Despite having its copious array of montage and staging techniques pilfered by hundreds of music videos and commercials over the years, Kenneth Anger's incantatory envisioning of a sacred rite spanning the world retains a hypnotic spell untouched by its imitators. Unabashedly sexy and hypnotic as hell, the film joyously embraces its libidinal energies and demonic inspirations, channeling an arcane series of references to Egyptology and the occult practices of Aleister Crowley and expressing their power in purely cinematic terms. Summoning Lucifer as the bringer of light, the film celebrates that same light and its infusion into a rich, sumptuous cinema of opulent color schemes and geometries of clairvoyant precision. Superimpositions, associative flash cuts, venetian wipes, seesaw tracking shots, a complex, oddly moving rock score by Bobby Beausoleil, and the special effect known as Marianne Faithfull (aka the saddest eyes in the world) are all woven into an effortlessly lucid stream of violence, sex, death and cosmic consummation. As far as mythic worldmaking goes, Anger's work conveys a richer imagination and mystic wonder - never mind cinematic resourcefulness - in 30 minutes than the entire Star Wars and Lord of the Rings series combined.
WATCH LUCIFER RISING via Google Video
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"A film about the love generation - the birthday party of the Aquarian Age showing actual ceremonies to make Lucifer rise. Lucifer is the Light god, not the devil - the Rebel Angel behind what's happening in the world today. His message is that the key of joy is disobedience. Isis (Nature) wakes. Osiris (Death) answers. Lilith (Destroyer) climbs to the place of Sacrifice. The Magus activates the circle and Lucifer - Bringer of Light - breaks through."
- Kenneth Anger on Lucifer Rising
Perhaps Anger's most elaborate film, Lucifer Rising takes place at various historically magick spots in Egypt, England and Germany. The odd rock-tinged soundtrack (composed and recorded by [Bobby] Beausoleil in prison, after a reconciliation with Anger) pulls viewers through a series of obsessively staged and hauntingly realized ceremonies, movements and rituals. Experimental editing techniques, mixed with more traditional cinematic structures, add to the eerie and compelling visual quality of this avant-garde masterpiece. Marianne Faithfull, the Rolling Stones (Anger had wanted Jagger to play Lucifer), Satanism, lightning, pyramids and extravagant costumes are only a few of the contributing elements that bring this film to a fever pitch of strangeness and cultural abstraction. Like other Anger films, it reads like a music video from outer space or Ancient Egypt ... or wherever the two may meet ...
Lucifer Rising is a departure from his previous major works. If Pleasure Dome, Scorpio Rising and Demon Brother remained fixated on death, Lucifer Rising is about rebirth, a celebration of the power of nature and of the ancient gods. It is a film of breathtaking beauty and power that supplants the closed worlds of Pleasure Dome and Scorpio Rising as well as Demon Brother's zone of all-pervading disorientation with an awesome sense of timelessness and spatial immensity, engendered at least in part by having been shot at often sacred sites all over the world. The 'ritual structure' of the previous films is present, but opened up. It now operates on two levels, encompassing the world of the gods as well as the efforts of the adept at summoning them. Linking Egyptian mythology, embodied by Isis (Miriam Gibril) and Osiris (Donald Cammell), with Crowleyan practices, it celebrates Lucifer not as the devil but as lord of light. 'Lucifer' Anger observes 'is the patron saint of the visual arts. Colour, form, all thee are the works of Lucifer.'
- Maximillian Le Cain, Senses of Cinema
It’s tempting to assume Lucifer Rising was a reaction to the times and his critics. He had certainly never made anything as epic before (or since), filming in exotic lands — Karnak, Luxor, Avebury, and Stonehenge — using tones and textures to blend primitive and contemporary images, building his way to a futuristic crescendo in which a coral-colored UFO hovers above ancient Egypt. Sedate and painterly if compared to the pace and character of most of his 60’s films, Lucifer Rising appears as a heartfelt, reverent celebration of creation and the act of worship. The less erudite (re: this viewer) may have to fall back on crib notes to distinguish the film’s characters and functions. We’re told that the scenario traces “the ascension of Lucifer (Horus), Bringer of Light, invoked by Isis, Osiris, Lucifer’s Adept, Lilith and the Magus.” (For further explanation, click here.) Color me mundane. To these eyes, Anger’s flat-out showmanship has never been more striking.
