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Fantoma Films presents
The Films of Kenneth Anger: Volume II (1964-1981)

"Making a movie is casting a spell."
- Kenneth Anger

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: April 25, 2008

Director: Kenneth Anger

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, mature themes)
Run Time: 01h:17m:31s
Release Date: October 02, 2007
UPC: 695026704928
Genre: experimental


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A+A+B+ A

DVD Review

Back in my so-called rebellious punk days—in the shadow of iconic gods like Strummer, Biafra and Ramone—I had a t-shirt that read "F**k art, let's dance". It was a simple message that I believe was the mantra for the band Madness—rather base in its sentiment—and one that suggested bypassing on getting buried by all manner of complex meaning (whether it may have ever been there or not) in favor of basic human gyration. Move to the music. Live for the moment. To hell with expressionistic intent, so much so that it became almost a core need, akin to food or sex.

At least it was for a while.

What's the point of that trip down my own dusty memory lane? Because man can't live by the basics all the time. There are moments when deeper degrees of stimulation are required. With this Volume II collection of the short art projects of an iconoclast visionary such as filmmaker Kenneth Anger the whole "f**k art" message—one that I at one time felt was so important—gets totally flip-flopped. This is not your father's interpretation of what neatly framed pretty picture art should be; some may even roll their eyes and chuckle at Anger's blunt homoerotic overtones, let alone his admiration/idolization of occultist Aleister Crowley.

And let's not forget the score for Lucifer Rising, composed in prison by the Manson family's Bobby Beausoleil.

The five short films gathered here—spanning a timeframe from 1964-1981—finds Anger proudly tipping the tables of Middle America's values on its Sunday-dinner-eating side, boldly proclaiming his sexuality and religious beliefs like a some kind of alternative skull and crossbones. The two that open this collection—Scorpio Rising (28m:20s) and Kustom Kar Kommandos (03m:25s)—mesh the standard man love of motorcycles and cars with a kind of raw underground sexuality, where simply polishing the hood of a hot rod seems naughty. Anger parades the objects of his desires without hiding his real intention, blanketing the black leather explorations ("the dark legions") under nifty tunes like Blue Velvet. Take that, David Lynch!

Then comes Invocation Of My Demon Brother (10m:51s), likely the most abrasive of the titles on Volume II. A fragmented off-shoot of the original Lucifer's Rising project, Anger reconnects the pieces with a dreadful atonal "score" from Mick Jagger. Albinos, skull bongs, Viet Nam and full-frontal male nudity collide like a dose of bad acid as Anger piles on the madness with increasing intensity. It all seems somewhat incomplete, but this one is a real trip.

Returning to relative normalcy is Rabbit's Moon (06m:48s), which is a dramatically recut version (done in 1979) of Anger's original 50's short utilizing a mix commedia dell'arte and Eastern myths. It's a beautiful work, featuring a new-at-the-time rock score, filled with dreamy, cold blue hues and use of traditional white-face harlequins. This is the oddity in this bunch of Anger films, an unconventionally conventional ode to movement and hope, and easily one of my favorites.

That leads to the opus, the ballyhooed stuff-of-legend 1981 version of Lucifer's Rising (28m:07s). Accurately describing it is a challenge, and to paraphrase Steve Martin, "talking about Lucifer's Rising is like dancing about architecture." As Anger's signature work, this sprawling history of magikal light and dark evolved many, many times over the preceding decades, and the connection of those different eras only add to the strange vibe. It is what it is, a mix of hopeful and menacing, as Anger spans the globe to wallow in ancient rituals, sittings in the shadow of the influence of Aleister Crowley. Appearances by Jimmy Page and Marianne Faithful slip in and out without much fanfare, and the done-in-prison-score from the Manson family's Bobby Beausoleil is quite good, and simply not just a bit of gaudy stuntwork.

This, my friends, is art. Ugly, weird and beautiful. All at the same time.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: All titles are presented in 1.33:1 fullframe. If there is any measure of proof required before uncorking all manner of praise on Fantoma for the stellar image quality of these films, one only has to look at the restoration process (available as a menu option for each of Anger's works). Colors have been juiced, nicks, tears (and in some instances large holes) have been painstakingly repaired, lending a new permanence to these works of modern art.

Outstanding.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: All Anger titles on this release are presented in 2.0 mono. Essentially quite plain but wholly serviceable, the sound quality is a bit thin, but fairly clean overall. No problematic hiss, and the music elements come across more than adequately.

Plain, but nice.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 5 cues and remote access
1 Featurette(s)
6 Feature/Episode commentaries by Kenneth Anger
Packaging: other
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. 48-page book
Extras Review: Identical packaging to match the Volume I release, with a thin slipcover housing the case and a 48-page booklet. The book carries a new intro from Martin Scorcese and writings from the likes of Gus Van Sant and Bobby Beausoleil, this also features stills, cast list, storyboards, quotes, and information on the restoration process for each film. Anger provides insightful commentary for each of his films, and though marred by some silent gaps, the content is revelatory and logical.

Included is the 2002 short The Man We Want To Hang (13m:48s), available with optional Anger commentary, focusing on the art of Aleister Crowley. The longstanding connections between Crowley and Anger's film work is really cemented here, in all it's strange, dark glory.

The disc is cut into 5 chapters (1 per film), and is viewable via the "Play All" option also.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

This second volume of Anger shorts—anchored by the infamous presence of Lucifer Rising—is pure, unadulterated art. Highly subjective to be sure, but as brilliant and thought-provoking as all interpretative expression should truly be.

So far from mainstream it's not even funny. Yet still highly recommended.

 


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