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Kenneth Anger

Kenneth Anger

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Kenneth Anger is an American underground
Underground film
An underground film is a film that is out of the mainstream either in its style, genre, or financing.-Definition and history:The first use of the term "underground film" occurs in a 1957 essay by American film critic Manny Farber, "Underground Films." Farber uses it to refer to the work of...

 experimental film
Experimental film
Experimental film or experimental cinema is a type of cinema. Experimental film is an artistic practice relieving both of visual arts and cinema. Its origins can be found in European avant-garde movements of the twenties. Experimental cinema has built its history through the texts of theoreticians...

maker, occasional actor and author. Working exclusively in short films, he has produced almost forty works since 1937, nine of which in particular have been grouped together as the "Magick Lantern Cycle", and form the basis of Anger's reputation as one of the most influential independent filmmakers in cinema history. His films variously merge surrealism
Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

 with homoeroticism
Homoeroticism
Homoeroticism refers to the erotic attraction between members of the same sex, either male–male or female–female , most especially as it is depicted or manifested in the visual arts and literature. It can also be found in performative forms; from theatre to the theatricality of uniformed movements...

 and the occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

, and have been described as containing "elements of erotica, documentary, psychodrama, and spectacle." Anger himself has been described as "one of America's first openly gay filmmakers, and certainly the first whose work addressed homosexuality in an undisguised, self-implicating manner", and his "role in rendering gay culture visible within American cinema, commercial or otherwise, is impossible to overestimate", with several being released prior to the legalisation of homosexuality in the United States. He has also focused upon occult themes in many of his films, being fascinated by the notorious English occultist Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

, and is a follower of Crowley's religion, Thelema
Thelema
Thelema is a religious philosophy that was established, defined and developed by the early 20th century British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a religious experience that he had in Egypt in 1904...

.

Born to a lower middle class family in Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica is a beachfront city in western Los Angeles County, California, US. Situated on Santa Monica Bay, it is surrounded on three sides by the city of Los Angeles — Pacific Palisades on the northwest, Brentwood on the north, West Los Angeles on the northeast, Mar Vista on the east, and...

, Anger would later claim to have been a child actor who appeared in the film A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935 film)
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a 1935 film directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, produced by Henry Blanke and Hal Wallis, and adapted by Charles Kenyon and Mary C. McCall Jr...

(1935), although the accuracy of this claim has come under dispute. He began making short films when he was ten years old, although his first film to gain any recognition, the homoerotic Fireworks
Fireworks (1947 film)
Fireworks is a homoerotic experimental film by Kenneth Anger. Filmed in his parents' Beverly Hills, California, home over a long weekend while they were away, the film stars Anger and explicitly explores themes of homosexuality and sado-masochism...

(1947), would only be produced a decade later. The controversial nature of the work led to him being put on trial on obscenity charges, but he was acquitted, subsequently beginning a friendship and working relationship with pioneering sexologist Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Charles Kinsey was an American biologist and professor of entomology and zoology, who in 1947 founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, as well as producing the Kinsey Reports and the Kinsey...

. Moving to Europe, he produced a number of other shorts inspired by the artistic scene on the continent, such as Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit’s Moon is an avant-garde short film by American filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Filmed in 1950, Rabbit's Moon was not completed until 1972...

(released 1970) and Eaux d'Artifice
Eaux d'artifice
Eaux d'artifice is a short experimental film by Kenneth Anger. The film was shot in the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy. The film consists entirely of a woman dressed in eighteenth-century clothes who wanders amidst the garden fountains of the Villa d'Este , until she steps into a fountain and...

(1953).

Returning to the United States in 1953, he set about working on several new projects, including the films Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is a short 38 minute film by Kenneth Anger, filmed in 1954. Anger created two other versions of this film in 1966 and the late 1970s. According to Anger, the film takes the name "pleasure dome" from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's atmospheric poem Kubla Khan...

(1954), Scorpio Rising
Scorpio Rising (film)
Scorpio Rising is a 1964 experimental film by Kenneth Anger, starring Bruce Byron as Scorpio. Themes central to the film include the occult, biker subculture, Catholicism and Nazism; the film also explores the worship of rebel icons of the era, namely James Dean and Marlon Brando...

(1964), Kustom Kar Kommandos
Kustom Kar Kommandos
Kustom Kar Kommandos is a 1965 experimental film by Kenneth Anger. The 3-minute short features panning shots of a young man buffing a customized hot rod in front of an amorphous pink background, to the tune of "Dream Lover" by The Paris Sisters...

