Kenneth Anger’s Maldoror

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Kenneth Anger, Topanga Canyon, Composite with Gustave Doré Engraving (1954) by Edmund Teske.

Les Chants de Maldoror, 1951–1952.
16mm; black and white; filmed in Paris and Deauville.

With a hand-held 16mm camera I shot my first series of short haiku. This was my apprenticeship in the marvels that surround us, waiting to be discovered, awake to knowledge and life and whose magical essence is revealed by selection. At 17, | composed my first long poem, a 15 minute suite of images, my black tanka: Fireworks.

I had seen this drama entirely on the screen of my dreams. This vision was uniquely amenable to the instrument that awaited it. With three lights, a black cloth as décor, the greatest economy of means and enormous inner concentration, Fireworks was made in three days.

An example of the direct transfer of a spontaneous inspiration, this film reveals the possibilities of automatic writing on the screen, of a new language that reveals thought; it allows the triumph of the dream.

The wholly intellectual belief of the “icy masters” of cinema in the supremacy of technique recalls, on the literary level, the analytical essays of a Poe or the methods of a Valéry, who said: “I only write to order. Poetry is an assignment.”

At the opposite pole to these creative systems there is the divine inspiration of a Rimbaud or a Lautréamont, prophets of thought. The cinema has explored the northern regions of impersonal stylization; it should now discover the southern regions of personal lyricism; it should have its prophets.

These prophets will restore faith in a “pure cinema” of sensual revelation. They will re-establish the primacy of the image. They will teach us the principles of their faith: that we participate before evaluating. We will give back to the dream its first state of veneration. We will recall primitive mysteries. The future of film is in the hands of the poet and his camera. Hidden away are the followers of a faith in “pure cinema.” even in this unlikely age. They make their modest “fireworks” in secret, showing them from time to time, they pass unnoticed in the glare of the “silver rain” of the commercial cinema. Maybe one of these sparks will liberate the cinema….

Angels exist. Nature provides “the inexhaustible flow of visions of beauty.” It is for the poet, with his personal vision, to “capture” them.

Kenneth Anger—Modesty and the Art of Film, Cahiers du Cinéma no. 5, September 1951

* * *

Little is known about Anger’s activities during the mid-1950s. By 1958 he still had not been able to complete any films in Paris. He held on to his hope of completing Maldoror. His stack of preproduction notes and sketches had grown larger and he had plans to photograph nudes in a graveyard. Several Parisian Surrealists threatened to hand Anger’s head to him if he shot Maldoror. The book’s fluid, dreamlike imagery had been one of the trailblazers of Surrealism, and his detractors felt that a gauche American with a reputation for pop iconography and bold homosexual statement would debase a sacred text.

Bill Landis—Anger: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger, 1995

* * *

I discovered the book when I was quite young. I loved it, put a lot of passion into it. I found people to play the parts. I found settings, gaslit corners, places still had the romantic look of a Second Empire. It was a terrific ambition to make this epic film-poem. I found ways to translate the text’s extraordinary images. I planned to film a mid-nineteenth century story taking place in twentieth century Paris. I filmed “the hymn to the ocean” on the beach at Deauville, with Hightower and members of the Marquis de Cuevas Ballet. They danced in the sea; tables were placed beneath the water line so the dancers could stand on their points. It looked as though they were standing on waves. The people who called themselves “Surrealists” were furious—this group of punks threatened me—they didn’t want a Yank messing round with their sacred text. I just told them to go to hell! I also managed to film the war of the flies and pins. I put bags of pins and dozens of flies into a glass container; revolved the container and filmed in close-up. As the pins dropped the flies zigzagged to escape. In slow motion an impressive image.

Kenneth Anger—Into the Pleasure Dome: The Films of Kenneth Anger, edited by Jayne Pilling & Michael O’Pray, 1989

* * *

The sections of the film that were completed [are] stored in the Cinémathèque Française, but [their] exact whereabouts in the archive is unknown, with no images from the film being currently available for reproduction.

