The son of a Golden-Age Hollywood agent, Independent filmmaker Kenneth Anger has an insider's jaded perspective on the film industry and all that goes with it. His scandalous 1958 expose of celebrity private lives, "Hollywood Babylon" (which discusses, among other things,... [more]
The son of a Golden-Age Hollywood agent, Independent filmmaker Kenneth Anger has an insider's jaded perspective on the film industry and all that goes with it. His scandalous 1958 expose of celebrity private lives, "Hollywood Babylon" (which discusses, among other things, the genital sizes of various leading actors), summed up his cynical view of the world. Beginning in his teens, he took on defiantly original and openly sexual (often gay) themes.
The first of these films was 1947's "Fireworks." Raw graphics commingle with strikingly beautiful personal symbolism in this fantasy of a solitary, lustful boy -- played by 15-year-old Anger himself -- who is picked up, beaten, and ravaged by a passel of sailors. The film climaxes (in all senses of the word) with the image of a penis transubstantiating into a Roman candle. Indie icon Jean Cocteau rhapsodized, "It touches the quick of the soul, and this is very rare."
Anger has managed to offend, disturb, and wreak havoc with practically every subsequent cinematic offering. "Scorpio Rising" (1963), his sardonic masterwork, was greeted with police censorship due to its macho-biker subjects and rock 'n' roll sensibility. Boasting friendships with the famous -- including Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Anais Nin, Marianne Faithfull, and Dr. Alfred Kinsey -- Anger also worked with and inspired many other experimental filmmakers, including Maya Deren, Curtis Harrington, and Marie Menken.
Fascinated since youth by the occult, he became a fervent disciple of the notorious satanist, Alastair Crowley. This interest seems linked to his rather twisted worship at the gritty shrine of fame and fortune, as evidenced in the gossip-mongering of his ongoing Babylon literary series (part three was recently rejected by a major publisher because it was too explicit). His passion for the myths of cinema and the privileged excess of Hollywood life fueled his own version of "Magick," which he adapted from Crowley's works.
Anger believes that his films hypnotize audiences through a mysterious alchemy that arises out of the filmmaking process, from cinematography to acting to costume design. The resulting cinematic experience is a portal to new states of consciousness, the ones difficult to access within the mundane scope of everyday life. Anger's truly original films are suffused with a haunting personal mysticism, a satiric vision, and a contemporary cultural relevance for audiences worldwide. Many independent filmmakers, ranging from Fassbinder to Coppola to Scorsese, owe Anger an immense artistic debt. [show less]