(1965), and the gossip book Hollywood Babylon
Hollywood Babylon
Hollywood Babylon is a book by avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger which details the sordid scandals of many famous and infamous Hollywood denizens from the 1900s to the 1950s. First published in the US in 1965, it was banned ten days later and would not be republished until 1975...

(1965). Getting to know several notable countercultural
Counterculture
Counterculture is a sociological term used to describe the values and norms of behavior of a cultural group, or subculture, that run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day, the cultural equivalent of political opposition. Counterculture can also be described as a group whose behavior...

 figures around at the time, including Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs...

, Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger
Sir Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger is an English musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist and a founding member of The Rolling Stones....

, Keith Richards
Keith Richards
Keith Richards is an English musician, songwriter, and founding member of the Rolling Stones. Rolling Stone magazine said Richards had created "rock's greatest single body of riffs", and placed him as the "10th greatest guitarist of all time." Fourteen songs written by Richards and songwriting...

, Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page
James Patrick "Jimmy" Page, OBE is an English multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and record producer. He began his career as a studio session guitarist in London and was subsequently a member of The Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968, after which he founded the English rock band Led Zeppelin.Jimmy Page...

, Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Evelyn Faithfull is an award-winning English singer, songwriter and actress whose career has spanned five decades....

 and Anton LaVey
Anton LaVey
Anton Szandor LaVey , born Howard Stanton Levey, was the founder of the Church of Satan as well as a writer, occultist, and musician...

, Anger got them involved in his subsequent Thelemite-themed works, Invocation of My Demon Brother
Invocation of My Demon Brother
Invocation of My Demon Brother is an 11 minute film directed, edited and photographed by Kenneth Anger. The music was composed by Mick Jagger playing a Moog Synthesizer. It was filmed in San Francisco at the Straight theater and the Russian Embassy.According to Kenneth Anger, the film was...

(1969) and Lucifer Rising
Lucifer Rising (film)
"Lucifer Rising" is a short film by director Kenneth Anger. The film was completed in 1972 but was only widely distributed in 1980.-History:Anger began filming around 1966, hiring a young musician named Bobby Beausoleil to act and compose the soundtrack. The film was abandoned in 1967 because Anger...

(1972). Following his failure to produce a sequel to Lucifer Rising, Anger retired from filmmaking in the early 1980s, instead publishing the book Hollywood Babylon II (1982). At the dawn of the 21st century he once more returned to filmmaking, producing shorts for various film festivals and events.

Anger has described filmmakers such as Auguste and Louis Lumière
Auguste and Louis Lumière
The Lumière brothers, Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas and Louis Jean , were among the earliest filmmakers in history...

 and Georges Méliès
Georges Méliès
Georges Méliès , full name Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, was a French filmmaker famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest cinema. He was very innovative in the use of special effects...

 as influences, and has been cited as an important influence on later film directors like Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese
Martin Charles Scorsese is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, actor, and film historian. In 1990 he founded The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to film preservation, and in 2007 he founded the World Cinema Foundation...

, David Lynch
David Lynch
David Keith Lynch is an American filmmaker, television director, visual artist, musician and occasional actor. Known for his surrealist films, he has developed his own unique cinematic style, which has been dubbed "Lynchian", and which is characterized by its dream imagery and meticulous sound...

 and John Waters
John Waters (filmmaker)
John Samuel Waters, Jr. is an American filmmaker, actor, stand-up comedian, writer, journalist, visual artist, and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films...

. He has also been described as having "a profound impact on the work of many other filmmakers and artists, as well as on music video
Music video
A music video or song video is a short film integrating a song and imagery, produced for promotional or artistic purposes. Modern music videos are primarily made and used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music recordings...

 as an emergent art form using dream sequence, dance, fantasy, and narrative."

Early Life (1927–1935)


Anger was born in Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica is a beachfront city in western Los Angeles County, California, US. Situated on Santa Monica Bay, it is surrounded on three sides by the city of Los Angeles — Pacific Palisades on the northwest, Brentwood on the north, West Los Angeles on the northeast, Mar Vista on the east, and...

, as Kenneth Wilbur Anglemyer on February 3, 1927. His father, Wilbur Anglemyer, was of German ancestry
German American
German Americans are citizens of the United States of German ancestry and comprise about 51 million people, or 17% of the U.S. population, the country's largest self-reported ancestral group...

