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October 8 - October 10

Kenneth Anger's Magick Lantern Cycle

Few artists today have achieved the legendary status, notorious celebrity and sublime mastery of the cinema as Kenneth Anger (b. 1927), one of the greatest virtuoso filmmakers to emerge from the postwar American experimental film movement. Fueled by Anger’s polymath imagination, his visually dazzling films draw from an incredible range of sources – classical Hollywood, Méliès, Coleridge, Aleister Crowley – to create an intoxicating world entirely of their own, a shimmering, dangerous realm ruled by cruel and beautiful demons, goddesses, harlequins and princes. The hypnotic power and intensity of Anger’s films is simply astonishing, with his inspired use of color, superimposition and exquisite framing rendering each frame a breathtaking work of art. Of equal importance is Anger’s inventive use of popular, classical and composed music to add ironic counterpoint and swelling operatic drama to the fables and rituals enacted within his films.

Born in Santa Monica, California in the twilight of the silent cinema, Anger quickly discovered the deep fascination for the Hollywood Dream Factory that would echo across his career, giving way both to Puce Moment’s loving tribute to movie star glamour and the wicked satire of his enormously influential bible of Tinseltown scandal, Hollywood Babylon. Anger’s undisputed genius as an inventor of new cinematic forms and genres revealed itself early, with the debut of his first widely seen film Fireworks, made when Anger was only sixteen and selected by Jean Cocteau for his legendary Festival du Film Maudit in 1949. One of the strongest contributions to the cycle of trance films inaugurated by Maya Deren, Fireworks is a feverish and disarmingly boyish study of male desire that revealed the rich dream logic and puckish charm that would remain a quintessence of Anger’s films. In the 1950s Anger found himself in Paris, where he lived for almost a decade, unleashing his passion for silent cinema through an unofficial apprenticeship to Cinematheque Française Director Henri Langlois and through his exquisite Méliès -inspired film poem, Rabbit’s Moon.

Undaunted by his constant struggle to secure support for his increasingly ambitious projects, Anger brilliantly reworked his finished films, condensing and intensifying their imagery and structure in a process that culminated in the third “Sacred Mushroom” version of his then longest work, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, now expanded by ecstatic superimpositions that brilliantly reinvent the film, frame by frame. Over time Anger subtly reworked his films into the sequence that he would later name his Magick Lantern Cycle, using the preferred spelling of his spiritual mentor Aleister Crowley, and placing at its center his most celebrated work, Scorpio Rising, both a brilliant documentary of a Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang and a profound meditation on the dark intermingling of fascism, religion and popular culture. Anger’s subsequent films pushed the ritualistic aspects of his cinema to a further extreme following his increased engagement with Satanist practices and a group of practitioners that included Bobby Beausoleil, a member of the Manson Family who appeared prominently in Anger’s Evocation of My Demon Brother shortly before being sentenced to life imprisonment for murder – he later composed the haunting score for Lucifer Rising from his prison cell. Anger’s recent embrace of video shows his vision and creative skills to be undiminished as he uses elaborate, musical montage to fashion lyrical visions from the treasure trove of 20th century history and popular culture.

The Harvard Film Archive is deeply honored to welcome Kenneth Anger for a celebration of his visionary films and career.

Special thanks: Brian Butler; Ross Lipman; Todd Wiener, UCLA. Prints for Fireworks, Kustom Karr Komandos, Rabbit’s Moon and Scorpio Rising from the UCLA Film & Television Archive; preservation funded by the Film Foundation.


Friday October 8 at 7pm

Fireworks

Directed by Kenneth Anger.
US 1947, 35mm, b/w, 20 min.

Anger’s most openly Surrealist film is an exquisitely crafted and choreographed dream of feverish desire, starring Anger himself and filmed in his childhood home in Santa Monica while his parents were away for the weekend. Inspired by the trance films of Maya Deren and the Zoot Suit riots that had recently ignited the Greater Los Angeles area, Fireworks trembles with an ardent search for poetry within moments of unleashed violence and passion.

Puce Moment

Directed by Kenneth Anger.
US 1949, 16mm, color, 6 min.

