5 out of 5 stars
‘Eaux D’artifice,’ released in 1954, is a beautifully composed, scored and edited short film by esteemed director Kenneth Anger, highlighting a true expertise in his field of work. Like some of his earlier pieces, this picture has oneiric qualities that prompt one to transcend terrestrial ties, entering a mystical new domain. The plot of ‘Eaux D’Artifice,’ is most elegantly put by Anger himself, who describes the work as, “Hide and seek in a night-time labyrinth of levels, cascades, balustrades, grottoes, and ever-gushing, leaping fountains, until the Water Witch and the Fountain become One.” While this work is yet another installment within ‘The Magick Lantern Cycle,’ the techniques used emerge above the plot as the preeminent quality of the piece as a whole.
After several proposed projects, which include adaptations of publisher Jean- Jacques Pauvert’s ‘Histoire d’O,’ and Comte de Lautréamont’s ‘Le Chants de Maldoror,’ Anger spent some time In Rome where he visited the Villa d’Este, the setting for his next picture. Before Italy, Anger toured parts of Egypt where he birthed the concept behind ‘Hymn To The Sun,’ a two hour feature film, which even had a completed screenplay. Unfortunately the 23 July Revolution, a xenophobic uprising occurring in Egypt in 1952 made filmmaking virtually impossible and prompted Anger to flee the country, although not before two of his friends were killed. Two years prior, Kenneth Anger was hard at work editing Eisenstein footage that would eventually be ‘Que Viva Mexico!’ The varied nature of Anger’s work at this time, despite nothing being fully completed except his first effort, ‘Fireworks,’ led him to begin work on a four movement piece set in the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, a lush location, rich with history and most famous for its water garden. Featuring fountains, gargoyles, water falls and pools, the Villa d’Este was built by Cardinal d’Este who practiced ‘Worship of pagan gods, conducting numerous Dionysian rituals and ceremonies,” says Alice Hutchison, an authority on the works of Kenneth Anger. Considering the young filmmaker’s interest in the occult, it’s no surprise that this villa held a certain allure, especially since Crowley’s Abbey Of Thelema also stood in Italy since 1920. But in keeping with a monetary state Anger held for most of his career, the full concept for ‘Eaux D’Artifice,’ was shortened due to lack of money and film. What resulted was a elegant traipse through the villa’s water garden set to the score of Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ movement from ‘The Four Seasons’. Continue reading