Kenneth Anger is my Grandfather. He is upstairs in my parent’s bed and I bring him his breakfast. He’s feeling better but restless and anxious to get out again. He’s planning his escape. I’m in charge of watching him, of serving him, but also making sure he does not get away. Over the next few days we get to know each other, really, for the first time. We laugh and joke, he begins to open up to me and I’m excited to make up for lost time.
I walk up the stairs one fine summer morning into his room to find an empty bed, sheets disheveled, pillows on the floor. From the bedroom window I watch as he rides off on what else but a motorcycle. At this point I become Anger and I drive through off road trails into the backwoods of the country. I slow down, get off the bike and walk, full of dread, toward my destination: prison.
The prison is some distance away. But I can tell things have gotten out of hand long before I arrived. A huge battle is being waged on the verdant fields of this stone Bastille. Full riot and a jail engulfed in massive flames of blood and steel. As I walk towards the flaming prison, an old man cries out among the sheiks firsts and smoke, “This is where you belong, isn’t it, Kenneth!”
When I awoke it was noon.
I remembered what I done last night. Cinema Dance Eros. I had come to see the good Dr. Kenneth Anger at Anthology Film Archive. To see what he had to say since last I’d heard him, live and direct from the Whitney Museum, some 2 years ago. I also came to see the new films, films many people did not believe even existed. But I had faith, the faith of a child that sees death grinning before the eye of the moon.
Lonely Christopher and I arrived early. I bought a ticket for my friend Colette. She arrived looking resplendent as always, her beautiful hat of crystal amaranth and her dress of white light. After I bought the ticket I heard, what I feared, and had not yet read on the giant sign in front of the ticket window: “We regret to inform you that Kenneth Anger will not be attending tonight’s program.” The man in person had been replaced by a taped interview conducted by, who else but, the French.
Of the new films, first up “Surfing Lucifer”, began with the Universal Studio logo and theme song, with a slight change in text, reading, “Piracy.” What followed was amazing footage of luciferian cowabunga man-boys riding hard gargantuan waves, on super 8 film stock, to the thick Cali beat of “Good Vibrations.”
The first program ended with the video taped Kenneth Anger interview. The great Anger began describing some Renaissance looking painting, obsessing over the unusual presence of a “negro.” He discussed his illness, Manic-Depression, with somber grace, and I felt a stir of empathy. He made stabs at his bastard Hollywood disciples, “I used Blue Velvet in a movie way before David Lynch did. In fact he got the idea because he liked how I used it. At least that’s what I heard.” He discussed his disgust with the politically correct and his disregard of any concern over the misunderstanding of his Nazis imagery in “Scorpio Rising.” “I like shock and I like controversy.” His face was blurred as he denoted the folly of Francis Ford Coppola, whom he called a great example of Hollywood waste, and gave good examples of such wasting, “He bought 800 Nagras and handed them out to the Filipino children to go around recording jungle noises. They couldn’t use any of it!” He ended these comments with a lesson of how demonic providence works its way against the Hollywood Goliaths, citing the disasters that beguiled the shooting of the motion picture “South Pacific”, “Nature gets revenge on Hollywood through natural disaster. If they had shot in a studio none of that would have happened.”
The second program began with the long anticipated new work, “Foreplay”. The standard pop song soundtrack was replaced with the natural sounds of balls smacking against feet and balls shot into goals after being dribbled on dirty knees and sock covered hairy ankles. An interesting take on the absurdity of competition and an ironic look at the latent homosexuality underlying modern athletics.
The great treat of the evening was the final act of the new works, “I’ll Be Watching You.”
CAUTION BEWARE SPOILERS!!!
“I’ll Be Watching You” begins with a handsome security man hidden in the booth of an underground parking garage clearly bored but focused, watching intently at the security camera monitor. The ironic ’80s pop hit with the stalker lyrics and romantic tune bopping against the images. Then in drives a stallion of a man behind his delectable Dodge Neon. As the man in the booth watches in the monitor, a man who looks just like him comes out to greet the man in the car. But how can he? He’s in the booth! He can’t be two places at once! Is he watching himself? is this a dream? A fantasy? The audience ponders as Anger cuts to a close up of a security camera. The eye of Horus camouflaged by modern technology. What ensues is an actual hard-core porno reedited but not censored. Cars roll out, parking garage doors close. Those who know Anger in laughter, those who don’t befuddled. End. Anger, Paris, 2007.
This is the perhaps final period of Kenneth Anger: the piracy period. He appropriates footage and reedits it. Kenneth Anger as cinematic pirate. I for one think the new guise entirely appropriate. There is a touch of humor and intentionality that makes these works entirely acceptable and rather, well, cute. I told all this to a friend, she remarked, rightly so, “Well, it is very modern.” And as the good Dr.’s main man said, “I have never grown out of the infantile belief that the universe was made for me to suck.”
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