Lucifer Rising exists as an intersection between two filmic ideas, and it is within this intersection that the film gains it's power: more than any other film, Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising is about spectacle and hypnosis.
From a level of spectacle the film is pure ritual, literally and figuratively. Juxtaposing mythological images of ancient Egyptian Gods with contemporary Thelemites, Anger delineates the progressive nature of time in order to present to the spectator the necessary elements of the ritualistic form his film is taking. But what makes the ritual appealing to the audience is divorced from this esotericism--it's the nature of the films' aesthetics. Anger's level of artifice is exemplary; hyper-pervasive primary colors permeate every frame, shockingly electrified negative images pop up for brief moments, highlighting both the phenomenon of nature (lightning, volcanic eruptions, the birth of an alligator/lizard) and the exclamation points of banal events (as we tour through the hallway a man absently shuffling a deck of cards suddenly throws them into the air).
Anger's camera--generally static at a fixed angle in all of his films leading up to this one--finally begins to move in the aforementioned hallway scene, which is one of the most enigmatic tracking scenes that I've encountered through all of cinema. As we move through Anger's many tableau with a steady tempo, echoed by the calm score, there is an abject atmosphere of anxiety that arises: the film is telling us that something is going to happen soon, and we don't know what that is, but it's going to be something important.
Bobby Beausoleil's score is another necessary element of the film: composed from his prison cell, Beausoleil's score provides the soundtrack for Anger's film in the only instance where specific music has been produced for the specific film (excluding Jagger's grating drone "composed" forInvocation of My Demon Brother, the rest of Anger's films, as popularly recognized, are simply coupled with 50s and 60s pop music, often to an ironic extent-- there is no irony present in Beausoleil's score for this film). The soundtrack itself is an excellent piece of work, with or without Anger's images married to it. It is a bit psychedelic and ambient, echoing both the naturalistic evocations brought about by Anger's pensive landscape shots, and the internal psychedelia that plays a pivotal role in the film...
The only problem with the film is that from what people expect of Anger (from a locus of popular culture), Lucifer Rising is more of less at odds with what has generated Anger's reputation: it, to a large extent, lacks the hyper structural editing that initially put Anger on the map, as well as being totally devoid of the pop music that Anger pioneered the music video with. It is also not necessarily indicative of the homosexual avant-garde that Anger often gets lumped in with. The often ridiculed "campy" costumes are merely ritualistic signifiers. They are just conduits to a larger idea that is inherent within a much larger system, and reading the images as nothing beyond camp is discredited Anger as an artist, as a magician. But these are all surface level details-- further exploration into Anger's oeuvre reveals that Lucifer Rising is more accurately a culmination of everything Anger learned in making films. The obsessive fetishism of objects and sensory details is present, as is the already mentioned religious strain that permeates all of Anger's films, and all of this makes it easy to see that this is Anger's best film.
- Magick Mike, Esotika Erotica Psychotica
An extended account of the production history of Lucifer Rising by Tony Rayns
From an interview with Roy Frumkes for Films in Review
FIR: This is the 30th anniversary of the theft of LUCIFER RISING which strikes me as an important moment in the history of experimental film in this country, and I would love to hear the truth about the event.
KA: I began LUCIFER in San Francisco, where I met Bobby Beausoleil. He was a teenager at the time and a guitarist in a psychedelic acid rock band called Love. He was of the astrological sign of Scorpio and I’m Scorpio rising. He had shoulder-length hair and a very charismatic character and a harem of girls, which is what gave him the nickname Cupid.
We seemed to hit it off well. One day he asked if he could take my van and go down to LA from San Francisco because he had a deal-something to do with his own band. I advanced him some cash and he disappeared with the van, and when he came back, he put these wrapped-up packages in my studio. Eventually I became suspicious and cut open a corner of a package with a razor blade, and there was a compressed kilo of grass, which he had scored somewhere down in southern California, or possibly Mexico, which placed me in jeopardy, not only because he was a minor, but if there was going to be any kind of bust or anything…
I was furious over this, and when he came back I said, “Look. You’ve betrayed me.” He was a very tricky character in my view, very much like the Indian Trickster in American Indian folklore. Anyway, I literally put him outside the door, but he had the keys to the van, and he took it. I said, “Well, we’ll worry about the car later.”