, had been born in Troy, Ohio
Troy, Ohio
* - Sports :In addition to Troy High School athletics, Troy is home to the Miami Valley Silverbacks indoor football team of the Continental Indoor Football League....

, while his disabled mother, Lillian Coler, who was the older of the two, claimed English ancestry
English American
English Americans are citizens or residents of the United States whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in England....

. The pair had met at Ohio State College and after marrying had produced their first child, Jean Anglemyer, in 1918, followed by a second, Robert "Bob" Anglemyer, in 1921. That year they moved to Santa Monica in order to be near Lillian's mother, Bertha Coler, who herself had recently moved there. It was here that Wilbur got a job working as an electrical engineer at Douglas Aircraft, bringing in enough money so that they could live comfortably as a middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 family.

Kenneth, their third and final child, was born in 1927, but growing up he would fail to get along with either his parents or his siblings. His brother Bob later claimed that being the youngest child, Kenneth had been spoilt by his mother and grandmother, and as such had become somewhat "bratty". His grandmother, Bertha, was a big influence on the young Kenneth, and indeed helped to maintain the family financially during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 of the 1930s. It was she who first took Kenneth to the cinema
Movie theater
A movie theater, cinema, movie house, picture theater, film theater is a venue, usually a building, for viewing motion pictures ....

, to see a double bill of The Singing Fool
The Singing Fool
The Singing Fool is a 1928 musical drama Part-Talkie motion picture which was released by Warner Brothers. The film starred Al Jolson and was a follow-up to his previous film, The Jazz Singer...

and Thunder Over Mexico and also encouraged his artistic interests. She herself later moved into a house in Hollywood with another woman, Miss Diggy, who equally encouraged Kenneth. He developed an early interest in film, and enjoyed reading the movie tie-in Big Little books. He would later relate that "I was a child prodigy
Child prodigy
A child prodigy is someone who, at an early age, masters one or more skills far beyond his or her level of maturity. One criterion for classifying prodigies is: a prodigy is a child, typically younger than 18 years old, who is performing at the level of a highly trained adult in a very demanding...

 who never got smarter." He retrospected his attendance at the Santa Monica Cotillon where child star
Child actor
The term child actor or child actress is generally applied to a child acting in motion pictures or television, but also to an adult who began his or her acting career as a child; to avoid confusion, the latter is also called a former child actor...

s were encouraged to mix with ordinary children and through this met Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple Black , born Shirley Jane Temple, is an American film and television actress, singer, dancer, autobiographer, and former U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia...

, whom he danced with on one occasion.

It was in 1935, he would later claim, that he actually had the chance to appear in a Hollywood film, taking the role of the Changeling Prince in the 1935 Warner Brothers film A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935 film)
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a 1935 film directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, produced by Henry Blanke and Hal Wallis, and adapted by Charles Kenyon and Mary C. McCall Jr...

by Max Reinhardt
Max Reinhardt
----Max Reinhardt was an Austrian theater and film director and actor.-Biography:...

 and William Dieterle
William Dieterle
William Dieterle was a German actor and film director, who worked in Hollywood for much of his career. His best known films include The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Story of Louis Pasteur and The Hunchback of Notre Dame...

, a film that certainly influenced him, particularly in his later production of Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit’s Moon is an avant-garde short film by American filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Filmed in 1950, Rabbit's Moon was not completed until 1972...

. Set photographs and studio production reports (on file in the Warner Brothers collection at University of Southern California
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...

, and the Warner Bros. collection of studio key books at George Eastman House
George Eastman House
The George Eastman House is the world's oldest museum dedicated to photography and one of the world's oldest film archives, opened to the public in 1949 in Rochester, New York, USA. World-renowned for its photograph and motion picture archives, the museum is also a leader in film preservation and...

 in Rochester, New York
Rochester, New York
Rochester is a city in Monroe County, New York, south of Lake Ontario in the United States. Known as The World's Image Centre, it was also once known as The Flour City, and more recently as The Flower City...

) in fact contradict Anger's claims, stating that the character was played by a girl named Sheila Brown. Reports have subsequently emerged that have been attributed to the actor Mickey Rooney
Mickey Rooney
Mickey Rooney is an American film actor and entertainer whose film, television, and stage appearances span nearly his entire lifetime. He has won multiple awards, including an Honorary Academy Award, a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award...

