TORONTO. Canada. 17 October2006. Bloor Theater
Yesterday, a special evening at the Toronto Bloor theatre featured Kenneth Anger himself and the documentary “Anger Me” directed by Italian-Canadian film director Elio Gelmini, with Anger’s (1930) actual life, his films and books as theme.
Experimental contemporary artists such as Stan Brakhage and Harry Smith have been greatly influenced by his approach regarding what was later defined as the Underground. Later on, this Underground was also touched by Martin Scorsese who openly acknowledged the importance of Kenneth Anger in the evolution of his film technique.
Together with the screening of the documentary “Anger Me’, produced by “SEGNALE DIGITALE” and “A Few Steps Productions”, in collaboration with the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, a good three hours of retrospective work was shown, including all of Anger’s films, thanks to Gary Tops who organized the evening at the Bloor theatre.
Kenneth Anger, in person that evening and in great form, also delighted a great number of fans, film buffs and experts crowding the Bloor theatre, answering many questions with incredible energy for an artist of his age.Thanks to an almost infinite series of anecdotes, specifics, opinions, memories as well as gossip, Kenneth took his public by the hand through a long tracking shot of the “history of film” which made him the star of the evening, reminding everybody present that his image and film is still vivid and up to date.
LOOK BACK TO ANGER a night with KENNETH ANGER including a retrospective of his films and a new documentary about him, ANGER ME, at the Bloor Cinema, Tuesday (October 17). Kenneth Anger doesn’t have a phone and for the past year he’s been living in a Los Angeles hotel that doesn’t take messages.”I’ve managed to do all my various things without one,” he informs me on a cellphone handed to him by his assistant after much muffled talk about how to operate the bloody thing. “I got so irritated with people calling me when I was meditating or writing. If you want to get me, try mental telepathy!”……….. …………… As for Tinseltown’s latest demigods, he’s not buying any of it. “You may think I’m just seeing the past through this rosy glow,” he says. “But everyone’s so boring. There’s no glamour left.” The film lacks any insight into Anger’s personal life. He confesses that he was the black sheep of the family and leaves it at that. No mention is made of his own sexual orientation. Strange for a man who is so intrigued with the private lives of others.
Tuesday’s screening of a slew of Kenneth Anger’s films at the Bloor Cinema will spark interest well beyond its hardcore audience of avant-garde film freaks. Like a very few other fringe filmmakers — Chris Marker and Stan Brakhage, say — Anger’s imagery and visual strategies have found their way into just about every visual aspect of contemporary culture. Matthew Barney’s Cremaster art film cycle wouldn’t exist without Anger’s Fireworks (1947) and its stylized ballet of homoerotic violence ……….. The 72-minute-long documentary is also a compact portrait of a century’s worth of fringe art making, although it begins deep in Hollywood with Anger’s appearance alongside Mickey Rooney in Max Reinhardt’s 1935 film, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Anger’s life connects early European avant-garde (Jean Cocteau was a pal in Paris in the ’50s) to hardcore rock ‘n’ roll in the ’60s (Anger is thought to have inspired the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for The Devil) ……
Kenneth Anger got his first views of the dark side of Hollywood as a child actor in the 1930s. By the ’40s, he was already one of American cinema’s great provocateurs, the notoriety of Anger’s unabashedly queer short films eventually being trumped by Scorpio Rising , his 1964 celebration of all things butch, leathery and Satanic. The influence of his aesthetic on the Rolling Stones is impossible to quantify — they’d return the favour when Mick Jagger scored 1969’s Invocation of My Demon Brother . Yet it was his lovably skeezy Hollywood Babylon books that earned Anger his greatest infamy……….”There are moments when he feels good and is very easy to deal with, when he is a very gracious person and extremely sweet. “But there are moments when he is a bitter person and very often upset.”This is a far bigger scandal than anything Anger is researching for Hollywood Babylon III, which may never be published.Because that depends “on some legal questions,” says Anger in Anger Me.
Elio Gelmini’s Anger Me paints an enduring biographical portrait of Kenneth Anger, one of the most fascinating, controversial and brilliant cinematic artists of the past sixty years, and a veritable godfather of independent film. Raised in Tinseltown, Anger was a mere seven years old when he acted in his first motion picture (as the Changeling Prince in William Dieterle’s 1936 version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream). He turned to filmmaking as a young man, crafting a series of surrealistic, abstract short films, heavily laden with cryptic, multilayered imagery, including Rabbit’s Moon (1950), The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954), Scorpio Rising (1964), Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969) and Lucifer Rising (1980). Though considered ‘underground,’ the works nonetheless impacted such contemporary mainstream directors as Martin Scorsese and David Lynch and have since become pillars of the American avant garde. Meanwhile, Anger acquired an enduring fascination with film history and Hollywood gossip, which led to two infamous books and turned him into a bestselling author: Hollywood Babylon (1976) and Hollywood Babylon 2 (1984). He also cultivated a network of acquaintances that included Warhol, Mekas, Ginsberg, Alfred Kinsey, Mick Jagger and everyone in-between. Gelmini pays homage to Anger via an extended monologue that finds the director discussing his life experiences, as well as the content and significance of his work.
Nathan Southern, All Movie Guide