I went out to dinner a night or two later and he came back and took the film. It was enough for about an hour and a half feature; it was practically finished.
The van he stole from me finally expired on the edge of the San Fernando Valley, and the place where it stopped was right across the street from the Span Ranch. The Span and Iverson ranches are both movie locations, with a lot of recognizable boulders. They’ve been in dozens of westerns and serials. An interesting location, and a bit eerie. And, as a matter of fact, the Manson family, including Charlie, were holed up in the Span Ranch.
FIR: And Bobby just happened to break down there?
KA: Yes. It’s one of those coincidences that, if it were in a novel or screenplay, you’d be pushing it in the coincidence department. But that is how it happened and that is how he got mixed up with the Manson family, because he did move in.
At the time, they were dealing dope and so forth. That’s how they were living, as well as from petty theft. A musician had sold some marijuana, a rather large quantity of it, to Manson. And Manson, acting as a middleman, had resold it to a chapter of the Hell’s Angels. And the Hell’s Angels, when they smoked this stuff out in the desert somewhere, had nearly died.
It turned out at that time that the DEA - the Drug Enforcement Agency - were doing dirty tricks on hippies. They were treating drugs with cyanide, etc. So that if you smoked it you’d get sick almost to the point of expiring. The idea was that it would create a paranoid situation where you couldn’t trust the pot, so you wouldn’t smoke it anymore. In any case the Hell’s Angels got very sick and their girlfriends got very sick. They all turned green, started to have convulsions, and when they got over this enough so that they could make some coherence of their thoughts, a group of them went to see Manson, who said “Well, I got the dope from somebody else.” And they said, “Okay. You kill whoever you got it from.” So Manson, being the little chicken-shit coward that he is, chose Bobby and said, “As the newest member of the family…” to test him, I guess, “you go and kill Gary Hinman,” who was the musician, living in Topanga Canyon, who was also a Buddhist, ironically, considering that this tainted dope came from him. And so, Bobby, with one of the girls, (Susan, who later became notorious for being involved in the Sharon Tate massacre) killed him, after doing some very nasty things like cutting off an ear, while Gary recited some sort of Buddhist mantra the whole time.
FIR: Good lord.
KA: Bobby was an intelligent kid, but these guys were taking acid, smoking hashish and pot, and dropping pills all at once. They were out of it. Imagine killing someone, throwing the bloody knife in the back of the guy’s car and stealing the car - which may have been better than the old jalopy that Bobby had, but… He was caught the next day driving around in Gary’s car, with the knife that he killed Gary with still in the back seat, with the blood still on it. He was sent to jail in 1969. He was in prison a month before the Sharon Tate massacre, which was done by a group of the Manson family on the instructions of crazy Charlie. Charlie never did these things himself, but sent his zombies out to do them.
About a month after the reels were stolen, I received a call from a woman and was told I could have them back for 10 thousand dollars. I said, “Well, I don’t pay ransom. And I don’t have the ten grand, anyway. So get lost.” She said. “Charlie told me to tell you.” I didn’t know who Charlie was. I never met Manson. To me, they were just crazy hippies. I was getting pissed off at the whole scene. I thought, all these kids, representing so-called flower power, they’re all in a moral swamp. They don’t know good from bad or up from down. And they’re stoned all the time. I was older than they were by quite a bit. I was in my 30s and they were in their teens. That was about the time that the Gray Line tourist bus started to come around, the looky-loos, full of tourists gawking at the hippies, and that was really the end of it. It made them all self-conscious. And then the heroin moved into the scene.
I was crushed when my film was gone. Friends told me to leave California, and in a sense I’d always felt that anyway. If something bad happens somewhere and I can possibly get away from the actual place, I will. So I went to New York, and that’s when I took out the ad. I felt I either had to do that or I had to do something very strong to stabilize my inner psyche, because I was in a terrible state. I was actually quite suicidal. And I said, I will kill the artist in me. I won’t make any more films, it’s over. And I’ll do an obituary with a black border, with dates from FIREWORKS to the murdered LUCIFER RISING. It worked in the sense that I didn’t kill myself.
I then went to England and pieced together the scraps of LUCIFER RISING that had been left in the dutting bin and, just as a joke, showed them to Mick Jagger. And he said, “It’s great. I’ll do a score for it.” And he improvised on the Moog synthesizer for 11 minutes and created my score for INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER. And that’s how that film came about, culled from the scraps of LUCIFER RISING.