, who played the character of Puck
Puck (Shakespeare)
Puck, also known as Robin Goodfellow, is a character in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream that was based on the ancient figure in English mythology, also called Puck. Puck is a clever and mischievous elf and personifies the trickster or the wise knave...

 in the film, claiming that Sheila Brown was in fact Anger dressed up as a girl by his mother. Rooney supposedly had befriended Anglemyer on set, and Anger himself would later fondly remark of him in his book Hollywood Babylon II, describing him as "Puck Forever". Anger's unofficial biographer, Bill Landis, remarked in 1995 that the Changeling Prince was definitely "Anger as a child; visually, he's immediately recognizable".

First Films (1937–1946)


Anger's first film was created in 1937, when he was only ten years old. The short, entitled Ferdinand the Bull, had been shot on the ends of 16mm film that had been left unused after the Anglemyer's family vacation to Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a United States National Park spanning eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in east central California, United States. The park covers an area of and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain...

, where they had been making home movies
Home movies
A home movie is part of the motion picture filmmaking process made by amateurs, often for viewing by family and friends. When the hobby began, home movies were produced on photographic film, but accessibility of video production with video cameras and low cost data storage devices has made the...

 with it. In the Ferdinand the Bull, which has never been made publicly available, Kenneth dressed as a matador
Matador
A torero or toureiro is a bullfighter and the main performer in bullfighting, practised in Spain, Colombia, Portugal, Mexico, France and various other countries influenced by Spanish culture. In Spanish, the word torero describes any of the performers who actively participate in the bullfight...

, wearing a cape, while two of his friends from the Boy Scouts
Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with over 4.5 million youth members in its age-related divisions...

 played the bull
Bull
Bull usually refers to an uncastrated adult male bovine.Bull may also refer to:-Entertainment:* Bull , an original show on the TNT Network* "Bull" , an episode of television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation...

. His second work, Who Has Been Rocking My Dreamboat, which Anger himself often considers to be his first proper film, was made up of footage of children playing during the summer, accompanied with popular songs by bands like the Ink Spots. Anger had created Who Has Been Rocking My Dreamboat in 1941, when he was fourteen, shortly before the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 and the subsequent entering of the United States into the Second World War, adding to the poignancy of this early work. The following year he produced another amateur film, Prisoner of Mars, which was heavily influenced by Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon is the hero of a science fiction adventure comic strip originally drawn by Alex Raymond. First published January 7, 1934, the strip was inspired by and created to compete with the already established Buck Rogers adventure strip. Also inspired by these series were comics such as Dash...

, a series that he was a fan of. In this science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

-inspired feature, he added elements taken from the Greek mythological
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 myth of the Minotaur
Minotaur
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur , as the Greeks imagined him, was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, "part man and part bull"...

 and himself played the protagonist, as well as constructed a small volcano
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

 in his back yard to create a form of home-made special effect
Special effect
The illusions used in the film, television, theatre, or entertainment industries to simulate the imagined events in a story are traditionally called special effects ....

. It is believed that many of these early films are lost, with Anger burning much of his previous work in 1967.
In 1944, the Anglemyers moved to Hollywood to live with their grandmother, and Kenneth began attending Beverly Hills High School
Beverly Hills High School
Beverly Hills High School is the only major public high school in Beverly Hills, California. Beverly is part of the Beverly Hills Unified School District and located on on the west side of Beverly Hills, at the...

. It was here that he met Maxine Peterson, who had once been the stand-in for Shirley Temple, and he asked her, alongside another classmate and an old woman, to appear in his next film project, which he initially called Demigods but which was later retitled Escape Episode. Revolving partially around the occult, it was filmed in a "spooky old castle" in Hollywood and was subsequently screened at the Coronet Theatre
Coronet Theatre
The Coronet Theatre is a longstanding Los Angeles theatre. Many Hollywood stars have played there, and it has been home to several important premiere productions. More than 300 plays have been produced at the Coronet. As of June 2008, the theatre is now Largo at the Coronet Theatre, an expansion...

 on North La Cienega Blvd. in Los Angeles. Around this time, Anger also began attending the screenings of silent films held at Clara Grossman's art gallery, through which he met a fellow filmmaker, Curtis Harrington
Curtis Harrington
Curtis Harrington was an American film and television director whose work included experimental films, horror films, and episodic television.-Biography:...

