Anger, Kenneth

views updated May 21 2018

ANGER, Kenneth

Nationality: American. Born: Santa Monica, California, 1930. Career: Played changeling in Max Reinhardt's film A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1934; studied tap-dancing in class including Shirley Temple, 1935; completed first film, 1941; after moving to Europe, first edition of Hollywood Babylon published in France, 1959; returned to U.S., 1962; following destruction of his film Lucifer Rising, placed an ad in Variety "In Memoriam Kenneth Anger 1947–1967," and returned to Europe, 1967; completed second version of Lucifer Rising, 1974 (released 1980). Address: c/o American Federation of Arts Film Program, 41 E. 65th St., New York, NY 10021, U.S.A.

Films (Conception, Direction, Photography, and Editing):


Who Has Been Rocking My Dream Boat


Tinsel Tree


Prisoner of Mars


The Nest


Escape Episode


Drastic Demise


Escape Episode (sound version)


Fireworks* (+ role as The Dreamer)


Puce Women (unfinished)


Puce Moment*; The Love That Whirls (unfinished)


La Lune des Lapins* (Rabbit's Moon) (conception, d, and ed only, + prod. design)


Maldoror (unfinished)


Eaux d'artifice* (+ costume design); Le Jeune Homme et la mort


Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome* (+ role as Hecate)


Thelema Abbey (conception, d, and ed only)


Scorpio Rising *


Kustom Kar Kommandos*


Invocation of My Demon Brother*


Rabbit's Moon


Lucifer Rising*


Lucifer Rising* (second version) (+ role as Magus)


Mouse Heaven

Note: * indicates films contained and distributed in Anger's definitive portfolio "The Magick Lantern Cycle."

Other Films:


He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life (role as himself)


Hollywood Babylon (for TV) (advisor)


Jonas in the Desert (role as himself)


Busby Berkeley: Going through the Roof (for TV) (role as himself); Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance(role as himself)


By ANGER: books—

Hollywood Babylon, Phoenix, Arizona, 1965; reprinted San Francisco, 1975.

Magick Lantern Cycle: A Special Presentation in Celebration of theEquinox Spring 1966, New York, 1966.

Hollywood Babylon II, New York, 1984.

By ANGER: articles—

Interview in Spider Magazine, v. 1, no. 13, 1965.

Interview in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1966.

Article in Filmmakers on Filmmaking, edited by Harry Geduld, Bloomington, Indiana, 1967.

Interview with Bruce Martin and Joe Medjuck, in Take One (Montreal), August 1967.

Interview with Lenny Lipton, in Filmmakers Newsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), November 1967.

Correspondence between Kenneth Anger and Paul Johnston, in FilmCulture (New York), nos. 70–71, 1983.

Interview with J. English, in On Film (Los Angeles), Summer 1983.

Interview in City Limits (London), 7 February 1986.

Interview with Alkarim Jivani, in Time Out (London), 27 February 1991.

Interview with Kate Haug, in Wide Angle (Baltimore), October 1996.

On ANGER: books—

Battcock, Gregory, editor, The New American Cinema, New York, 1967.

Youngblood, Gene, Expanded Cinema, New York, 1970.

Sitney, P. Adams, Visionary Film, New York, 1974.

Hanhardt, John, and others, A History of the American Avant-GardeCinema, New York, 1976

Haller, Robert A., Kenneth Anger, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1980.

Burchfield, John, Kenneth Anger: The Shape of His Achievements, New York, n.d.

O'Pray, Michael, and Jayne Pilling, Into the Pleasure Dome: TheFilms of Kenneth Anger, London, 1990.

On ANGER: articles—

"Filmography of Kenneth Anger," in Film Culture (New York), no. 31, 1963/64.

Kelman, Kenneth, "Thanatos in Chrome," and P. Adams Sitney, "Imagism in Four Avant-Garde Films," in Film Culture (New York), Winter 1963/64.

Micha, Rene, "Le Nouveau Cinéma," in Les Temps modernes (Paris), no. 214, 1964.

Kelman, Kenneth, "Appendix to Thanatos in Chrome," in FilmCulture (New York), Spring 1964.

