Eaux D’Artifice (1953)

eaux d'artifice

5 out of 5 stars

eaux d'artificeEaux 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.

eaux d'artificeAfter 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.  eaux d'artificeFeaturing 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

Rabbit’s Moon (1950)

Rabbit's Moon 1950

 

5 out of 5 stars

rabbit's moon 1950Opposing western thought, when Japan gazes to the moon, instead of seeing a man’s face, there is the undoubted image of a rabbit, thus creating, at least partially, the foundation for Kenneth Anger’s 1950 masterpiece, ‘Rabbit’s Moon’.  A picture unlike any of his others at the time, ‘Rabbit’s Moon,’ is yet another title within the ‘Magick Lantern Cycle,’ boasting a classical cast of characters, a distinct visual style, and hidden qualities that help to make this work one of Anger’s most personal.  Shot behind the Studio de Pantheon in Paris over the course of four weeks in 1950, ‘Rabbit’s Moon’ was shelved for 20 years until 1970 when its contemporary doo-wap score was added, and yet again altered, for another cut in 1979.  While the same footage is used in both versions, the latter is sped up and given a different soundtrack, allowing for two wholly different experiences.  Anger has been quoted as saying his 1979 version of this film is the ‘kiddie version”.

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“The Commedia dell’Arte tradition had Pierrot, among other things, as a common fool, a thief, an affable street urchin grown up,” says Alice Hutchison, an authority on Anger’s filmography and life.  The character of Pierrot is a nearly ancient presence on stage, in ballet, film and art, with notable relevant examples including Browning’s ‘Puppets’ (1916), Marcel Carne’s renowned ‘Children Of Paradise’ (1945), Will Bradley’s ‘Moongold: A Pierrot Pantomime’ (1921), Méliès’ ‘By Moonlight, or The Unfortunate Pierrot’ (1904), and Urban Gad’s ‘Behind Comedy’s Mask’ (1913) to name only a fraction of his numerous appearances.  rabbit's moon 1950With Anger’s interest in the past, and the apparent influence the works of Méliès had upon his films, its no wonder he would step into the classical tradition, offering up his own meditation on the classical stock troupe, yet beautifully blending the classic with the contemporary and his lifelong fascination with Thelema.  Among Pierrot, ‘Rabbit’s Moon’ stars Columbine and Harlequin, who according to Hutchison is “A pretty, bawdy, working class girl,” and “An Italian version of the clever court-jester, often associated with magic and death.”  In Anger’s film, Harlequin represents a type of Lucifer character, and the first instance of his presence within his filmography, with later appearances in ‘Invocation Of My Demon Brother,’ ‘Innauguration Of The Pleasure Dome,’ and ‘Lucifer Rising’. Continue reading

Puce Moment (1949)

puce moment

 

5 out of 5 stars


puce moment Puce, a type of changeable purple, derives from the French word for ‘flea,’ which after dead or crushed on linens, resembles the color in its blood stains.  Although according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ‘puce’ dates back to 1787 in the English language, it was also a popular color for ladies’ dresses in the 1920s, which brings us to Kenneth Anger’s 1949 short film, ‘Puce Moment’.  Released 2 years after Anger’s shocking initial piece, ‘Fireworks,’ ‘Puce Moment’ is a glimpse into the obsolete opulence of silent era Hollywood, a subject that would warrant its own feature film the following year with Billy Wilder’s ‘Sunset Blvd,’ and is touched upon in the later masterpiece ‘Veronika Voss’ (1982) by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Originally a longer film titled ‘Puce Women,’ which even had storyboards, but was sadly never completed due to monetary issues with Anger, ‘Puce Moment,’ is exactly what the title insinuates, a mere moment in the life of these anachronistic women, relics of the past.  puce momentBy today’s standards, the color puce is a word of yesterday, rarely spoken, relatively obscure, and exemplary of the film’s intent.  Similar to Anger’s later work, ‘Kustom Kar Kommandos,’ which was also never completed due to extenuating circumstances, audiences can only ponder the brilliance of these films had they been created in their intended full form. Continue reading

Fireworks (1947)

fireworks poster 1947

5 out of 5 stars

 

fireworks 1947Fireworks,’ is a 1947 short film by Kenneth Anger, the earliest of his surviving works and the first in a series of pictures later to be known as ‘The Magick Lantern Cycle’ a term relating to the thelematic teachings of Aleister Crowley.  Filmed at the age of 17 in Anger’s parents’ house, during a weekend when they were out of town, ‘Fireworks,’ begins a lifelong fascination with portraying characters in quest for light, whatever its specific symbolism might mean pertaining to each of his works.  In this particular picture, light represents a certain sexual ecstasy or contention.  While still a classic example of avant-garde cinema, ‘Fireworks,’ unfolds in a relatively straight forward narrative, following a boy who leaves his bed in the dark of night, in search of a light.  Anger’s ‘Fireworks,’ is essential as a milestone in queer cinema, an influential avant-garde picture and its role as the first of his ‘Magick Lantern’ films.