, and together they formed Creative Film Associates (CFA). CFA was founded to distribute experimental film
Experimental film
Experimental film or experimental cinema is a type of cinema. Experimental film is an artistic practice relieving both of visual arts and cinema. Its origins can be found in European avant-garde movements of the twenties. Experimental cinema has built its history through the texts of theoreticians...

s or "underground films" such as those of Maya Deren
Maya Deren
Maya Deren , born Eleanora Derenkowsky, was an American avant-garde filmmaker and film theorist of the 1940s and 1950s...

, John
John Whitney (animator)
John Whitney, Sr. was an American animator, composer and inventor, widely considered to be one of the fathers of computer animation.-Life:...

 and James Whitney
James Whitney (filmmaker)
For other people named James Whitney, see James Whitney James Whitney , younger brother of John, was a filmmaker regarded as one of the great masters of abstract cinema...

, as well as Anger's and Harrington's.

It was while at high school
High school
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

 that he began to get interested in the occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

, which he had first indirectly encountered through reading Frank L. Baum's Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children's novel written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. Originally published by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago on May 17, 1900, it has since been reprinted numerous times, most often under the name The Wizard of Oz, which is the name of...

books as a child, with their accompanying Rosicrucian
Rosicrucian
Rosicrucianism is a philosophical secret society, said to have been founded in late medieval Germany by Christian Rosenkreuz. It holds a doctrine or theology "built on esoteric truths of the ancient past", which, "concealed from the average man, provide insight into nature, the physical universe...

 philosophies. Kenneth was very interested in the works of the French ceremonial magic
Ceremonial magic
Ceremonial magic, also referred to as high magic and as learned magic, is a broad term used in the context of Hermeticism or Western esotericism to encompass a wide variety of long, elaborate, and complex rituals of magic. It is named as such because the works included are characterized by...

ian Eliphas Levi
Eliphas Levi
Eliphas Lévi, born Alphonse Louis Constant , was a French occult author and purported magician."Eliphas Lévi," the name under which he published his books, was his attempt to translate or transliterate his given names "Alphonse Louis" into Hebrew although he was not Jewish.His second wife was...

, as well as Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough
The Golden Bough
The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer . It first was published in two volumes in 1890; the third edition, published 1906–15, comprised twelve volumes...

, although his favorite was the writings of the English occultist Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

. Crowley had founded a religion known as Thelema
Thelema
Thelema is a religious philosophy that was established, defined and developed by the early 20th century British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a religious experience that he had in Egypt in 1904...

 based upon a Spiritual experience that he had in Egypt in 1904, in which he claimed a being known as Aiwass
Aiwass
Aiwass is the name of the being who Aleister Crowley claimed dictated The Book of the Law, the central sacred text of Thelema, to him on April 8, 9, and 10th in 1904.-The dictation:...

 had contacted him and recited to him The Book of the Law
The Book of the Law
Liber AL vel Legis is the central sacred text of Thelema, written by Aleister Crowley in Cairo, Egypt in the year 1904. Its full title is Liber AL vel Legis, sub figura CCXX, as delivered by XCIII=418 to DCLXVI, and it is commonly referred to as The Book of the Law.Liber AL vel Legis contains three...

. Kenneth subsequently became a great fan of Crowley's work and converted to Thelema.

Fireworks and Early Career (1947–1949)


As Anger discovered his homosexuality, at a time when homosexual acts were still illegal in the United States, he began associating with the underground gay scene. At some point in the mid 1940s, he was arrested by the police in a "homosexual entrapment", after which he decided to move out of his parents' home, gaining his own sparse apartment largely financed by his grandmother, and abandoning the name Anglemyer in favor of Anger. He started attending the University of Southern California
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...

, where he studied cinema, and also began experimenting with the use of mind-altering drugs like cannabis
Cannabis
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants that includes three putative species, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These three taxa are indigenous to Central Asia, and South Asia. Cannabis has long been used for fibre , for seed and seed oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a...

 and peyote
Peyote
Lophophora williamsii , better known by its common name Peyote , is a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline.It is native to southwestern Texas and Mexico...

. It was then that he decided to produce a film that would deal with his sexuality, just as other gay avant-garde film makers like Willard Maas
Willard Maas
Willard Maas was an American experimental filmmaker and poet.-Personal life and career:He was the husband of filmmaker Marie Menken...

 were doing in that decade. The result was the short film Fireworks
Fireworks (1947 film)
Fireworks is a homoerotic experimental film by Kenneth Anger. Filmed in his parents' Beverly Hills, California, home over a long weekend while they were away, the film stars Anger and explicitly explores themes of homosexuality and sado-masochism...

