I’ll be absolutely honest right off the bat, I have never (until recently) seen any of Kenneth Anger’s much lauded back catalogue of film. I feel a little ashamed at myself for say this, especially since I enjoy watching the strange and obscure. Thankfully this has now been rectified after my recent purchase of Magick Lantern Cycle, a collection of Anger’s short films.
As of writing this I have only watch 2 of the 10 shorts – Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and Puce Moment – which have both blown my mind. The first thing which struck me while watching these pieces was the abundance of style and creativity behind them. Puce Moment for instance hasn’t seemed to have aged in the slightest since its 1949 release. The same can be said about Pleasure Dome, itself released in 1954.
Anger’s work had been recommended to me for years by a close friend (who still continues to open my eyes to more experimental films even after our time at university). So with some gusto I jumped into this mind-altering set with my first viewing of Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. To say I had never seen anything quite like it would be an understatement.
Clocking in at 38 minutes, this operatic art piece had me slack-jawed throughout its running time. It’s aesthetically interesting to watch with its bright Technicolor madness (as though the art is dripping out of the canvas) and has a certain erotic (and homo-erotic) sensuality running through its unique imagery. And like all good artwork it freaked me out.
Now I’m aware that’s not a very intelligent approach to describe what I was viewing, but I was genuinely lost for any other words. Yet the more I watched it, the more I started to appreciate its sense of dream-like style.
It was uncomfortable viewing to start with as I stepped out of my filmic comfort zone, but the more I absorbed the images the more I could see a bizarre beauty to it. I can begin to understand why Anger has inspired so many filmmakers over the years.
The same can be said for my viewing of Puce Moment, itself a 16mm love letter to Hollywood actresses of the time. The more I’ve delved into this set, I’ve found myself feeling inspired to try more with my writing and more out of my comfort zone to attempt making another short film again (after a 6 hiatus from it).
The next Anger piece I am to watch will be Lucifer Rising (1981), hopefully after viewing this I’ll be able to find a set of more descriptive words to help voice my opinion on these seminal works of film art.
Until then, I highly recommend this set if you haven’t already seen it and looking for something mind expanding and inspirational (it’s a Dual Format release from the BFI). The question is, is you’re mind ready for the sensory overload after a trip to the Pleasure Dome?
Think I’m talking gibberish? If so sound off in the comment sections below and let me know if you’ve seen any of Kenneth Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle (or can recommend anything similar).