Hollywood history lesson #22: The films of Kenneth Anger

Anger_lFrom EW editor-at-large Ken Tucker:

Today marks the DVD release of The Films of Kenneth Anger Vol. 2 (Fantomas). Why is this important? Only because Anger is one of America’s crucial avant-garde filmmakers, and his fans have waited literally decades for the home-video release of one of his central masterpieces, Scorpio Rising, from 1963.

Anger, who also wrote the famous, low-down Tinseltown gossip book Hollywood Babylon, made short films (Scorpio is a mere 28 minutes, for example) that contained entire worlds: rapturous, near-abstract displays of flesh (mostly male), textures (leather, metal), and commercial products (motorcycles, cars). He pioneered the notion of setting film scenes without dialogue to pop music: Martin Scorcese, David Lynch, and Quentin Tarantino — as well as the whole genre of music-videos — all owe Anger a debt to moments in Scorpio (pictured, with the director at work) when grim young men polish their gleaming-chrome choppers to girl-group rock songs and Bobby Vinton’s "Blue Velvet." (Indeed, getting music clearances for Anger’s movies is one reason it’s taken so long for his work to arrive on DVD.)

There was always a whiff of the forbidden in Anger’s work, and a haunting lyricism as well. He mixed sensuality with poetic artfulness. He also palled around with Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger provides some droning chords for this collection’s Invocation Of My Demon Brother) and at least one member of Charles Manson’s "family." Anger, born in 1927, is still around to accept your appreciation of his groundbreaking daring: Dig it.


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  • anne Northgraves

    How funny that Kenneth Anger is on popwatch at the same time I’ve been watching films of his in my classes! Personally, I’m not a fan of the parallels he draws between religion and the Nazi party in Scorpio, but it’s rather ironic.

  • Kevin

    I really enjoyed Scorpio Rising (I’ve only seen one other film of his, but I can hardly remember it) and I LOVE Hollywood Babylon (SO trashy!). And as far as Nazis and organized religion, well, I think the comparison is pretty much a gimme (and so accurate it’s almost cliche now).

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