directed by Kenneth Anger
USA

Offering a description of himself for the program of a 1966 screening, Kenneth Anger stated his 'lifework' as being Magick and his 'magical weapon' the cinematograph. A follower of Aleister Crowley's teachings, Anger is a high level practitioner of occult magic who regards the projection of his films as ceremonies capable of invoking spiritual forces. Cinema, he claims, is an evil force. Its point is to exert control over people and events and his filmmaking is carried out with precisely that intention.

Whatever one's view of this belief may be, what is undeniable is that in creating the nine films that he either managed to complete (Fireworks [1947], Eaux d'artifice [1953], Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome [1954-66], Scorpio Rising [1963], Invocation of My Demon Brother [1969], Lucifer Rising [1970-81]) or else released as self contained fragments (Puce Moment [1949], Rabbit's Moon [1950-79], Kustom Kar Kommandos [1965]), Anger forged a body of work as dazzlingly poetic in its unique visual intensity as it is narratively innovative. In many ways, these wordless films represent the resurgence and development of the uniquely cinematic qualities widely considered retarded or destroyed by the passing of the silent era, especially in the area of editing. According to Tony Rayns, “Anger has an amazing instinctive grasp of all the elements of filmmaking; his films actively work out much of Eisenstein's theoretical writing about the cinema…. [Anger] comes nearer [to Eisenstein's theories] than anything in commercial cinema and produces film-making as rich in resonance as anything of Eisenstein's own.”

Excerpts from Maximilian Le Cain's Article on Senses of Cinema HERE

Theatrical Release: 1964-1972

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Fantoma - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution

Fantoma

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:17:27
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 9.14 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles
Features Release Information:
Studio: Fantoma

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by Kenneth Anger
• The Man We Want to Hang by Kenneth Anger

DVD Release Date: October 2nd, 2007
Digipack

Chapters 6

 

Comments:

As promised, here is our review of the 2nd Volume of Fantoma's The Films of Kenneth Anger, which immediately proves itself to be as essential a release as the first compilation.

All of the films look as fine as they ever will. "Scorpio Rising" starts the set and features a nice, film-like amount of grain, vivid colors and excellent contrast. The image of this film, as well as of all the others, is free of any digital noise or damage. Still, "Scorpio Rising" is an intentionally rough-looking film due to being the closest that Anger has ever come to making a documentary (as he says himself on the commentary). "Kustom Kar Kommandos" is a less improvisational film (visually, that is) than "Scorpio Rising". This carefully composed three-minute film about the fetishism of cars is presented in a very detailed transfer with strong colors. "Invocation of My Demon Brother" may very well have been the hardest transfer to get right. The film features many superimpositions and other distortions of the image, so we can be thankful that there is no ghosting or combing to be found. Instead we get a crystal-clear transfer with very vibrant colors. On this release we also get a different version of "Rabbit's Moon". This shortened cut of the film is set to a different piece of music and was made by Anger as a present to one of Stan Brakhage's children. The transfer though is the same as on the first DVD release, which means that it's pretty much flawless (it's the only film of Anger's Magick Lantern Cycle that was shot in 35mm). Next up is what many consider to be Anger's magnum opus, "Lucifer Rising". Here again, we get a sharp, detailed transfer with fine contrast and no artifacts whatsoever. Remarkable work all the way through.

The 2.0 soundtrack for all the films is excellent. There is no dialogue in these films, just the musical score, which sounds very strong in each movie. As I mentioned before, this disc's version of "Rabbit's Moon" features a different musical score. This time it's the catchy and quite rare pop tune "It Came in the Night" by A Raincoat. We also get an alternative audio track for "Invocation of My Demon Brother" that I have never heard before. Performed by the Magick Powerhouse of Oz (which can be glimpsed in the film) this is a piece of soundtrack recording that was done in 1967 at the Straight Theater in San Francisco for Anger's first version of "Lucifer Rising" (which wasn't completed and resulted in "Invocation of My Demon Brother", a re-edit of the left-over material, set to a Moog synthesizer score by Mick Jagger). While this is not intended as an alternate soundtrack choice for "Invocation of My Demon Brother", it is (according to the menu) "presented here to provide a glimpse into the times and atmosphere in which many of these images were created". It's an astonishing piece of music in its own right, very psychedelic and timely.

As on Volume 1 we get a full-length audio commentary by Kenneth Anger himself. The great man talks extensively about the production of his films, how they came about, what happened during the shooting and much more. He gives us background information on some of the bikers in "Scorpio Rising" and mentions his relationships to Jimmy Page and Bobby Beausoleil on the tracks for "Lucifer Rising" and "Invocation of My Demon Brother". There are still some expectable dead spots on the commentary, but Anger manages wonderfully to tell us as much about these films as he can. This is mandatory listening for any fan.

Rounding up this package is one of Anger's latest films "The Man We Want to Hang", a presentation of Aleister Crowley's art which also features optional commentary by Anger, and a beautiful booklet, filled with stills from the films and appreciations by people like Gus Van Sant and Guy Maddin.

I recently voted for Fantoma's two Kenneth Anger Volumes as the best DVDs of the year and can only continue with my praise in this review. Fantoma has done a lot of fine work over the years, but this remains their greatest triumph. They were able to finally sort out the music rights issues of "Scorpio Rising", created phenomenal transfers of all the films, invited Anger himself to record audio commentaries and packaged it all in two beautiful digipacks with lovingly assembled booklets. To come to the point, this is one of the finest presentations of avant-garde film on DVD ever made, right up there with Criterion's By Brakhage: An Anthology. Essential viewing.

 - Stan Czarnecki

 



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Region 0 - NTSC




 

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