Kenneth Anger on DVD…finally

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Finally…well, we’ll see. Forgive my sceptical tone, these announcements have been cropping up for years although this one seems genuine, with an Amazon page and everything. Good to know that it’s a Fantoma production since they did a great job with Jodorowsky’s Fando y Lis.

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The enigmatic Marjorie Cameron portrays the
Scarlet Woman for Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.

The word “classic” is often used too easily but these films are classics by any standard, masterworks of underground filmmaking, pioneering in their gay content (Fireworks [1947] is like Genet directed by Jean Cocteau and all the more remarkable since Anger was still a teenager when he made it), camp and occult in equal measure, and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, made in 1954, can claim to be one of the first examples of truly psychedelic cinema. DVD would be the perfect medium to present Inauguration with multiple soundtracks (it’s had at least two over the years) although I suspect we’ll only get the Janacek score and not the bizarre Electric Light Orchestra version I saw once at a cinema screening.

At long last, THE FILMS OF KENNETH ANGER VOLUME 1 is finally available on DVD this January.

Fantoma Films’ special edition DVD hits stores on January 23, 2007.

“It’s time that Kenneth Anger’s work became more available, because he is, without a doubt, one of our greatest artists.” Martin Scorsese

Cinematic magician, legendary provocateur, author of the infamous HOLLYWOOD BABYLON books and creator of some of the most striking and beautiful works in the history of film, Kenneth Anger is a singular figure in post-war American culture.

A major influence on everything from the films of Martin Scorsese, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and David Lynch to the pop art of Andy Warhol to MTV, Anger’s work serves as a talisman of universal symbols and personal obsessions, combining myth, artifice and ritual to render cinema with the power of a spell or incantation.

Covering the first half of Anger’s career, from his landmark debut FIREWORKS in 1947 to his epic bacchanalia INAUGURATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME, Fantoma is very proud to present the long-awaited first volume of films by this revolutionary and groundbreaking maverick, painstakingly restored and presented on DVD for the first time anywhere in the world.

In production for over 5 years, THE FILMS OF KENNETH ANGER VOLUME 1 is easily the most requested title in Fantoma Films’ history. Painstakingly restored by Fantoma, these shorts represent the beginning of the independent film movement as we know it today and Anger’s revolutionary use of blending film to music has often been credited as giving birth to the music video. The films contained in this set include: FIREWORKS (1947), PUCE MOMENT (1949), RABBIT’S MOON (1950, shown here in the rarely seen 16 minute version), EAUX D’ARTIFICE (1953), and INAUGURATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME (1954).

THE FILMS OF KENNETH ANGER VOLUME 1 contains the following special features:

-High Definition transfers from newly restored elements.
-Screen specific audio commentary for all films from Kenneth Anger.
-Rare outtakes and behind-the-scenes images.
-Restoration Demonstrations.
-A 48 page book with a written appreciation of Kenneth Anger by legendary
filmmaker Martin Scorsese, exclusive to this release, extensive notes for
each film, rare photos, never before seen sketches for Anger’s unproduced
film PUCE WOMEN, and more.

Fantoma Films’ DVD of THE FILMS OF KENNETH ANGER VOLUME 1 will be available in stores on January 23, 2007 for a retail price of $24.98.
Fantoma Films: www.fantoma.com
MySpace page: www.myspace.com/fantomafilms.

(Thanks to Jay!)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ten films by Oskar Fischinger
Lapis by James Whitney
La Villa Santo Sospir by Jean Cocteau
Un Chant D’Amour by Jean Genet

Voodoo Macbeth

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In my obsession with all things Orson Welles, his 1936 production of Macbeth holds a special fascination, partly for being my favourite Shakespeare play, and partly for the curiosity of its production—an all-black cast that included genuine Haitian drummers who famously claimed to have drummed a Broadway critic to death after he gave the play a hostile review. The De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea is hosting an art event based on Welles’ production.

In 1936, whilst the UK was celebrating the new De La Warr Pavilion, and exciting artistic movement was reaching its close in New York—the Harlem Renaissance. A significant event within of this movement was an all-black African American version of Macbeth, presented by The Federal Theatre Project at the New Lafayette Theatre, Harlem and directed by writer and actor Orson Welles. This production became known as ‘Voodoo Macbeth‘.

