I was introduced to the films of Kenneth Anger (1927 – 2023) as part of my graduate curriculum. As I was developing exhibitions for public viewing, I recognized the intrinsic value to present a wide spectrum of vintage and contemporary films that would showcase different genres and orientations.
One film, in particular, caught my attention: Scorpio Rising (1964)! It was easy to identify Anger’s visual lexicon in advertising, cinema and pop culture. His influence in such movies as Easy Rider (1969), George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973) and Martin Scorcese’s Mean Streets (1973) was evident. From pop music videos to fashion houses to queer iconography, his imprint is undeniable. His celebration of male beauty through fashion as a symbol of seduction and sexuality is captivating. I knew that a retrospective of his work needed to be included in my curation.
In the 1960s, Anger was one of a number of avant-garde filmmakers who received national attention as part of mainstream fascination with all things counter-cultural. His work provided a wanton glimpse into the underground movement of the time. His camera would adoringly gaze at objects and weight them with an erotic and iconic power. Scorpio Rising garnered special attention after a Los Angeles theater manager was found guilty of obscenity in 1964 for screening the film. The brief flashes of nudity and unabashed homoeroticism in the film was totally unorthodoxed. Of course, this made Anger a favorite amongst the intelligentsia.
Per Anger, “Making a movie is like casting a spell.” He certainly cast his spell on me, as well as generations of creatives across industries. The Kenneth Anger Retrospective included Fireworks (1947), Puce Moment (1949), Rabbit’s Moon (1950), Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome( 1954), Kustom Kar Kommando (1955), Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969) and Lucifer Rising (1972) to provide a comprehensive exploration into his film style, technique and daringness.
The Devil in the Details: Kenneth Anger, Artnet News
The Kult of Kenneth Anger, Sleek Magazine
Kenneth Anger: Icons, MOCA
The Visionary Cinema of Kenneth Anger, Retrofuturista
Above Featured Image: Film still from Scorpio Rising | Below: Scorpio Rising, 28 minutes, Kenneth Anger