, which was created in 1947 but only exhibited publicly in 1948.

Upon release of the work, Anger was arrested on obscenity
Obscenity
An obscenity is any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time, is a profanity, or is otherwise taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting, or is especially inauspicious...

 charges. He was acquitted, after the case went to the Supreme Court of California
Supreme Court of California
The Supreme Court of California is the highest state court in California. It is headquartered in San Francisco and regularly holds sessions in Los Angeles and Sacramento. Its decisions are binding on all other California state courts.-Composition:...

, which deemed it to be art rather than pornography. Anger made the claim to have been seventeen years old when he made it, despite the fact that he was actually twenty, presumably to present himself as more of an enfant terrible. A homoerotic work lasting only 14 minutes, Fireworks revolves around a young man (played by Anger himself) associating with various navy
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

 sailors, who eventually turn on him, stripping him naked and beating him to death, ripping open his chest to find a clock ticking inside. Several fireworks then explode, accompanied by a burning Christmas tree
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

 and the final shot shows the young man lying in bed next to another topless man. Of this film, Anger would later state in 1966 that "This flick is all I have to say about being 17, the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, American Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 and the fourth of July." He would continuously alter and adapt the film up until 1980, with it finally being distributed on VHS
VHS
The Video Home System is a consumer-level analog recording videocassette standard developed by Victor Company of Japan ....

 in 1986.

One of the first people to buy a copy of Fireworks was the sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Charles Kinsey was an American biologist and professor of entomology and zoology, who in 1947 founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, as well as producing the Kinsey Reports and the Kinsey...

 of the Institute for Sex Research. He and Anger struck up a friendship that would last until the doctor's death, during which time Anger aided Kinsey in his research. According to Anger's unofficial biographer Bill Landis, Kinsey became a "father figure" whom Anger "could both interact with and emulate." Meanwhile, in 1949 Anger began work on a film called Puce Women, which unlike Fireworks was filmed in color. It starred Yvonne Marquis as a glamorous woman going about her daily life; Anger would later state that "Puce Women was my love affair with Hollywood... with all the great goddesses of the silent screen. They were to be filmed in their homes; I was, in effect, filming ghosts." A lack of funding meant that only one scene was ever produced, which was eventually released under the title Puce Moment
Puce Moment
Puce Moment is a short 6 minute film by Kenneth Anger, author of the Hollywood Babylon books, filmed in 1949. Puce Moment resulted from the unfinished short film Puce Women. The film opens with a camera watching 1920's style flapper gowns being taken off a dress rack. The dresses are removed and...

. That same year, Anger directed The Love That Whirls, a film based upon Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 human sacrifice but, because of the nudity that it contained, it was destroyed by technicians at the film lab, who deemed it to be obscene.

France, Rabbit's Moon and Eaux d'Artifice (1950–1953)


In 1950 Anger moved to Paris, France, where he initially stayed with friends of his (who themselves had been forced to leave Hollywood after being blacklisted
Hollywood blacklist
The Hollywood blacklist—as the broader entertainment industry blacklist is generally known—was the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or...

 for formerly having belonged to trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

 organisations). He would later remark that he travelled to the country after receiving a letter from the French director Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau
Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau was a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker. His circle of associates, friends and lovers included Kenneth Anger, Pablo Picasso, Jean Hugo, Jean Marais, Henri Bernstein, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Erik Satie, María...

 in which he told Anger of his admiration for Fireworks. Upon arrival, Anger and Cocteau became friends, with the Frenchman giving the young protege his permission to make a movie of his ballet The Young Man and Death, although at the time there were no financial backers for the project. It was while in Paris that he continued producing short films; in 1950 he started filming on Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit’s Moon is an avant-garde short film by American filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Filmed in 1950, Rabbit's Moon was not completed until 1972...

, which was also known as La Lune des Lapins and revolved around a clown who was staring up at the moon, in which a rabbit lived, something found within Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology is a system of beliefs that embraces Shinto and Buddhist traditions as well as agriculturally based folk religion. The Shinto pantheon comprises innumerable kami...

. Anger produced 20 minutes of footage at the Films du Pantheon Studio in the city before he was rushed out of the studio, leaving the film uncompleted. He stored the footage in the disorganized archives of the Cinémathèque Française, and only collected it again in 1970, when he finally finished and released Rabbit's Moon. It was at the Cinémathèque Française that he befriended the head, Henri Langlois
Henri Langlois
Henri Langlois was a French film archivist and cinephile. A pioneer of film preservation, Langlois was an influential figure in the history of cinema...