Anger collaborated with fellow Angelino filmmaker Curtis Harrington on this sketch for a planned but never realized feature length homage to the silent cinema. Using shimmering gowns inherited from his grandmother, a dress maker for the silent stars, to create bold color abstraction, Puce Moment also offers an important early example of Anger’s inventive use of popular music as a type of “found” soundtrack.

Rabbit's Moon

Directed by Kenneth Anger.
US 1950, 35mm, b/w, 16 min.

Embracing the whimsy and wonderment of Melies and working entirely within a Parisian sound stage, Anger painstakingly crafted a night forest with hand-painted leaves and trees as the setting for a sumptuous and sad tone poem about a clown enraptured by the moon.

Eaux D'Artifice

Directed by Kenneth Anger.
US 1953, 16mm, b/w and color, 12 min.

While traveling with experimental filmmaker Marie Menken in Europe, Anger was inspired by the elaborate fountains of Villa d’Este in Tivoli to design this meticulously structured musical celebration of baroque excess.

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome

Directed by Kenneth Anger.
US 1954, 16mm, color, 38 min.

Anger’s astonishing masterpiece unfolds a constellation of imagined gods choreographed by Anger and drawn from one of the legendary “Come As Your Madness” costume galas hosted by the silent film actor and reclusive impresario Samson De Brier in his Hollywood mansion. Featuring Anais Nin, Curtis Harrington and De Brier himself among the self-fashioned deities and demons, Inauguration was reworked several times by Anger, once as a dazzling three screen version which he then condensed to the Sacred Mushroom version seen here by brilliantly using superimposition to create complex mandala-like images.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Saturday October 9 at 7pm

Scorpio Rising

Directed by Kenneth Anger, Appearing in Person
US 1964, 35mm, color, 28 min.

After returning from France, Anger began an extraordinary project documenting the ritualized, leather-bound lives within an all male community of a Brooklyn Hell’s Angels chapter. Using montage and a jukebox structured pop soundtrack with unprecedented élan and brilliance, Anger transformed his footage into a meditation on speed, death and masculinity that uses the biker subculture to reveal darker currents running through postwar American popular culture.

Kustom Kar Kommandos

Directed by Kenneth Anger, Appearing in Person
US 1965, 35mm, color, 3 min.

A jewel like fragment from a never realized feature film meant as a West Coast counterpart to Scorpio focusing on Southern California hot rod culture.

Invocation of My Demon Brother

Directed by Kenneth Anger, Appearing in Person
US 1969, 16mm, color, 12 min.

Anger offers a terrifying vision of war and simmering male puissance that intermingles footage from Vietnam newsreels, the Haight-Ashbury scene and a Satanic ritual performed by Anger himself, united by the propulsive drone soundtrack composed by Mick Jagger on an electronic keyboard.

Lucifer Rising

Directed by Kenneth Anger, Appearing in Person
US 1970-1980, 16mm, color, 29 min.

One of the great avant-garde films of the 1970s, Lucifer Rising was one of Anger’s most elaborate productions, filmed largely in Egypt and starring Scottish director Donald Cammell and Marianne Faithful as ancient gods engaged in occult ritual. Starkly beautiful and mesmerizing, Anger’s film features an incredible score composed by Manson Family member Bobby Beausoliel.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Sunday October 10 at 7pm

The Man We Want to Hang

Directed by Kenneth Anger, Appearing in Person
US 2002, 16mm, color, 12 min.

A fascinating tour through a London gallery show of paintings by Anger’s beloved Aleister Crowley.

Mouse Heaven

Directed by Kenneth Anger, Appearing in Person
US 2004, video, color, silent, 10 min.

Anger’s spirited celebration of Mickey Mouse reveals his consummate skills as an editor, able to musically interweave a staggering profusion of Mickeys, a panoply of shapes and sizes that suggest the multiple lives of a popular cultural icon who has truly taken on almost religious dimensions.

Ich Will!

Directed by Kenneth Anger, Appearing in Person
US 2008, video, b/w and color, 35 min.

Anger mined a trove of Nazi-era footage for this study of the Hitler Youth that uses home movies, propaganda and training films to create a bracing alternate look at militaristic indoctrination and ritualized spectacle.

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