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Three by Kenneth Anger

Fri Jun 28, 2019 6:30 PM
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Keenly attuned to the mythopoeic resonance of popular songs, Kenneth Anger’s films presaged the use of rock ’n’ roll in narrative cinema as well as the way that cinema would later be employed to give rock songs a visual dimension for TV. The three films on this program illustrate his uncanny genius and his ability, as David E. James writes, to visualize “the ambiguities of rock ’n’ roll’s social meaning with a sophistication and depth wholly beyond the reach of the feature narratives of the time and perhaps of any other film.” The classic underground film of the sixties, and a masterpiece of montage set to music by Ricky Nelson, Bobby Vinton, the Crystals, and others, Scorpio Rising was described by Anger as “Myth of the American Motorcyclist. The Power Machine seen as a tribal totem, from toy to terror. Thanatos in chrome and black leather and bursting jeans.” Anger’s commedia dell’arte love poem Rabbit’s Moon was shot in Paris in 1950 and completed in 1970. Anger applied a blue filter to the theatrical black-and-white images and added a soundtrack of five doo-wop songs. David E. James writes, “The music supplies a counterpoint of richly harmonized aural pleasure that both contrasts with and sustains Pierrot’s masochistic melancholy, while the lyrics articulate his obsessive love and its failure.” Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome was filmed at artist Renate Druks’s 1953 “come as your madness” costume party in Hollywood. The mythic masquerade stars guests as various gods and heroes at a ritualistic bacchanal. Anger experimented with different versions and soundtracks for the film, and while the 1966 “Sacred Mushroom” Janacek version has become the acknowledged classic, the 1978 Electric Light Orchestra “Eldorado” version presented here affords the proceeding a strange magic all its own.

Films in this screening: "Rabbit's Moon", "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome", and "Scorpio Rising".