When I was in England - now we’re talking about the early ’70s - I was going to give up movie making completely after making one last film. I put everything I had into this new one. I sold my stocks and bonds. I wanted to make a feature. It was conceived like a dance film. The movements and the music would all be conceived at the same time. I basically remade the original using the same title, LUCIFER RISING, but with a cast including Mick Jagger’s brother, Chris, Marianne Faithfull, and my friend Donald Cammell, the director of PERFORMANCE, who played Cyrus. It evolved into something much more interesting. With my connections in London, I got, amazingly enough (I’m the only American who ever did), assistance from the National Film Finance Corporation, which was a (now-extinct) government bank for film projects. They had permission, as a branch of the government in England, to finance artistic projects that weren’t necessarily going to bring back their money. They had put up the money for UNDER MILKWOOD when that was made into a film. I submitted an outline to them, and I got the equivalent of $50,000, which was a considerable amount of money at the time, particularly for a 16mm experimental project.
ABOUT THE SOUNDTRACK(S)
Commissioning an original score for Lucifer Rising was a smart decision. His colorful introduction to Bobby BeauSoleil, running up to the musician after a show proclaiming “You are Lucifer!” is detailed in an account written by Michael Moynihan for an attractive, informative booklet included with the new, 2-CD Lucifer Rising soundtrack. Other than capturing the mood(swings) and sense of abandon prevailing in and around the Haight/Ashbury during the late-60’s, when the young musician was in the Bay Area bands The Orkustra and The Magick Powerhouse of Oz, Moynihan has a clear appreciation of his music. (You can read portions of their extensive interview sessions online.) Composed and recorded in prison between 1977 and 1979, BeauSoleil worked in a makeshift studio on bare bones equipment with an ensemble of fellow inmates. Collectors have circulated bootlegs of the sessions for years, copied from the limited vinyl pressing BeauSoleil once made for family and friends. But this new edition — authorized by BeauSoleil and Anger — has been cleaned up and digitally mastered. Tight budgets and antiquated technology notwithstanding, the music now has the breadth of a major studio recording. All things considered, this could be the most important soundtrack release of the year.Donald Cammell in Lucifer RisingThe complete soundtrack runs nearly forty minutes on one disc, and the second CD serves up stages of its evolution. Tapes thought to be lost (or nonexistent) were tracked down, including two unexpectedly clear instrumentals by The Orkustra. There’s also a 1967 session of the Magick Powerhouse of Oz doing an embryonic Lucifer Rising that shows the influence of jazz fusion, and rehearsal tapes of the Freedom Orchestra recorded ten years later, that occasionally drift into vibrant solo improvisations. Performed on mostly electric instruments by non-professionals, the music has a palpable organic texture and is rooted in the blues. The film could ask for no better accompaniment, and it’s nearly impossible to imagine Anger’s vision working as well as it does without this sound. “It not only perfectly suits the mood of Anger’s film,” wrote Michael Moynihan, “but even seems to have been scored precisely to coincide with certain visual images that occur onscreen.” This is either good fortune or symmetry with the gods, because there wasn’t a finished print of the film to work off of. BeauSoleil had to rely on description and a partial slash print. He supplies a few buoyant passages that invite movie Mickey Mousing (such as the playful “Part IV”), but the rejection here of Hollywood cliché is a given. (In the film, this piece accompanies Marianne Faithfull’s ascension of Star Mountain.) Offsetting the electronic foundation, a lone trumpet is used in moderation adding an underlying sense of melancholy — and brought to mind Ennio Morricone’s work of the 60’s. Most of the score revolves around a predominant riff, an infectious cascading chord progression that has the cyclical flow of an acid trip churning toward its peak. It may be nostalgia for some (it all bears a superficial resemblance to the late 60’s Pink Floyd of A Saucerful of Secrets), but these ears found the twenty-five-year-old music vital and alive . . . and prompted the question, whatever became of BeauSoleil? An interesting man with an interesting story, he continues to compose and record, and has managed to build something of a small recording career from prison. The samples of his work that can be heard for free online sound like mini-scores for films yet to be made, and are on a par with, if not superior to, most of the material now written for the movies.