‘Fireworks’ opens with an image of Anger’s limp body in the arms of a sailor, clearly reminiscent of Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ sculpture.  Upon the floor beside Anger’s bed are photos of this image.  He leaves his bed after an erection-esque shape forms beneath the sheets, which is removed and shown to be a small African style statue, and then fishes out a cigarette, finding he has no light.  fireworks 1947Next viewers are given a long shot of the distant town and highway at night, dreamily shown with distorted, twinkling lights.  Anger appears in a bar where a muscular sailor is disrobing, flexing his stunning physique.  After finding a light for his cigarette, Anger progresses to the docks where he is confronted by an ominous group of sailors, highly stylized, swinging chains and brandishing clubs.  The sailors chase Anger and finally corner him in an alley where he is brutally beaten, raped and sliced open with a broken bottle, a scene which shows an electrometer where his heart should be.  Next a sailor is shown with a lit roman candle in his crotch like an erect penis and cutting to an image of a burning Christmas tree levitating towards a statue of Christ in Anger’s bedroom.  ‘Fireworks’ closes with Anger once more in his bed, although now accompanied by the initial muscular sailor, his face distorted by a glimmering sun, symbolizing the attainment of ‘light’. Continue reading

Water Power (1977)

water power 1977

 

3 out of 5 stars

 

water power 1977The 1970s saw numerous revolutionary movements in film, from new American cinema to its foreign counterparts, all gloriously gritty in both subject matter and cinematography.  But few genres of film in this decade were as emblematic of the gritty cultural movement as the pornography industry.  Beginning with the infamous ‘Deep Throat,’ in 1972 and progressing down various avenues of expression and fetish, ‘Water Power,’ released in 1977 is a classic XXX roughie, and perhaps one of the genre’s most bizarre offerings.  Directed by Shaun Costello, ‘Water Power,’ is possibly the adult industry’s most famous enema film and an important picture in the development of the roughie and Jamie Gillis’ legacy.

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Costello’s picture has a relatively simple plot, following the exploits of a disturbed intrinsic man with an unhealthy obsession with cleaning the filthy women of New York.  Initially Gillis’ character is shown ambling around some sort of block party, seemingly without purpose.  Following this character to his home, it becomes clear that this man has a passion for porn, which is pasted all over his wall above his bed.  Finding a magazine tiresome, Gillis moves to a telescope positioned to spy into a neighbor’s apartment, where he watches her move in and out of focus while undressing.  While visiting a brothel, Gillis witnesses another man’s fetish being played out, a high colonic.  long jeanne silverThe victim of this particular incident is none other than Jean Silver, slightly deformed stripper and porn star of the infamous ‘Long Jeanne Silver,’ (1977).  Instead of one of her feet, Silver was born with  a slender phallic stump, which later became her claim to fame.  ‘Water Power,’ is one of Silver’s first roles, although in this particular film, she appears in socks with a prosthetic foot.  While Gillis’ obsession with administering forced enemas to the female population increases, the police begin to track him, as he is continually making front page headlines as a serial rapist.  A trap is created to snare ‘the enema bandit,’ yet Gillis is able to elude the bumbling police force, where the film closes on a haunting close up of the misunderstood deviant in the ominous glow of a red light. Continue reading

Uncle Sam (1996)

Uncle Sam 1996 Poster

 

3 out of 5 stars

 

uncle sam 1996Uncle Sam,’ released in 1996 is a campy B film from esteemed cult director William Lustig.  Although forever hidden within the shadows of classics like ‘Maniac’ (1980) and ‘Maniac Cop’ (1988), Lustig’s ’96 release delivers exactly what one would expect upon reading a synopsis, a gory, far-fetched, instant cult classic.  William Lustig, much like the bulk of the filmmaking society owes a great deal to renown director Lucio Fulci, and Lustig pays homage to the man, both by dedicating the picture to him and recreating the closing scene in ‘The City Of The Living Dead’ (1980), in his own ‘Uncle Sam’.  This small aspect, among numerous other reasons make ‘Uncle Sam,’ an important and essential watch.

