MOONCHILD: THE FILMS OF KENNETH
Kenneth Anger is one of America’s most vital and
interesting filmmakers. A true artist of the “underground,” he made a handful
of highly individual short films--including FIREWORKS,
INAUGURATION OF THE PLEASURE
DOME, INVOCATION OF MY
DEMON BROTHER and LUCIFER
RISING--that rank among the classics of avant-garde cinema, being
dazzling, trancelike invocations of light and color.
MOONCHILD consists of an introduction by Mikita Brottman that provides a solid entry into Anger’s skewed universe, followed by lengthy essays by Carel Rowe and Anna Powell, both focusing on the “magickal” and esoteric elements of Anger’s oeuvre, and finally a filmography that comprehensively lists the films Anger has made along with several tantalizing projects that for various reasons never reached fruition (an Anger-directed STORY OF O? Color me intrigued!).
Powell’s piece, entitled “A Torch for Lucifer,” is the book’s longest and most accessible. It combines a thorough knowledge of the Aleister Crowley-inspired mythology of which Anger was a lifetime adherent with a real grasp of the mechanics of filmmaking. It’s a valuable resource for non-Crowleyites (like me) curious about what Anger was trying to convey in his oft-puzzling films.
Rowe’s “Blue Velvet” is less user-friendly in its approach. It focuses primarily on Anger’s most famous work SCORPIO RISING, and goes into some detail about the Eisenstinean montage techniques Anger utilized in it and other films. Interesting, but I think Rowe’s piece will be appreciated primarily by film students.
Other aspects worth mentioning are the
extensive quotes and Anger-related anecdotes contained in the margins of the
pages. According to one such tidbit, Italy’s famed Tivoli Gardens fountains,
featured prominently in Anger’s FAUX D’ARTIFICE, were designed as a dirty joke
about their creator’s preference for being pissed on. There’s also plenty of
info on Anger’s infamous HOLLYWOOD BABYLON books, including the explanation for
the cryptic caption “He knows I can’t print the indiscreet photo of him”
under a shot of Marlon Brando--the “indiscreet” photo in question was apparently
a shot of Brando (or at least someone who looked a lot like him) sucking another
man’s cock! Decidedly trashy gossip, sure, but it helps lend some much-needed
pizzazz to an otherwise relentlessly academic volume.