canto by Ezra Pound on the Times Square sign that flashes news bulletins. Be that as it may, here are some initial impressions after only one viewing (with the exceptions of Fireworks and Mouse Heaven, the only two I had seen before).Fireworks (1947) –Kenneth Anger In Theater Fireworks is a dreamlike depiction of a man (played by Anger himself) violated through sadistic and homosexual imagery that plays like an extension of his personal fears and desires, twisted together into this hallucinatory short film. It features numerous visual puns, and the point at which fear ends and desire begins is purposefully ambiguous.

Rabbit’s Moon (1950) –Kenneth Anger In Theater Set on a simple, artificial set, this tells a vague story in pantomime, with repetitive imagery of a meek, clown-like hero reaching toward the unattainable moon, in between which a court jester jests him and a princess dances for him. The would be tragedy of the story is totally undermined by the pop song soundtrack, which gives the whole thing an ironic, bizarre feel.

Scorpio Rising (1964) –Kenneth Anger In Theater With its frenetic energy and ironic juxtapositions of sound and image, this is easily Anger’s most ambitious work and seemingly the genesis of the music video. The film revolves around images of gay, leather-clad bikers who idolize James Dean and literally have the specter of death on their shoulders, as various contemporary pop songs flood the soundtrack, serving as ironic counterpoints to the images. “Fools Rush In” accompanies snippets of men buffing phallic motorcycle parts; “My Boyfriend’s Back” finds a hooded skeleton hovering over the same scene; “Blue Velvet” is set to a series of images of the bikers dressing up that could be right out of a jeans commercial, vaguely stressing how the ‘look’ defines their conformist identity (Lynch fans take note: the main motorcycle even appears to be named “Frank”); “He’s a Rebel” finds images of the biker walking down the street with footage of Jesus doing the same (which Anger said was accidentally given to him by a Christian organization); “I Will Follow Him” fuses the neo-fascist bikers with images of Jesus’ disciples and the Nazis in an increasingly dizzying onslaught of subliminal imagery that seems as irreverent as it is scathing in its indictment of all these forms of blind worship. Yet at the same time, there’s a sense that Anger really relishes in these images and songs. The men are shot with a roaming camera that moves over every inch of their bodies in a clearly desirous fashion, while the songs are in a sense immortalized by the provocative juxtapositions. There’s a very intentional ambiguity to it all that made me uneasy and at the same time is precisely what makes it interesting.

Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965) –Kenneth Anger In Theater Kustom Kar Kommandos is a much shorter, smoother, softer, version of the beginning of Scorpio Rising, spanning only a few minutes, or the length of a single pop song (“Dream Lover”). The boy, and the car, both have an attractive wholesomeness that seems intentionally dreamy. That being said, this is probably the least of his films.

Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969) –Kenneth Anger In Theater Supposedly this is Anger’s anti-war film. It juxtaposes images of military men getting out of helicopters with repetitive, demonic imagery, off-putting gay imagery, and bisymmetrical images, all set to the creepy sounds of a Moog synthesizer composed by Mick Jagger. What it all means isn’t exactly clear, and it’s rather unpleasant to watch, but the program notes make this sound like his most important film so I won’t write it off.

Mouse Heaven (2004) –Kenneth Anger In Theater Shot on video, this ten-minute short consists of quickly edited images of Mickey Mouse in every conceivable form he has taken: cartoon strips, logos, dolls, etc., supposedly suggesting that over time he has been usurped into a commodity, which the final images of Mickey, frozen in a golden statue, nail home. The soundtrack contains a selection of pop songs that once again serve as counterpoint to the images.

As a special bonus, Anger showed us a 6-minute clip from a film he is working on, a movie about the Hitler Youth called Ich Will, which in German means “I want.” The answer to this in Nazi Germany was “Mein Fuhrer,” which Anger suggested shows how sick the Nazis were, because they desired the father instead of the mother. And that statement baffled me coming from him because of what it implies, but perhaps that goes to show just how ambivalent his feelings are. Anyway, the 6-minute clip was pretty much stock footage of Nazis juxtaposed with a personal drama he seems to be intercutting. No pop songs. Yet.

Regarding the new DVD, Anger wants everyone to know that he is still in legal battles over the rights to release his films, that Fantoma promised him $5,000, and he has to date received absolutely nothing from them. He wants everyone to know that buying this DVD does not support him in any way.