Led Zeppelin guitarist and leader Jimmy Page has been fired as composer for the soundtrack of the film "Lucifer Rising" by it's director, Kenneth Anger. Speaking in London on Friday, Anger decried Page for time-wasting and a lack of dedication to the project, and claimed that Page's personal problems had made him impossible to work with. Page has been working on the film for the past three years and has so far delivered some 28 minutes of completed tape. The story of the collaboration -and the ensuing rift- goes back to 1973 when Page first agreed to compose and perform the movie soundtrack. He and Anger first met at Sotheby's, at an auction of boots by the English Occultist/Magician Aleister Crowley. Both Page and Anger are students of Crowley's teachings. Anger is a practicing Magus (a priest/magician) and his films'of which "Scorpio Rising" is perhaps the best known --- are replete with occult symbolism. Anger himself describes them as "Spells and Invocations".
Page has often expressed interest in the teachings of Crowley. He owns the second largest collection of Crowley's books in the world, and one of his three houses is Crowley's former residence at Boleskine on the shores of Loch Ness. "Lucifer Rising", Anger's most ambitious project to date, deals with the "fallen angel" of orthodox Christian Mythology, who in Anger's film is restored to his Gnostic status as "the Bringer of Light"; an implicit part of Crowley's own teachings.
The collaboration has continued intermittently since their first meeting. Anger commuting between London and New York to oversee the publication of his book on film-star scandals, "Hollywood Babalon", and Page involved with Led Zeppelin performances and recording. For the past three months Anger has been using the film-editing facilities in the basement of Page's Victorian manse in London, to trim the 17 hours of film he has in the can down to 1 ½ hours. Page had the equipment installed to work on another project, "Zeppelin Live at Madison Square Garden" film, provisionally titled, "The Song Remains the Same". Anger's work at Page's house was terminated by an extraordinary sequence of events beginning Tuesday night when Anger apparently the unwitting victim of domestic fraces was ordered to leave the house by Page's girlfriend, who was staying there at the time. No reason was given for his eviction. He returned to the house Wednesday morning to collect his film material and belongings to find the door locked and bolted. The same afternoon, Anger, unable to reach Page himself, informed his management/record company Swansong that the film collaboration was off and that Page had been fired from the project. Thursday morning Anger was eventually able to recover some of his belongings and the film from Page's now empty London home. Jimmy Page, in town for a friend's funeral, was unavailable for comment, but a spokesperson from Swansong claimed to be totally mystified by the news that the guitarist had been fired from the Lucifer project; he even expressed surprised at the information that Anger was even in London.
Friday, morning, a piqued but by no means disconsolate Anger was to be found at Page's home removing the last of his belongings and film artifacts-including the crown of Lucifer, paste studded with rhinestones from a dress once worn by Mae West. "I haven't laid eyes on Jimmy Page since early June" he said. I've been trying to get in contact with him since then; I've fixed meetings through his office and been stood up half a dozen times. I've left messages on his Kafka-esque answering machine. All I've had is promises that the soundtrack is on it's way, but nothings materialized. I've got a fucking film to finish."
Page claims "Now whether he felt that he had to get me off his back I don't know. I mean I didn't start hassling, I just wanted to see the bloke finish the bloody film. I mean it's whole history is so absurd that it was unfinished because he was such a perfectionist and that he always ended up going over his budgets. All I can say is that Anger's time was all that was needed to finish that film. Nothing else'. Anger had also made allegations that his belongings had been held-impounded by Page and his cohorts. "What a snide bastard. His stuff was just all over the place and I just got some roadies to get it all together for him. Christ, he even turned that one against me." "I mean, I had a lot of respect for him. As an occultist he was defiantly in the vanguard. I just don't know what he's playing at. I'm totally bemused and really disgusted. It's truly pathetic. I mean, he is totally powerless-the only damage he can do is with his tongue."
- from uncredited article found here
CR: [Bobby Beausoleil] ended up scoring Lucifer Rising.
