Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Kenneth Anger at Three Dollar Bill Cinema


"His expression was of the erotic realm - the neurotic gothic deviated sex-colored world and it was a turning inside out of himself and magnificent." -Jack Smith on Josef von Sternberg

Like Jack Smith, Kenneth Anger's films have long languished on prints and video-cassettes of varying quality. To complicate matters, Anger, like Smith, continued to tinker with his films long after he made them. Some, like Rabbit's Moon, appeared every few years with a different cut and soundtrack [the first version I saw had a booming score by the Electric Light Orchestra!]

Using high definition transfers and MTI digital restoration software, The UCLA Film & Television Archive [with Anger's cooperation] has restored the key films of his oeuvre to a luster that shines like the ruby in Isis's diadem. Fantoma has released the first batch of these on DVD with a second batch to follow, but those of you who live in Seattle have the additional opportunity of seeing newly minted prints of Fireworks, Rabbit's Moon, Scorpio Rising and Kustom Kar Kommandos as part of Three Dollar Bill Cinema's 'Scandalous' series. And that's not all! In addition, TDB will be screening Elliott's Suicide, Anger's 2004 meditation on his erstwhile neighbor, Elliott Smith as well as Un Chant D'Amour by Jean Genet.
Although not his first film, Fireworks is the first entry into what Anger would call the Magick Lantern cycle. Shot in 1947, the same year Querelle was published, Anger directed the film at the age of 17 or 20 [depending on which bio you read] during a weekend when his parents where away. Under the influence of Le Sang d'un po/(R)te, the film serves a cocktail of Cocteau with a garnish of Genet, mostly in the guise of what Anger refers to as 'real sailors!' As Anger summarizes, "This flick is all I have to say about being 17, the United States Navy, American Christmas and the Fourth of July."
Rabbit's Moon was shot under the sponsorship of the Cinematheque Fran/ssaise where Anger spent much of the 50's as an assistant to Henri Langlois. This time Anger channels Carne with a dose of do-Wop as Pierrot, Harlequin and Columbine do their thing to the Flamingos, the Dells, the Capris and the El Dorados.
The Rock 'n roll continues with Scorpio Rising. Shot during the same era when American Graffiti was set, the film presents a panoply of satanic, gay bikers to a contemporaneous mix of Elvis, Ricky Nelson, the Crystals and a song that might be familiar to David Lynch fans. Martin Scorsese loves this film and has reminisced, "It seemed as if nothing else existed, as if everything else had been wiped clean, and we were seeing the first images - totemic, talismanic images."
A short follow-up, Kustom Kar Kommandos, presents a young man who loves his car more than Kenneth Pinyan loved horses.
And there you have it!
Three Dollar Bill Cinema @ The NWFF
Thursday, April 26,7:00 PM

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