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Music for Kenneth Anger

Real-time film performances chapter 1

Music for Kenneth Anger is the first chapter in a trilogy of performances dedicated to the American avant-garde cinema.
The performance was held at Milan’s LOFT 21 on February 26th 2011 and hosted by the Inlandempire Project.

During the performance the movie “Inaguration of the Pleasure Dome” was screened.

Kenneth Anger (born Kenneth Wilbur Anglemeyer; February 3, 1927) is an American underground experimental filmmaker, actor and author of two controversial Hollywood Babylon books. Working exclusively in short films, he has produced almost forty works since 1937, nine of which have been grouped together as the “Magick Lantern Cycle”, and form the basis of Anger’s reputation as one of the most influential independent filmmakers in cinema history. His films variously merge surrealism with homoeroticism and the occult, and have been described as containing “elements of erotica, documentary, psychodrama, and spectacle.” Anger himself has been described as “one of America’s first openly gay filmmakers, and certainly the first whose work addressed homosexuality in an undisguised, self-implicating manner”, and his “role in rendering gay culture visible within American cinema, commercial or otherwise, is impossible to overestimate”, with several being released prior to the legalisation of homosexuality in the United States. He has also focused upon occult themes in many of his films, being fascinated by the notorious English occultist Aleister Crowley, and is a follower of Crowley’s religion, Thelema.

Born to a middle-class family in Santa Monica, California, Anger would later claim to have been a child actor who appeared in the film A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935); the accuracy of this claim has come under dispute. He began making short films when he was ten years old, although his first film to gain any recognition, the homoerotic Fireworks (1947), would only be produced a decade later. The controversial nature of the work led to him being put on trial on obscenity charges, but he was acquitted. A friendship and working relationship began subsequently with pioneering sexologist Alfred Kinsey. Moving to Europe, Anger produced a number of other shorts inspired by the artistic avant-garde scene on the continent, such as Rabbit’s Moon (released 1970) and Eaux d’Artifice (1953).

Returning to the United States in 1953, he set about working on several new projects, including the films Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954), Scorpio Rising (1964), Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965), and the gossip book Hollywood Babylon (1965). Getting to know several notable countercultural figures of the time, including Tennessee Williams, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Marianne Faithfull and Anton LaVey, Anger involved them in his subsequent Thelemite-themed works, Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969) and Lucifer Rising (1972). Following his failure to produce a sequel to Lucifer Rising, Anger retired from filmmaking in the early 1980s, instead publishing the book Hollywood Babylon II (1982). At the dawn of the 21st century he once more returned to filmmaking, producing shorts for various film festivals and events.

Anger has described filmmakers such as Auguste and Louis Lumière, Georges Méliès, and Maya Deren as influences,[4] and has been cited as an important influence on later film directors like Martin Scorsese, David Lynch
and John Waters. He has also been described as having “a profound impact on the work of many other filmmakers and artists, as well as on music video as an emergent art form using dream sequence, dance, fantasy, and narrative.

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Anger created two other versions of this film in 1966 and the late 1970s. According to Anger, the film takes the name “pleasure dome” from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s atmospheric poem Kubla Khan. Anger was inspired to make the film after attending a Halloween party called “Come as your Madness.”
Early prints of the film had sequences that were meant to be projected on three different screens. Anger subsequently re-edited the film to layer the images. The film – primarily the 2nd and 3rd revisions – was often shown in American universities and art galleries during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
The film reflects Anger’s deep interest in Thelema, the philosophy of Aleister Crowley and his followers, as indicated by Cameron’s role as “The Scarlet Woman” (an honorific Crowley bestowed on certain of his important magical partners).
The film uses some footage of the Hell sequence from the 1911 Italian silent film L’Inferno. Near the end, scenes from Anger’s earlier film Puce Moment are interpolated into the layered images and faces.

Cast

  • Samson de Brier as Shiva, Osiris, Nero, Cagliostro, and Aleister Crowley (credited as “The Great Beast 666”)
  • Marjorie Cameron as The Scarlet Woman and Kali
  • Joan Whitney as Aphrodite
  • Katy Kadell as Isis
  • Renate Druks as Lilith
  • Anaïs Nin as Astarte
  • Curtis Harrington as Cesare the sleepwalker
  • Kenneth Anger as Hecate
  • Paul Mathison as Pan
  • Peter Loome as Ganymede