Kenneth Anger: The Complete Magick Lantern Cycle [2 Discs] [DVD]

Controversial artist, author, and provocateur Kenneth Anger (Hollywood Babylon) began shooting his own films at the tender age of 11, and emerged over the following decades with a series of groundbreaking, deeply poetic avant-garde shorts that combined mythical, homoerotic, and occult traditions with nonstop torrents of overwhelming surrealist imagery. This package brings into a single collection ten of Anger's original works from his "Magick Lantern Cycle," produced between 1947 and 1981, and seen here in their uncut form. The set includes Fireworks (1947), Puce Moment (1949), Rabbit's Moon (1950), Eaux d'Artifice (1953), The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954), Scorpio Rising (1964), Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965), Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), Rabbit's Moon (1979), and Lucifer Rising (1980). Supplements include original audio commentaries by Anger on all of the films; short written appreciations by Martin Scorsese, Gus Van Sant, and Guy Maddin; the Anger-directed Aleister Crowley documentary The Man We Want to Hang (2002); and much more.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Screen-specific audio commentaries for all films by Kenneth Anger
  • Rare outtakes from Rabbit's Moon
  • Full-color booklet with written appreciations by Martin Scorsese, Gus Van Sant, and Guy Maddin, written introduction to Lucifer Rising by Bobby Beausoleil, notes for each film, rare photos, and more
  • The Man We Want to Hang (2002): Kenneth Anger's film on the art of Aleister Crowley
  • Alternate audio track for Invocation of My Demon Brother
  • Restoration demonstrations

Synopsis

Fireworks
A landmark of both experimental and gay/lesbian filmmaking, Kenneth Anger's film is a bizarre, disturbing dreamscape of violation, rape, and homoerotic sadomasochism. The film opens with Anger, who made this film when he was only 17, awaking from a troubled dream and leaving his house to go on a stroll. He is confronted by a band of buff sailors who proceed to beat, manhandled, and molest him. Recalling other surrealist masterpieces such as Un Chien andalou and Meshes in the Afternoon, this film uses elliptical narrative structure and dream-like visual metaphors and puns. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi

Puce Moment
Long before Kenneth Anger's book Hollywood Babylon appeared in France in 1963, Anger had worked on a film script about the glamour, decadence, and decline of Hollywood entitled "Puce Women." Only the first part of it, six-and-a-half-minutes' worth, were actually filmed. The film opens with the camera soaring through an extraordinary array of costumes, finally coming to rest in the lair of a Hollywood starlet who knows how to wear them (played by one of Anger's cousins, Yvonne Marquis). The camera focuses lovingly on the apparel, how it is worn, put on, and taken off; an early manifestation of an Anger trademark would find further development in films such as Scorpio Rising. For many years Puce Moment was shown with the Overture to Verdi's opera I Villi, but in 1966 Anger added a newly made soundtrack consisting of an intriguing folk-rock score by the otherwise unknown Jonathan Halper. ~ David Lewis, Rovi

Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit's Moon is a "Magic Lantern" Commedia del'Arte play in which Pierrot (André Soubeyran) is attempting to reach the moon, occupied by a rabbit, and later attempts to win the heart of Columbine (Nadine Valance), though he thwarted by Harlequin (Claude Revenant). Pierrot discovers a magic lantern, which provides him happiness and relief from his unrealized ambitions. This is one of Kenneth Anger's most delicate creations, one of the only post-WWII experimental shorts to successfully recreate the look of a late nineteenth century lanterna magica. Started on 35 mm in 1950 on a set owned by Jean-Pierre Melville, Rabbit's Moon was abandoned after only a few days of shooting, as Melville needed his studio returned to him. The unfinished film was stored at the Cinemathèque Française and forgotten. In 1970 Anger returned to this project and realized it in a 16-minute version, synchronized to an assemblage of pop hits. In 1979 it was shortened to a mere seven minutes and a new soundtrack, which consists of distracting rock music that seems wholly inappropriate for the film, was added. This is the version that circulates in the current "Magick Lantern Cycle." ~ David Lewis, Rovi

The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Directed by famed homoerotic underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger in 1954, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is considered a key work of American experimental film. It has been cited as an influence on Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe series and on certain shots in Martin Scorsese's Kundun. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome varies in length from 38 to 43 minutes, depending on the print or video, and also exists in a version altered by Anger in 1966. The color film is dedicated to British writer and occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), author of The Diary of a Drug Fiend. Anger's tribute presents a "Dionysian revel." Highlights include appearances by erotica author and diarist Anaïs Nin and by avant-garde filmmaker Curtis Harrington. Anger authored the book of scandal and gossip Hollywood Babylon. ~ Steve Blackburn, Rovi

Lucifer Rising
Lucifer is depicted as a fallen favorite of God. ~ Nickie ?, Rovi

Kustom Kar Kommandos
Scorpio Rising
Decried as obscene upon its initial release, this short documentary style feature from avant garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger contains no dialogue and rapidly inter-cuts images against a score of slyly selected pop tunes, predating the advent of the music video by a decade and a half. Delving into the homoerotic world of bikers, Anger focuses his camera on Scorpio (Bruce Byron), a leather-wearing, crystal methamphetamine-snorting bad boy who is alternately compared to Jesus Christ, Adolf Hitler and the Devil, depending on his activities. Scorpio is seen strutting his stuff, racing his bike, vandalizing a church and attending a rowdy party where a fellow reveler is tortured and humiliated by the bikers. Through it all, Anger draws clear parallels between Scorpio's crowd, sadism and homosexuality, with alternately subtle and obvious montages depicting snippets of other films, comic strips, plenty of gleaming phallic chrome, and symbols like the Nazi swastika. Considered by many to be one of the first post-modern films, Scorpio Rising (1964) was a controversial hit only on the underground circuit, but its style greatly influenced a generation of popular filmmakers, most notably director Martin Scorsese. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

Eaux d'Artifice
Set to the "Winter" concerto in Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, Eaux d'Artifice focuses on columns of water jets from the Tivoli Fountains and features a mysterious, masked woman, "the Water Witch," darting in and out of the scenes. Although the film was shot in black-and-white, it was printed through a cyan filter to give the artificial appearance of being filmed at night. The fan held by the the Water Witch is hand-painted lime green, and the witch itself is played by a midget in order to give a false sense of scale. ~ David Lewis, Rovi

The Man We Want to Hang
Invocation of My Demon Brother
Kenneth Anger's short avant-garde film Invocation of My Demon Brother includes a Moog synthesizer soundtrack by Mick Jagger. ~ Brian Gusse, Rovi

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