 (later claiming that he worked for Langlois for twelve years) and was allowed to rummage through the Cinémathèque's archives, in which he found prints of Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein , né Eizenshtein, was a pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist, often considered to be the "Father of Montage"...

's Que Viva Mexico!, which he attempted to put into Eisenstein's original order.
In 1953, he travelled to Rome, Italy where he planned to make a film about the sixteenth century occultist Cardinal d'Este
Ippolito II d'Este
Ippolito d'Este was an Italian cardinal and statesman. He was a member of the House of Este, and nephew of the other Ippolito d'Este, also a cardinal.-Biography:...

. To do so, he began filming at the garden of the Villa d'Este
Villa d'Este
The Villa d'Este is a villa situated at Tivoli, near Rome, Italy. Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, it is a fine example of Renaissance architecture and the Italian Renaissance garden.-History:...

 in Tivoli
Tivoli, Italy
Tivoli , the classical Tibur, is an ancient Italian town in Lazio, about 30 km east-north-east of Rome, at the falls of the Aniene river where it issues from the Sabine hills...

, in which a lady in eighteenth century dress walked through the gardens, which featured many waterfalls (an allusion to the fact that d'Este allegedly sexually enjoyed urination
Urination
Urination, also known as micturition, voiding, peeing, weeing, pissing, and more rarely, emiction, is the ejection of urine from the urinary bladder through the urethra to the outside of the body. In healthy humans the process of urination is under voluntary control...

), accompanied by the music of Vivaldi. This was supposedly going to be only the first of four scenes, but the others were not made; the resulting one-scene film was entitled Eaux d'Artifice
Eaux d'artifice
Eaux d'artifice is a short experimental film by Kenneth Anger. The film was shot in the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy. The film consists entirely of a woman dressed in eighteenth-century clothes who wanders amidst the garden fountains of the Villa d'Este , until she steps into a fountain and...

. As Anger's biographer Bill Landis remarked, "It's one of Anger's most tranquil works; his editing makes it soft, lush, and inviting. Eaux d'Artifice remains a secretive romp through a private garden, all for the masked figure's and the viewer-voyeur's pleasure."

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and Hollywood Babylon (1953–1960)



In 1953, soon after the production of Eaux d'Artifice, Anger's mother died and he temporarily returned to the United States in order to take part in the distribution of her will. It was during this return that he began to once more immerse himself in the artistic scene of California, befriending the film maker Stan Brakhage
Stan Brakhage
James Stanley Brakhage , better known as Stan Brakhage, was an American non-narrative filmmaker who is considered to be one of the most important figures in 20th century experimental film....

, who had been inspired by Fireworks, and the two collaborated on producing a film, but it was confiscated at the film lab for obscenity and presumably destroyed. Around this time, two of Anger's friends, the couple Renate Druks and Paul Mathiesin held a party based upon the theme of 'Come As Your Madness'; Anger himself attended dressed in drag as the ancient Greek goddess Hekate. The party and its many costumes inspired Anger, who produced a painting of it, and asked several of those who attended to appear in a new film that he was creating – Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is a short 38 minute film by Kenneth Anger, filmed in 1954. Anger created two other versions of this film in 1966 and the late 1970s. According to Anger, the film takes the name "pleasure dome" from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's atmospheric poem Kubla Khan...

. Inauguration, which was created in 1954, was a 38 minute surrealist
Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

 work featuring many Crowleyan and Thelemite themes, with many of the various characters personifying various pagan gods such as Isis
Isis
Isis or in original more likely Aset is a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature and magic...

, Osiris
Osiris
Osiris is an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He is classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh's beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and...

 and Pan. One of the actresses in the film was Marjorie Cameron, the widow of Jack Parsons
Jack Parsons
John Whiteside Parsons , better known as Jack Parsons, was an American rocket propulsion researcher at the California Institute of Technology. He was one of the principal founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Aerojet Corp...

, the influential American Thelemite who had died a few years previously, while Anger himself played Hecate. He would subsequently exhibit the film at various European film festivals, winning the Prix du Ciné-Club Belge and the Prix de l'Age d'Or as well as screening it in the form of a projected triptych
Triptych
A triptych , from tri-= "three" + ptysso= "to fold") is a work of art which is divided into three sections, or three carved panels which are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works...

 at Expo 58, the World Fair
World fair
World Fair can refer to:* Expo , a large public exhibition* This World Fair, an American rock band...

 held in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 in 1958.

