Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon


Nigel Finch was a key member of the team of producers and directors working on the BBC’s Arena arts documentaries throughout their golden run during the 1980s and 1990s. The films he directed himself—among them studies of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography, and a history of the Chelsea Hotel in New York—gave him an opportunity to push some gay content into the TV schedules at a time when Britain’s gay population were seen as enough of a public threat to be legislated against. Some of that proselytising impulse can be found in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon (1991), an hour-long documentary which alternates the life and work of the filmmaker with readings and enactments of the lurid episodes recounted in Anger’s scandal anthologies, Hollywood Babylon and Hollywood Babylon II. Finch at one point asks whether Fireworks, the first film in Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle, should be regarded as a pioneering piece of gay cinema; Anger’s says he’s happy if people take it that way but says little else about its evident homoerotic atmosphere. He remains as resistant to identity politics as he’s always been. (See the unauthorised biography by Bill Landis for details.)


Between the readings and interview sections Finch shows Anger being chauffeured around Beverly Hills in a hearse which stops occasionally at some locus of bygone scandal. Most of the Anger anecdotes are familiar ones from subsequent interviews but there is a bonus for Angerphiles with the appearance at the end of Marianne Faithfull who talks a little about their relationship before singing Boulevard Of Broken Dreams. The picture quality of this YouTube copy could be better but it’s watchable enough.

Update: That YouTube link went private so I’ve updated the links to a better copy at the Internet Archive.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lucifer Rising posters
Externsteine panoramas
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

One thought on “Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon”

  1. Oh neat! I don’t know why I’ve never watched this before. Now I’ve something to do this afternoon. Thanks John!

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