Sunday, 7 June 2009


Underground filmmaker extraordinaire, Kenneth Anger, was at the BFI a couple of weeks ago for the showing of his 1950 film Rabbit’s Moon and to plug a new DVD collection Kenneth Anger: Magick Lantern Cycle.

As you’d expect Mr Anger is no shrinking violet. He enters stage right, arms wide apart displaying a red, white and blue college sweater with A.N.G.E.R. emblazoned diagonally across it and a face that looks like a Richard Nixon mask that’s been left too close to the radiator. Is gently mocking an 82 year old Satan botherer wise? If I wake up tomorrow with goat’s hooves for hands, please call the authorities. Be difficult to use my mobile.

Rabbit’s Moon was like a silent movie with a doo-wop soundtrack. The story was something to do with some clown bloke yearning for the moon which was some metaphor for love or something. It was only seventeen minutes long but I kept nodding off.

Joining Anger on stage to “discuss his influences and legacy” were Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard who spouted the first load of tosh that sprung to mind. Gary Lachman knew his onions but was scarcely given a chance before Anger threw the questions open to the audience. As usual you mostly got inane crap from wordy arseholes that get off on the sound of their own voice spewing pseudo-intellectual claptrap to an audience with no place to go.

One bright spark did however ask whether Anger had studied hypnosis, which he confirmed and said he also used repetitive techniques in Rabbit’s Moon to induce a dream-like state in the viewer. So that’s why I feel asleep. The man’s a genius. Can I have my hands back now?

Someone else did cut through with a question about Bobby Beausoleil and whether they were still in touch. Beausoleil was due to star in Lucifer Rising but they fell out when Bobby used Anger’s money on a block of marijuana “as big as this table”, stole most of the film and, legend has it, buried it in the desert. Then falling in with Charles Manson began the series of “Manson Murders” by stabbing to death Gary Hinman and daubing “Political Piggy” on the wall in Hinman’s blood. Not that such an act seemed to perturb Anger too much as he still got Beausoleil to write and record the score to Lucifer Rising from inside Tracey Prison. So, still in touch? “A little”, says Kenneth, “he sends me ten page letters but he’s lucky to get a postcard back. He’s got a lot of time on his hands”.

As for the Magick Lantern Cycle DVD set, it’s a thorough representative package containing ten of his best known films from 1947-1981 (plus an extra one about Anger’s idol Aleister Crowley from 2002). There’s also a 71 minute documentary, new Anger commentaries, and an insightful and attractive 34 page booklet written by Lachman. If you’re looking for neat, 90 minute, straight narrative films then look elsewhere. What you get are short, dialogue-free, image laden collages and experimental filmmaking. Some of which (Fireworks, Scorpio Rising, Kustom Kar Kommandos) are brazenly homoerotic (sailors, leather capped bikers, youths in tight jeans polishing their chrome) and others (Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Invocation of My Demon Brother and Lucifer Rising starring Marianne Faithfull, who looks beautiful apart from one scene where she looks like a puffy eyed Brian Jones, are heavy on the occult symbolism. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (from 1954) is an especially freakish headfuck; coming on like the world’s first psychedelic pop video. All are set so perfectly to music (be it doo-wop, girl groups, classical music, Mick Jagger fingering a Moog, wigged out psych) that you wonder whether the music was set to the images or the images set to the music. Special mention to Jonathan Halper’s soundtrack to Puce Moment; you will not believe it was recorded in 1949 – it sounds like backstreet psychedelic folk from fifteen-twenty years later.

I can't say I'm mad about it all but it's definitely worth seeing and certainly interesting.

Kenneth Anger: Magick Lantern Cycle 2 disc DVD Set is released by BFI, priced £22.99

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