KA: After he was in prison--he’d been sentenced to death--he was reprieved because temporarily the death sentence was lifted in California and then it was put back. So he was, like, on death row and then taken off death row. Apparently there’s something like double jeopardy: once you’re on death row you can’t be put back on it again. I don’t know, the laws are in such a fuzzy mess, anyway. When I knew that he was finally in prison I--
One way or the other we began exchanging letters and so forth. And finally I went to visit him in prison [Tracy State Prison, California], and then I met the psychologist of the prison, who was a woman named Dr. Minerva Bertholf. She was a wonderful woman. And she said, "Well, Bobby has all this talent, and he has time on his hands." She was being ironic to say the least. "And he’d like to record the music for your movie now that’s he’s here." So she arranged for it to be possible a few days a week for the various musicians in prison to get together with Bobby and record the music. And that’s how it happened. It’s the only time it’s ever been done, and I never could have done it without the help of the head psychiatrist of the prison system. And she said it’s better that they’re recording music than rioting or whatever.
CR: Are you still in contact with him?
KA: No, because he’s married, he has several kids now. I can’t keep track of how many kids. He’s married a couple of times to prison groupies. They’re older women--well, not so old, but I mean they’re women who’ve probably been married once before, and that turned out to be the case. They probably have children by a former marriage. And there’s a certain type of woman who becomes--for psychological reasons that are probably suspect--they become enamored of killers in prison. Or notorious people in prison, in other words.
- Anger, interviewed by Carl Russo
REVIEWS OF THE FILMS OF KENNETH ANGER VOL. 2 DVD
As promised, here is our review of the 2nd Volume of Fantoma's The Films of Kenneth Anger, which immediately proves itself to be as essential a release as the first compilation.
All of the films look as fine as they ever will. "Scorpio Rising" starts the set and features a nice, film-like amount of grain, vivid colors and excellent contrast. The image of this film, as well as of all the others, is free of any digital noise or damage. Still, "Scorpio Rising" is an intentionally rough-looking film due to being the closest that Anger has ever come to making a documentary (as he says himself on the commentary). "Kustom Kar Kommandos" is a less improvisational film (visually, that is) than "Scorpio Rising". This carefully composed three-minute film about the fetishism of cars is presented in a very detailed transfer with strong colors. "Invocation of My Demon Brother" may very well have been the hardest transfer to get right. The film features many superimpositions and other distortions of the image, so we can be thankful that there is no ghosting or combing to be found. Instead we get a crystal-clear transfer with very vibrant colors. On this release we also get a different version of "Rabbit's Moon". This shortened cut of the film is set to a different piece of music and was made by Anger as a present to one of Stan Brakhage's children. The transfer though is the same as on the first DVD release, which means that it's pretty much flawless (it's the only film of Anger's Magick Lantern Cycle that was shot in 35mm). Next up is what many consider to be Anger's magnum opus, "Lucifer Rising". Here again, we get a sharp, detailed transfer with fine contrast and no artifacts whatsoever. Remarkable work all the way through.
The 2.0 soundtrack for all the films is excellent. There is no dialogue in these films, just the musical score, which sounds very strong in each movie. As I mentioned before, this disc's version of "Rabbit's Moon" features a different musical score. This time it's the catchy and quite rare pop tune "It Came in the Night" by A Raincoat. We also get an alternative audio track for "Invocation of My Demon Brother" that I have never heard before. Performed by the Magick Powerhouse of Oz (which can be glimpsed in the film) this is a piece of soundtrack recording that was done in 1967 at the Straight Theater in San Francisco for Anger's first version of "Lucifer Rising" (which wasn't completed and resulted in "Invocation of My Demon Brother", a re-edit of the left-over material, set to a Moog synthesizer score by Mick Jagger). While this is not intended as an alternate soundtrack choice for "Invocation of My Demon Brother", it is (according to the menu) "presented here to provide a glimpse into the times and atmosphere in which many of these images were created". It's an astonishing piece of music in its own right, very psychedelic and timely.
As on Volume 1 we get a full-length audio commentary by Kenneth Anger himself. The great man talks extensively about the production of his films, how they came about, what happened during the shooting and much more. He gives us background information on some of the bikers in "Scorpio Rising" and mentions his relationships to Jimmy Page and Bobby Beausoleil on the tracks for "Lucifer Rising" and "Invocation of My Demon Brother". There are still some expectable dead spots on the commentary, but Anger manages wonderfully to tell us as much about these films as he can. This is mandatory listening for any fan.