There are many things that were remarkable about this unique and innovative project. The play was one of the first explorations of a modern and diasporic spin on the Shakespearian tale. It was also the point at which Welles was introduced to John Houseman, which then led to the formation of the Mercury Theatre Company that produced seminal works such as the War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane. Furthermore, the ‘Voodoo Macbeth‘ production displayed visual and aural motifs using lighting, stage design and overlapping sound which became signature elements to Welles’s later film projects.

The essence, spirit, and cross-artform experimentality of ‘Voodoo Macbeth‘ is the basis for a contemporary art, film and performance season at the De La Warr Pavilion and has been named after the production. This unique project looks at the historical and contemporary dialogue that Welles’s work had and still has with performance, film and visual art.

The curatorial concept of the De La Warr Pavilion’s exhibition Voodoo Macbeth focuses on the debate and the ideas around Welles’s unique and defining aesthetic which continues to attract much critical attention. The exhibition suggests that Welles’s approach has informed the work of many contemporary artists working in film today.

Both the historical and contemporary context of Voodoo Macbeth are explored within the exhibition and wider season of events. Original works by Orson Welles are presented alongside those of his contemporaries including Jean Cocteau, Jacques Tourneur and Lee Miller. These artists were working with film and photography during the period of the 1940s onwards and have a shared concern in exploring visual ideas and motifs around the idea of an ‘expansive frame’. As artists, they blurred the boundaries between visual art, theatre, literature and film, to produce lyrical and poetic visual works.

Work by contemporary artists within the exhibition have been selected on the basis that their work embodies the artistic narrative and the spirituality of Welles’s use of light, dark and spatial composition. The exhibition includes work by Phyllis Baldino, Glenn Ligon, Steve McQueen, Mitra Tabrizian and Kara Walker. In this context, Voodoo Macbeth explores how, for artists today, the genre and its relationship to installation practice in performance, film, sound and visual art is an important part of the process. Importantly, they do not mimic the formalist structure of film, painting and sound but endeavour to embed these works with elements of popular culture, critique and humour. Like Welles, who was a masterful story teller, these artists have developed works which take on the character of an intimate 21st century tale. Unlike Welles, these tales are tailor-made, for a gallery audience to explore and enjoy.

Produced by the De La Warr Pavilion in association with Brighton Photo Biennial and curated by associate curator David A Bailey in collaboration with BPB curator 2006 Gilane Tawadros.
The Galleries are open 10am–6pm except on Christmas Eve (closing
at 5pm), Christmas Day (closed all day) and New Year’s Eve (closing at 3pm). Free.

Voodoo Macbeth, Oct 7th–Jan 7th.

The Voodoo Macbeth exhibition is a part of the Brighton Photo Biennial, for more details on the BPB please visit their website www.bpb.org.uk, or contact them via the details below.
Biennial Office
University of Brighton
Grand Parade
Brighton BN2 0JY

Tel: +44 (01)273 643 052
Email: mail@bpb.org.uk

La Villa Santo Sospir by Jean Cocteau

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A 35-minute color film by Cocteau entitled La Villa Santo Sospir. Shot in 1952, this is an “amateur film” done in 16mm, a sort of home movie in which Cocteau takes the viewer on a tour of a friend’s villa on the French coast (a major location used in Testament of Orpheus). The house itself is heavily decorated, mostly by Cocteau (and a bit by Picasso), and we are given an extensive tour of the artwork. Cocteau also shows us several dozen paintings as well. Most cover mythological themes, of course. He also proudly shows paintings by Edouard Dermithe and Jean Marais and plays around his own home in Villefranche. This informal little project once again shows the joy Cocteau takes in creating art, in addition to showing a side of his work (his paintings and drawings) that his films often overshadow.

La Villa Santo Sospir, 1952, 250 mb, (AVI)

The film is in French but Ubuweb provide a subtitle file if you know how to use those. This isn’t really essential however (despite the copious narration), the film is more concerned with giving the viewer a guided tour of the villa and its decorations. Fascinating seeing Cocteau working with colour even though many of the drawings and murals on display are his characteristic black lines on a white field. Nice also to see again his habitual delight with cinematic trickery in the reverse-motion sequences, wiping a blank canvas with a cloth so that a drawing appears, or piecing together living flowers from fragments of stalk and petal.