The legendary Kenneth Anger, author of Fireworks, Scorpio Rising and the two scandalous volumes of Hollywood Babylon, died on May 11, 2023.
Courageous pioneer, eclectic filmmaker, sagacious writer, Kenneth Angerauthor of Fireworks, Scorpio Rising and the two scandalous volumes of Hollywood BabyloniaAnd died on May 11, 2023 at the age of 96.
Anger’s death was announced on Wednesday by the Sprüeth Magers art gallery, which has hosted various exhibitions of his work. “Kenneth was a pioneer”reads a note. “His cinematic genius and influence will live on and continue to transform all who encounter his films, words and vision”.
Kenneth Anger died on May 11 of natural causes in assisted living in California’s Yucca Valley, Sprüth Magers spokesperson Spencer Glesby told The Hollywood Reporter.
A legendary career
Kenneth Anger is known for the publication, in 1959, of the gossip book Hollywood Babylonbanned in the US in 1965, followed by a sequel in 1984.
Anger’s work has spanned the ages from 1941 to 2013, but throughout has “totalling just eight hours of footage, a kaleidoscope of symbolism, homoeroticism and the occult contained in his 36 dialogue-free shorts (some complete, some fragmented)” according to THR count.
His collage Scorpio Rising (1963), a pastiche of pop songs commentary on images of homoerotic bikers, pulp cartoons and Nazi icons, was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry last December. The other film kept in the Registry is Waterworks (1953), 13-minute short.
Kenneth Anger’s best known work is Fireworks (1947), filmed when he was a teenager at his parents’ home while they were at an uncle’s funeral, chronicling a gang rape by sailors. The short immediately caught the attention of the LAPD.
The openly gay Santa Monica director also directed, shot, edited and starred Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) alongside occultists Samson De Brier and Marjorie Cameron. The theme of the supernatural returns in Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), set to music by Mick Jagger on a Moog synthesizer over footage of a satanic funeral ceremony. For the film, the director reused footage from Lucifer Risinga short shot in 1967 and completed in 1972 before its release in 1980.
All Men by Martin Scorsese
The influence on Martin Scorsese
According to many scholars, Kenneth Anger’s pioneering work anticipated many music videos and influenced authors such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and John Waters.
Scorsese saw for the first time Scorpio Rising in the mid-1960s, when director Jonas Mekas screened it at writer-director Vernon Zimmerman’s home. The influence is found in Scorsese’s six-minute student short The Big Shave (1967) – an allegory of the Vietnam War and, even more noticeably, in Mean Streets (1973), which superimposed 1960s pop music onto the opening visuals.
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