I recently voted for Fantoma's two Kenneth Anger Volumes as the best DVDs of the year and can only continue with my praise in this review. Fantoma has done a lot of fine work over the years, but this remains their greatest triumph. They were able to finally sort out the music rights issues of "Scorpio Rising", created phenomenal transfers of all the films, invited Anger himself to record audio commentaries and packaged it all in two beautiful digipacks with lovingly assembled booklets. To come to the point, this is one of the finest presentations of avant-garde film on DVD ever made, right up there with Criterion's By Brakhage: An Anthology. Essential viewing.
- Stan Czarnecki, DVD Beaver
Along with the restoration demonstrations, each film is accompanied by a commentary from Anger himself. Those expecting the man behind Hollywood Babylon to offer up juicy insights into his films are going to be largely disappointed, though he does have a few gossipy tidbits to offer about Marianne Faithful and her drug habits on Lucifer Rising. But more often than not Anger is matter-of-fact in his presentation, focused on interpreting his dense symbolism and obscure narrative threads (which is admittedly helpful), and occasionally commenting on these productions and people involved. The other bonus features include an alternate score for Invocation of My Demon Brother, which is made of fragments of Beausoleil's supposedly "lost" original score for the first version of Lucifer Rising; and the short film The Man We Want to Hang (2002), one of Anger's most recent forays into filmmaking, which is a documentary-like look at the colorful, rather grotestque artwork of Anger hero and famed occultist Aleister Crowley. The most valuable bonus feature is certainly the 40-page booklet accompanying this set. Containing an introduction by Martin Scorsese and essays by Gus Van Sant and Guy Maddin, the generally fawning comments and tributes offered up by these significant directors serve as further proof of Anger's profound and continuing influence on contemporary cinema. Also quite interesting and enlightening is an extensive interview with Beausoleil on his involvement in the first, fated production of Lucifer Rising(though he doesn't elaborate on some of the more fascinating rumors), as well as the production of his score for the second version. Overall, it's an extremely well presented booklet full of stills and loaded with great information.
- Jesse Ataide for DVD Verdict
Rich Rosell for Digitally Obsessed
Michael Den Boer for 10,000 Bullets
Photograph by Mark Berry
ABOUT KENNETH ANGER
When most contemporary film-critics think of underground cinema, Kenneth Anger's unique vision quickly springs to mind. Anger is mentioned in the same breath as Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage, and his canon are perennial film school student case-studies. Anger has had a major impact on avant-garde film artists and major-league film directors like Derek Jarman, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Francis Ford Coppola ('Apocalypse Now'), David Lynch ('Blue Velvet') and Martin Scorcese ('Mean Streets'). 'Fireworks' (1947) established Anger's reputation as a 'living myth' (Mike O'Pray), when the seventeen year-old film-maker shot moody homo-erotic footage during a weekend whilst his parents were away. The intense poetic images within 'Fireworks' attracted the attention of Maya Deren and Jean Cocteau. 'Rabbit's Moon' (1950) and 'Eaux D'Artifice' (1953) cemented Anger's critical reputation.
Alex Burns, Disinformation (with a long list of Anger-related links)
Kenneth Anger's fame with the general public is based almost exclusively on his best-selling 1960 book, "Hollywood Babylon," whose scandalous revelations transcended gossip. But a more limited audience knows Anger as a brilliant and stridently independent filmmaker. This reputation rests on nine short films totalling about three hours' length. Plagued by calamities that have included financial problems, threats, despair, lost films, stolen ones and seizure of footage by labs on the ground of obscenity, his output has not been prolific. But his impact on American film and television has been substantial.
Anger is a high level practitioner of occult magic who regards the projection of his films as ceremonies capable of invoking spiritual forces. Cinema, he claims, is an evil force. Its point is to exert control over people and events and his filmmaking is carried out with precisely that intention.
