THE FILMS OF KENNETH ANGER: A Review in Four Parts

I specifically paired up Rabbit’s Moon and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome because they were my two favourite films from the first volume of The Films of Kenneth Anger. All of Anger’s films are visually enticing but I think the imagery in these two is particularly imaginative.

RABBIT’S MOON (1950/1979)

Rabbit’s Moon was filmed in Les Films du Panthéon in 1950 but was not completed until 1970 after Anger retrieved the footage from the Cinémathèque Française. A sixteen minute version of the film was released in 1971 and featured a soundtrack that included The Capris, Mary Wells, The Dells, The Flamingos and The El Dorados. There was a second shorter version released in 1979 that looped A Raincoat’s It Came In The Night. For your viewing pleasure I have included the 1979 version with A Raincoat’s awesome song that will not leave my head!

RABBIT’S MOON a film by Anger

Anger was inspired by a Japanese fairytale. What appears to us in North America as a man’s face looks more like the silhouette of a rabbit from the Japanese perspective. They have built an elaborate fairytale around the rabbit who lives in the moon; when the moon is full children leave rice cakes out for the critter. Anger incorporates into the story the well-known French characters Pierrot, Harlequin and Columbine.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 15:07:25Anger was given four weeks to work in Les Films du Panthéon. In that time he had to write the story, build the sets, make the costumes and find the right performers. The films actors Andre Soubeyran, Claude Revenant and Nadine Valence came from the Marcel Marceau School of Mime. All the leaves scattered about the set were hand cut of crystal paper.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 15:07:46The Rabbit.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 15:08:12The Moon. Pierrot longs for the moon.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 15:11:01The two child characters were played by cameraman Oleg Tourjansky’s children.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 15:29:32Screenshot from 2013-06-09 15:11:58Harlequin the mischief-maker.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 15:13:11The eye image corresponded with the song Anger chose; I Only Have Eyes for You by The Flamingos. Screenshot from 2013-06-09 15:31:00Pierrot the sad lover instantly falls for Columbine and offers her the moon.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 15:17:53Pierrot follows a rabbit into another realm. The shredded silver used in the other realm was inspired by Josef von Sternberg’s The Scarlet Empress.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 15:18:20The blue filter gives the film a dreamy and magical appearance and repeats and overlaps are used to amp up the other-worldliness. Kenneth Anger’s Rabbit’s Moon is an exquisite fairytale. I prefer the original sixteen minute version but either version is a resplendent amazing experience.

INAUGURATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME (1954)

I mentioned in part one of this feature that Kenneth Anger follows Aleister Crowley’s religion/philosophy Thelema. Anger’s 1954 film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome was the first I watched from the set that included a healthy dose of Aleister Crowley inspired images. Cabalistic symbols are shown throughout and a picture of Crowley smoking a pipe is flashed. Anger mentioned Crowley several times in the commentary. A variety of historical, mythological, religious and fictional characters are inaugurated into the Pleasure Dome. Anger includes the character Cesare from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Cesare is played by director Curtis Harrington whose films Night Tide and Queen of Blood made my top ten lists for 1961 and 1966 respectively. The inspiration for the film came after Anger attended a ‘Come as Your Madness’ themed Halloween party. Author Anaïs Nin wore a birdcage on her head to the party which her character Astarte wears in the film. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome‘s name is from the poem Kubla Khan written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome‘s soundtrack is a complete performance of Czech composer Leos Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is an epic thirty-eight minutes; the costumes, the colors, the creation of another world superbly surreal, mysterious and wondrous! A masterpiece!

 

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:31:53Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:32:10Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome’s titles were painted by Paul Mathison who plays Pan in the film.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:33:42Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome was filmed in the home of Samson De Brier who also plays several roles in the film; Lord Shiva, Osiris, Nero and The Great Beast.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:34:30Samson De Brier as The Great Beast.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:35:09Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:36:28Marjorie Cameron as The Scarlet Woman.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:38:30Painter Renate Druks as Lilith; The Female Demon of Discontent.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:41:02Samson De Brier as Emperor Nero

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:59:10Katy Kadell as Isis.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:42:40Artist Paul Mathison as Pan.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:43:51

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:45:36Author Anaïs Nin as Astarte; Goddess of the Moon.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:46:38 Samson De Brier as Lord Shiva.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:46:58Joan Whitney as Aphrodite.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:55:02Kenneth Anger as Hecate.

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:50:10

Screenshot from 2013-06-09 18:58:03 The pace becomes psychotic in the film’s finale. A continually changing barrage of overlapping images made for a trippy finale. Anger includes snippets from his earlier film Puce Moment as well as footage from the silent film L’Inferno.

Inaguration of the Pleasure Dome‘s visuals are truly inspired. It  is a hypnotic, beautiful and unique film and in my opinion is one of the best in the collection.

3 Responses to “THE FILMS OF KENNETH ANGER: A Review in Four Parts”

  1. I love story for the Movie “Anger”…The blue filter seems to probably work with this film….whereas some movies it might take you out of the movie the color choice pulls you into to it I’m thinking …I haven’t seen the video but through your pictures on “Anger” it reminds me of the Cirque Du Soleil feel to it…(which I love) …Thanks GG

    • goregirl Says:

      Cheers Philip! Anger does neat things with filters in a few of his films. The blue filter really compliments this one, it isn’t acrobatic like Cirque du Soleil but the sets have that vibe.

  2. […] of his films to get the full review treatment! Curtis Harrington appeared in Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and his films Night Tide and Queen of Blood appeared on two of my top ten lists for 1961 and 1966. […]

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