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Remembering Kenneth Anger: The Godfather of Queer Film
Kenneth Anger, the renowned gay filmmaker and author, passed away at the age of 96 on May 11. Though his death was reported widely this week, his legacy in the world of cinema and literature is everlasting. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Anger began making experimental movies at a young age. His most famous works, Fireworks (1947), Scorpio Rising (1963), and Lucifer Rising (1972), are considered groundbreaking for their homoerotic themes and unconventional style.
Fireworks, shot in his parents’ Beverly Hills home when they were out of town, features Anger in a sadomasochistic encounter with a group of musclebound sailors. The film was a daring exploration of gay desire and is regarded as one of the highest-profile homoerotic films of the postwar years. A theater operator who showed the movie was convicted of violating obscenity laws, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.
Scorpio Rising, which follows a group of leather-jacketed motorcyclists, features frontal nudity and was charged with indecency. However, Anger was cleared by the California Supreme Court. The film alternately treated the motorcyclists as sex symbols, neo-Nazis, and would-be messiahs, intercutting footage from a Christian educational film about Jesus. With its extensive use of pop music, Scorpio Rising presaged the rise of music videos. It included songs by Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Ray Charles, Bobby Vinton, and Little Peggy March.
Lucifer Rising, the final film in Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle, portrayed Lucifer not as the devil but as a god of light. Anger finished the first version of the film in 1972, but he revised it several times. Bobby Beausoleil, a follower of Charles Manson, wrote the score from prison, where he was serving a life sentence for murder. Inauguration of The Pleasure Dome, another film in the cycle, depicts historical and mythological figures in a dreamlike fashion and grew out of Anger’s interest in the work of occultist and poet Aleister Crowley. Famed diarist Anaïs Nin was among the cast.
Anger’s work has been admired by writer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, playwright Tennessee Williams, and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. Anger showed Kinsey a gay cruising area in Italy when he was living in Europe in the 1950s. J. Paul Getty Jr. was one of Anger’s financiers, and he worked with music stars such as Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull.
Anger’s Hollywood Babylon books contained anecdotes about the sex lives of movie stars, graphic descriptions of their deaths, and other controversial material. The first volume was published in France in 1959 but was suppressed for a time in the U.S., where it finally came out in 1975. A follow-up, Hollywood Babylon II, was released in 1984. The books were popular but criticized as inaccurate. Despite the criticisms, Anger defended his work and claimed to have a rough draft of a third volume involving certain personalities like Tom Cruise, who would sue him.
Anger did not like to be labeled a major figure of queer cinema, saying, “I don’t like being put in a cubbyhole.” However, his influence on film in general, queer or not, is undeniable. Anger’s personality was contrary to his surname, which he changed from Anglemyer. He was a charming man full of witty anecdotes, according to those who knew him. He was a pussycat with claws ready to strike when necessary.
The world has lost a great talent in Kenneth Anger, but his work will continue to inspire future generations of filmmakers and writers.
- Kenneth Anger films
- Hollywood Babylon book
- Queer cinema
- Experimental filmmaking
- LGBT representation in film
News Source : Trudy Ring
Source Link :Kenneth Anger, Influential Queer Filmmaker and ‘Hollywood Babylon’ Author, Dead at 96/