uncle sam 1996uncle sam 1996uncle sam 1996 Continue reading

Dark Star (1974)

dark star poster

 

3 out of 5 stars

dark star 1974Reportedly a student film that ‘went out of control’ according to writer/ special effects supervisor Dan O’bannon, ‘Dark Star,’ released in 1974 is a sci-fi/ black comedy that has garnered somewhat of a cult following and exists as a promising early effort for two young filmmakers.  Created within the film school community of USC (which birthed numerous other famous directors, including George Lucas and his early work ‘THX-1138’) John Carpenter and Dan O’bannon’s early film is a campy homage to science fiction.  dark star 1974Dark Star’ shares a plot similar to Kubrick’s renown and enigmatic ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ but without the budget and cutting edge special effects, the final product is something that needs to be interpreted on a wholly different plane.  Watching the theatrical cut of ‘Dark Star,’ viewers are first introduced to a comical preface which scrolls through space in the manner of the ‘Star Wars,’ saga, leaving no doubt that Carpenter and O’Bannon’s piece isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. Continue reading

Sorcerer (1977)

Sorcerer

 

5 out of 5 stars

 

sorcererWilliam Friedkin’s 1977 adaptation of Heri Georges Clouzot’s classic ‘The Wages Of Fear’ is a brilliant example of the glorious American 1970s proclivity for gritty realism and lurid cinematography.  ‘Sorcerer,’ was an excruciating picture to create, with countless, casting, budget, special effects and location issues.  Overshadowed by George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars IV: A New Hope,’ Friedkin’s picture only recouped 9 million of the hefty 21 million dollars it took to make, and has only recently begun to to garner attention as a solid classic of its time.  sorcererAlthough generally ignored by the majority of fans at its time of release, ‘Friedkin’ has stated ‘Sorcerer’ to be his favorite film he’s ever made because, “it came out almost exactly as I intended,” as found in Clagett’s “William Friedkin: Films of Aberration, Obsession and Reality.”  Regardless of ‘Sorcerer’s past neglect by theatre patrons, fans of revivalist films are finally appreciating Friedkin’s picture for the work of genius that it is, a taut action film, a modern neo-noir, a difficult picture that belongs on a list somewhere amongst ‘Apocalypse Now‘ or ‘Heaven’s Gate,’  and assuredly one of Roy Scheider’s finest performances.

sorcerersorcerer

Originally a novel by Georges Arnaud written in 1950, ‘The Wages of Fear,’ found its way to screen three years later in an adaptation by acclaimed director Henri- Georges Clouzot, who by that time had already under his belt ‘Le Corbeau: The Raven (1943),’ and ‘Quai Des Orfèvres, (1947)” and who would go on to create the great thriller, ‘Diabolique (1955),’ two years later, momentarily stealing the title of ‘master of suspense,’ from the infamous Alfred Hitchcockwages of fearClouzot’s picture is a thoroughly suspenseful action film while still embodying the essence of film noir through its depiction of seedy, ‘down and out’ drifters, desperate for money and eager to risk their lives for it.  Similar to Friedkin’s effort years later, ‘The Wages of Fear,’ experienced numerous difficulties during the shoot, despite the location being southern France as opposed to South America.  Extreme and unforeseen weather conditions plagued both directors trying to accurately complete films that in each respective era, attempted to push the boundaries. Continue reading

The Firm (1988)

firm 1988

 

5 out of 5 stars

 

Picture 2Within the realm of ‘made-for-TV’ film, British efforts have continually proved to be both the most audacious and intriguing.  Screen 1 and 2 was the BBC’s response to channel four’s unprecedented theatrical television dramas, which brought bold new concepts to unwitting audiences.  With directors like Alan Clarke working on Screen 2, it’s no surprise that the grittier elements of British life are glorified within the series.  Perhaps Screen 2’s greatest work, Clarke’s ‘The Firm’ was released in 1988, a raw portrait of Britain’s modern football hooligans in the midst of a dispute.  Running at just over an hour’s length, Clarke’s picture is taut and fast paced, leaving little time for superfluous dialogue or narrative, while successfully presenting a complex and multi-faceted working class tragedy.

the firm 1988

the firm 1988

Continue reading