Whatever one's view of this belief may be, what is undeniable is that in creating the nine films that he either managed to complete (Fireworks , Eaux d'artifice , Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome [1954-66], Scorpio Rising , Invocation of My Demon Brother , Lucifer Rising [1970-81]) or else released as self contained fragments (Puce Moment , Rabbit's Moon [1950-79], Kustom Kar Kommandos ), Anger forged a body of work as dazzlingly poetic in its unique visual intensity as it is narratively innovative. In many ways, these wordless films represent the resurgence and development of the uniquely cinematic qualities widely considered retarded or destroyed by the passing of the silent era, especially in the area of editing. According to Tony Rayns, “Anger has an amazing instinctive grasp of all the elements of filmmaking; his films actively work out much of Eisenstein's theoretical writing about the cinema…. [Anger] comes nearer [to Eisenstein's theories] than anything in commercial cinema and produces film-making as rich in resonance as anything of Eisenstein's own.” (1)
Anger's films are cinematic manifestations of his occult practices. As such, they are highly symbolical, either featuring characters directly portraying gods, forces and demons (Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Lucifer Rising) or else finding an appropriate embodiment for them in the iconography of contemporary pop culture (Puce Moment, Scorpio Rising, Kustom Kar Kommandos, also Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome). This view of pop culture as vehicle for ancient archetypes is also the basis of Hollywood Babylon, his famous book about the seedier aspects of Hollywood history. In attempting to induce an altered state of consciousness in his viewers, Anger dispenses with traditional narrative devices, although his films definitely tell stories. Using powerful esoteric images and, especially in his later works, extremely complex editing strategies that frequently feature superimposition and the inclusion of subliminal images running just a few frames, Anger bypasses our rationality and appeals directly to our subconscious mind. The structure common to his major works is that of a ritual invoking or evoking spiritual forces, normally moving from a slow build up, resplendent with fetishistic detail, to a frenzied finale with the forces called forth running wild.
- Maximillian Le Cain, Senses of Cinema Great Directors Biography
The complete Magick Lantern Cycle can be viewed as embeddable videos at Subterranean Cinema
In the art of film, the divine spark of intuition very quickly arouses the desire for total control. The studied composition of the epic leads us to the “frozen realms” of Eisenstein and late-period Dreyer, Sternberg and Bresson. We admire the formal beauty of these works but their coldness fails to move us. The spectator must “appreciate” the quality of these works before “feeling” them, competently analyse the ingenuity of the camera movements and the merits of the lighting before being involved in the action. The veil of judgment is drawn between the spectator and the drama.
Since it is now an imperative of the film industry that a film must be carefully prepared, designed and rehearsed in advance to avoid financial disaster, it is not surprising that the “greats” of cinema have tried to overcome these complication through a rigid intellectual control. But these proceedings increasingly take the form of rites, and in sacrificing freedom and spontaneity in this way the “icy masters” have at the same time stifled audience “response.” Their works are increasingly becoming “ends in themselves” exercises in highly refined style, but they lack the irreplaceable qualities of improvisation.
This widespread neutralising of the essential point of cinema - its power to simulate real experience - enshrines its more off-putting tendency. So we are now in the cul-de-sac of stylisation. From the mouths of the half-dead people who pronounce the oracles of the contemporary screen should come a freedom charter: the restoration of the persuasive poetics of the lyrical image. A freedom that is only possible through the artist’s intimate view through the lens of his camera, in a word through “personal cinema.”
It was precisely this “cinematic” potential for expressing spontaneity that attracted me as a form of personal art. I saw its disruptive strength: a way of bringing about a change. This means of expression can transcend the aesthetic to become experience. My ideal was a “living” cinema that explored the dynamism of the visual communication of beauty, fear and joy. I wanted my personal cinema to transmute the dance of my interior being into a poetry of moving images that would create a new climate of spiritual revelation where the spectator, forgetting that he or she was looking at a work of art, could only become one with the drama.
- Kenneth Anger, "Modesty and the Art of Film." First published in Cahiers du Cinéma, no. 5, September 1951, reprinted courtesy of Cahiers and Kenneth Anger. Translated by David Wilson
"Well, of course, people steal from me and it doesn't mean that I'm particularly happy about it, but there's nothing I can do about it and I can't copyright my images. I will say I'm "bemused," particularly by borrowings by MTV. And there are several groups that have done practically carbon copies of certain scenes from my films. And of course they've never given me a call saying, "Why don't you make a music video for us?" I could use the money. Unless I didn't absolutely despise the music, I might even think of doing it. But it's never happened. It's much easier for them just to steal. And the younger generation, people that are making MTV, some of them have moved into Hollywood films, but they are a generation of magpies, outrageous thieves, stealing ideas right and left. And they have amazingly little imagination of their own. If they didn't have people to steal from, I mean they'd really be hard up. And that's my opinion of them. I hope that doesn't sound bitter! I'm mostly just bemused."
- Anger interviewed by Claiborne K. H. Smith for Weekly Wire
Kenneth Anger on MySpace