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May 06, 2007

Anger in Miami Beach

mouse heaven.jpg

There was a tribute last night to Kenneth Anger as part of the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. I wasn't there, but I was told that about fifty people walked out on Scorpio Rising. The older members of the audience were offended by the Nazi symbols worn by the bikers. The younger audience were looking for friendlier gay entertainment. I was one of a handful of people who did see the selection of films by Anger presented at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. It seemed odd to me that there was no problem watching Scorpio Rising at NYU with a significant proportion of Jewish students. Likewise, there were full houses when Kenneth Anger was at Telluride in 1975. For whatever reasons, people in Miami Beach who like to pretend they love cinema ignored the opportunity to see four rarely screened films by Anger.

This was my first time seeing Invocation of my Demon Brother and Lucifer Rising. The two films are stylistically different but connected by the participation of The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger created an electronic sound score for Invocation, while Anita Pallenberg stood in for the Stones to "present" Lucifer Rising, which starred Jagger protegee Marianne Faithful. Invocation is the more abstract film, full of overlapping shots, boys lounging around, guys dresses as demons. It also reminded my that due to my own lack of use, I may have lost the ability to write clearly about this kind of filmmaking, and wished that P. Adams Sitney was around to articulate what I had just seen.

Lucifer Rising, the 1980 version, was a marked contrast in style. Similar to older Anger films with his actors dressed in costume, representing mythic gods, the film is visually cleaner. Even if one is not to clear about who Marianne Faithful, Donald Cammell and the others are suppose to be, or what they are doing, there is pleasure in watching them walk regally around the Sphinx in Egypt or in Stonehenge. The mostly rock music score is by Bobby Beausoleil, which suggests a talented guy who could have done more had he not fallen in with the wrong crowd.

My problem with Kenneth Anger, which may say as much about me as about the filmmaker, is manifested in appreciating The Man We Want to Hang. The title is revealed to be a joke, as the film is made up of shots of paintings and drawings, by and of Aleister Crowley. This is a film that is probably appreciated best by those who have a dedicated interest in Crowley.

Mouse Heaven is a film that could be enjoyed by people who have never heard of Kenneth Anger. Shot on video, Anger assembled a large number of Mickey Mouse toys and artifacts. Save for an opening shot of rats which unintentionally reminded me of the forthcoming Disney-Pixar film, Mouse Heaven is the first Anger film that could be described as fun. Toys are animated, and multiple Mickeys sing and dance to music of Ian Whitcomb and James and Bobby Purify, among others. The special effects, including a background of glowing stars, are still low tech. The memorabilia reflects Anger's longtime fascination with old Hollywood, while the music is a continuation of the use of kitschy pop songs as commentary on his characters. At this time, the Walt Disney Company is trying to bar Mouse Heaven. It’s not a totally reverential look at Mickey Mouse, but considering some of the pokes at Disney done by other filmmakers, the guardians of the Mouse may be overzealous. I never expected to see a family friendly film from Kenneth Anger. My personal rating for Mouse Heaven is "Gee".

Posted by peter at May 6, 2007 05:45 PM