Alice L. Hutchinson—Kenneth Anger, 2004

Previously on { feuilleton }
Donald Cammell and Kenneth Anger, 1972
My Surfing Lucifer by Kenneth Anger
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome: The Eldorado Edition
Brush of Baphomet by Kenneth Anger
Anger Sees Red
Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon
Lucifer Rising posters
Missoni by Kenneth Anger
Anger in London
Arabesque for Kenneth Anger by Marie Menken
Edmund Teske
Kenneth Anger on DVD again
Mouse Heaven by Kenneth Anger
The Man We Want to Hang by Kenneth Anger
Relighting the Magick Lantern
Kenneth Anger on DVD…finally

Missoni by Kenneth Anger

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I did have another Ludwig post planned for today but that’s been set aside for a different kind of fabulosity following the news that Kenneth Anger has made a new film. Italian fashion house Missoni commissioned Anger to make a short promo for their Fall/Winter collection and you can see the delirious results in high-resolution here. The film features Missoni family members peering out from among the layered moons and stars while the titles are by Arthur magazine’s Psychedelic Healing Visions Correspondent, Alia Penner.

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“I’m fascinated by Kenneth Anger’s use of color and his ability to transform a film into a three-dimensional texture, a fabric of images in movement,” explained Angela Missoni.  This is how she introduced her decision to entrust the Missoni F/W 2011 campaign to one of America’s most famous authors and directors of avant-garde cinema.

Anger—a hyperactive octogenarian who loves working in the wee hours of the night and at dawn using sophisticated instruments such as the RED digital camera that has the characteristics of a classic 35 mm camera—flew in from Los Angeles to film the campaign in Sumirago that involved all the members of the great Missoni family. They are the stars of this campaign that was conceived as a series of superimposed and overlapping portraits. (More.)

Via Arthur!

Previously on { feuilleton }
Anger in London
Arabesque for Kenneth Anger by Marie Menken
Edmund Teske
Kenneth Anger on DVD again
Mouse Heaven by Kenneth Anger
The Man We Want to Hang by Kenneth Anger
Relighting the Magick Lantern
Kenneth Anger on DVD…finally

Anger in London

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It’s that man again… Following on the heels of the occult-themed Strange Attractor Salon (which is running events throughout this month, it should be noted; tickets here), the Sprüth Magers gallery, London, has a Kenneth Anger exhibition opening on February 19th based around Anger’s delirious short film Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969) and his scurrilous anthology of movie tragedy and gossip, Hollywood Babylon. Anger himself presents a showing of his films on the same day at Tate Modern.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Arabesque for Kenneth Anger by Marie Menken
Strange Attractor Salon
Edmund Teske
Kenneth Anger on DVD again
Mouse Heaven by Kenneth Anger
The Man We Want to Hang by Kenneth Anger
Relighting the Magick Lantern
Kenneth Anger on DVD…finally

Arabesque for Kenneth Anger by Marie Menken

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“There is no why for my making films. I just liked the twitters of the machine, and since it was an extension of painting for me, I tried it and loved it. In painting I never liked the staid and static, always looked for what would change the source of light and stance, using glitters, glass beads, luminous paint, so the camera was a natural for me to try—but how expensive!” Marie Menken.

Arabesque for Kenneth Anger (1961) is a short film by artist and filmmaker Marie Menken (1909–1970) available for viewing at Ubuweb. This is a fragmented impression of the Alhambra made as a thank you gift to Anger whose shots of a fountain spout catching the sunlight can’t help but seem like a nod to Anger’s Eaux D’Artifice (1953). Menken had the dubious distinction of being the model for Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?, the tempestuous relationship in the play being based on Menken’s equally tempestuous marriage to Willard Maas.

More Marie Menken:
Visual Variations on Noguchi (1945)
Glimpse of the Garden (1957)
Notes on Marie Menken: A film by Martina Kudlá?ek
The paintings of Marie Menken

Previously on { feuilleton }
Edmund Teske
Kenneth Anger on DVD again
Mouse Heaven by Kenneth Anger
The Man We Want to Hang by Kenneth Anger
Relighting the Magick Lantern
Kenneth Anger on DVD…finally

Edmund Teske

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Kenneth Anger, Topanga Canyon, California, Composite (1954).

This portrait of a dashing Kenneth Anger juxtaposes the filmmaker with an engraving by Gustave Doré for Paradise Lost. Like his contemporary Emil Cadoo, photographer Edmund Teske (1911–1996) often concealed the homoerotic nature of his pictures by rendering them “artistic” through double-exposure. Teske was friends with rock group The Doors, and a number of his studies of Jim Morrison and co. are very familiar from histories of the band.

Via Bajo el Signo de Libra.

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Nude, Davenport, Iowa, Composite with Leaves (1941/46).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Emil Cadoo
The art of Robert Flynt