Alexander, Thomas, "San Francisco's Hipster Cinema," in FilmCulture (New York), no. 44, 1967.

Cornwall, Regina, "On Kenneth Anger," in December (New York), no. 1, 1968.

Rayns, Tony, "Lucifer: A Kenneth Anger Kompendium," in Cinema (Cambridge), October 1969.

Sitney, P. Adams, "The Avant-Garde: Kenneth Anger and George Landow," in Afterimage (Rochester, New York), no. 2, 1970.

Mekas, Jonas, Richard Whitehall, and P. Adams Sitney, "Three Notes on Invocation of My Demon Brother," in Film Culture (New York), Winter/Spring 1970.

Magny, Joel, "Collectif jeune cinéma: 3e nuit blanche," in Cinéma (Paris), April 1972.

"Anger at Work," in Cinema Rising, April 1972.

Rowe, C., "Illuminating Lucifer," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1974.

Saslow, James, "Kenneth Anger: Holding a Magick Lantern up to the Future," in Advocate, 23 July 1981.

Hardy, Robin, "Kenneth Anger: Master in Hell," and Michael Wade, "Kenneth Anger: Personal Traditions and Satanic Pride," in BodyPolitic, April 1982.

Hoberman, J., "Sympathy for the Devil," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), March 1981.

Wees, W. C., "Before Lucifer: Preternatural Light in the Films of Kenneth Anger," in Cine-Tracts (Montreal), Summer-Fall 1982.

Rayns, Tony, "The Elusive Lucifer," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), September 1982.

"Kenneth Anger," in Film Dope (London), March 1988.

Cosgrove, S., "The Art of Scandal," in New Statesman & Society, 28 September 1990.

Cagle, Robert L., "Auto-eroticism: Narcissism, Fetishism, and Consumer Culture," in Cinema Journal(Austin), Summer 1994.

Joyard, Olivier, "Kenneth Anger, le maître de cérémonie," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1997.

Stevenson, Jack, "De laatste der onafhankelijken," in Skrien (Amsterdam), December-January 1998–1999.

* * *

One of the key figures of the postwar American avant-garde, Kenneth Anger represents a fiercely original talent, relatively free of the independent circles and movements which his own work managed to anticipate in almost every case. Creator of an oeuvre and a persona defined by their dialectical relationship to dominant representational, ideological, industrial, sexual, and aesthetic practices, Anger embodies the "radical otherness" of the avant-garde filmmaker, casting himself not only outside the mainstream, but as its negative image. While other experimentalists were exploring "ways of seeing" through cinematic abstraction, Anger remained committed to a search for meanings, even as his films pursued a variety of aesthetic paths. Anger's meanings emerge from his subversive reworkings of sources already charged with significance: the iconography of American popular culture (movie stars, comic strips, car clubs); the conventional rhetoric of narrative forms (from the commedia dell'arte to the lyrics of rock songs); the imagery of classic cinema (Cocteau, Eisenstein, DeMille); and the symbolism of various mythologies (Egyptian, Greek, astrological, alchemical), centered by the cosmology of master "magickian" Aleister Crowley.

Anger gained international prominence and notoriety at the age of seventeen with his film Fireworks, in which he appeared as the protagonist of a homoerotic fantasy in the oneiric tradition of Cocteau and Maya Deren, shot through with the romantic sadism of the American film noir. Three years later, he made Rabbit's Moon, a delicately humorous, Méliès-like fantasy involving a Pierrot character and a magic lantern, shot in Cocteau's own studio in Paris. Another three years found Anger in Italy, where he choreographed an elaborately baroque game of hide-and-seek through Tivoli's water gardens in Eaux d'artifice. Focusing at intervals on the visual patterns of water flowing from the fountains, this film experiments with the textures of an abstract filmic image a full two years before Brakhage's Wonder Ring. Yet, characteristically, the multiple superimpositions of Anger's colorful mass/masquerade Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome have less to do with abstraction than with an effort to achieve a magical condensation of mythological imagery. Scorpio Rising, however, remains Anger's most influential and original work. A tour-de-force collage of pop imagery, it is a paean to the American motorcyclist, a revelation of the violent, homoerotic undercurrent of American culture, and a celebration of the forces of chaos in the universe.

Anger spent most of the mid- to late-1960s on two abortive projects. His Kustom Kar Kommandos was cut short by the death of the young man playing its protagonist, although one sensual sequence, involving the dusting of a custom hot rod with a powder puff, has survived. Far more ambitious, however, was a master opus titled Lucifer Rising, a project cut tragically short when, at a 1967 San Francisco screening of the work-in-progress, the single print of the film was stolen by one of the film's actors, Manson cultist Bobby Beausoleil, and was supposedly buried somewhere in Death Valley, never to be recovered. This event was followed by Anger's self-imposed retirement, interrupted in 1969 by the appearance of an eleven-minute structural black mass constructed largely of Lucifer's outtakes, backed by a maddeningly monotonous soundtrack by Mick Jagger, and titled Invocation of My Demon Brother. By 1974, however, Anger had completed another version of Lucifer Rising, a dense meditative work shot mostly in Egypt, imbued with Crowleian mysticism and most memorable for the thoroughly uncanny image of a pinkish flying saucer hovering above the pyramids. The far more complete version finally released by Anger in 1980 marks a quantum leap in terms of Lucifer Rising's complexity, and remains the chefd'oeuvre of Anger's career.

—Ed Lowry

Anger, Kenneth (1930-)

views updated May 14 2018

Anger, Kenneth (1930-)

Avant-garde filmmaker and writer with a special interest in the occult. Born February 3, 1930, in Santa Monica, California, he was educated at Beverly Hills High School and also attended a school for expressive dancing. At the age of four he played the part of the changeling prince in Max Reinhardt's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for Warner Brothers. It was the beginning of Anger's fascination with filmmaking.

He grew up in Hollywood and collected a great deal of film memorabilia along with stories and gossip of the film industry, which formed the basis of his book Hollywood Babylone, first published in Paris, 1959, and reissued as Hollywood Babylon in 1965 and revised in 1975.

On graduation from high school, Anger's grandmother, who had happy memories of Paris, sponsored Anger's visit to Paris, where he met Jean Cocteau. Cocteau was impressed by Anger's first film, "Fireworks," and introduced Anger to writer Anaïs Nin.

In 1955 Anger paid a visit to Cefalù, Sicily, and rediscovered the Abbey of Thelema, the occult community established by Aleister Crowley in 1920. Anger uncovered a variety of magical paintings, many with sexual themes, on the abbey walls and doors, hidden by whitewash 37 years earlier by order of the Italian police. Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, compiler of the famous report Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948), visited Cefalù, where Anger showed him the unique murals. The story of Anger's discovery was featured in a two-part article in the journal Picture Post (November 26-December 3, 1955), illustrated with striking photographs by Fosco Maraini.

Anger did a number of films, among which are those with occult themes, stemming from Anger's fascination with the writings and philosophy of Aleister Crowley. Notable among these are "Thelema Abbey" (1955); "Lord Shiva's Dream" (1954), released as "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome" (1958); "Scorpio Rising" (1963); "Invocation of My Demon Brother" (1969); and "Lucifer Rising" (1970-80). Anaïs Nin played the part of the goddess Astarte in "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome," concerned with Crowley-esque rituals. Margorie Cameron, a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, who was famous for her participation in some magical child rituals with Jack Parsons, also appeared in the movie. Rock singer Mick Jagger provided a soundtrack on Moog synthesizer for "Invocation of My Demon Brother," in which Anton LaVey played the part of Satan and hippie musician Bobby Beausoleil played Lucifer. Beausoleil also provided music (performed by the Freedom Orchestra of Tracy Prison) for "Lucifer Rising." Beausoleil, a member of Charles Manson 's Family, had by that time been convicted for the 1969 murder of Gary Hinman.

During the preoccupation with occultism of the 1960s, Anger attended some of the Magic Circle discussion group meetings organized by colorful Satanist Anton LaVey in San Francisco. However, Anger has remained something of a loner, following his own individual avant-garde film themes of motorcycle gang mystique, sadomasochistic homosexual encounter, and Crowley's thelemic magick.


Robertson, Sandy. The Aleister Crowley Scrapbook. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1988.

More From