In 1955, Anger and his friend Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Charles Kinsey was an American biologist and professor of entomology and zoology, who in 1947 founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, as well as producing the Kinsey Reports and the Kinsey...

 travelled to the derelict Abbey of Thelema
Abbey of Thelema
The Abbey of Thelema refers to a small house which was used as a temple and spiritual centre founded by Aleister Crowley and Leah Hirsig in Cefalù, Sicily in 1920....

 in Cefalù
Cefalù
Cefalù is a city and comune in the province of Palermo, located on the northern coast of Sicily, Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea about 70 km east from the provincial capital and 185 km west of Messina...

, Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 in order to film a short documentary entitled Thelema Abbey. The abbey itself had been used by Aleister Crowley for his commune during the 1920s, and Anger restored many of the erotic wallpaintings that were found there as well as performing certain Crowleyan rituals at the site. The documentary was made for the British television series Omnibus, who later lost it. The following year Kinsey died, and Anger decided to return to Paris, and was described at this time as being "extremely remote and lonely".

In desperate need of money, Anger wrote a book titled Hollywood Babylon
Hollywood Babylon
Hollywood Babylon is a book by avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger which details the sordid scandals of many famous and infamous Hollywood denizens from the 1900s to the 1950s. First published in the US in 1965, it was banned ten days later and would not be republished until 1975...

in which he revealed much of the illicit gossip regarding celebrities that he had been told. This included claiming (with no corroboration or citing of sources) that Rudolph Valentino
Rudolph Valentino
Rudolph Valentino was an Italian actor, and early pop icon. A sex symbol of the 1920s, Valentino was known as the "Latin Lover". He starred in several well-known silent films including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle and Son of the Sheik...

 liked to play a sexually submissive role to dominant women, that Walt Disney
Walt Disney
Walter Elias "Walt" Disney was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon, and philanthropist, well-known for his influence in the field of entertainment during the 20th century. Along with his brother Roy O...

 was a drug-user, addicted to opiates (reflected in the character of Goofy
Goofy
Goofy is a cartoon character created in 1932 at Walt Disney Productions. Goofy is a tall, anthropomorphic dog, and typically wears a turtle neck and vest, with pants, shoes, white gloves, and a tall hat originally designed as a rumpled fedora. Goofy is a close friend of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck...

, who's perpetually stoned on cannabis), as well as describing the nature of the deaths of Peg Entwistle
Peg Entwistle
Peg Entwistle was an English stage and screen actress who gained notoriety after her suicide at the age of 24 by leaping off of the Hollywood Sign.-Early life:...

 and Lupe Vélez
Lupe Vélez
Lupe Vélez was a Mexican film actress. Vélez began her career in Mexico as a dancer, before moving to the U.S. where she worked in vaudeville. She was seen by Fanny Brice who promoted her, and Vélez soon entered films, making her first appearance in 1924. By the end of the decade she had...

. The work was initially not published in the United States, instead the publisher was the French Jean Jacques Pauvert. A pirated (and incomplete) version was first published in the U.S. in 1965, with the official American version not being published until 1974. Now with some financial backing from the publication of Hollywood Babylon, his next film project was The Story of O; essentially a piece of erotica
Erotica
Erotica are works of art, including literature, photography, film, sculpture and painting, that deal substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing descriptions...

 featuring a heterosexual couple engaged in sadomasochistic sexual activities, although it refrained from showing any explicit sexual images.

Scorpio Rising and Kustom Kar Kommandos (1961–1965)


In 1961, Anger once more returned to America, where he lived for a time with Marjorie Cameron
Marjorie Cameron
Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel was an artist, occultist, actress, and wife of rocket pioneer and occultist Jack Parsons. Cameron played a major role in the 1946 Babalon Working ritual.-Biography:...

. Meanwhile he began work on a new feature, a film about the emerging biker
Motorcycle
A motorcycle is a single-track, two-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.Motorcycles are one of the most...

 subculture, which he titled Scorpio Rising
Scorpio Rising (film)
Scorpio Rising is a 1964 experimental film by Kenneth Anger, starring Bruce Byron as Scorpio. Themes central to the film include the occult, biker subculture, Catholicism and Nazism; the film also explores the worship of rebel icons of the era, namely James Dean and Marlon Brando...

. For this, he employed a biker named Richard McAuley, and filmed him and some of his friends messing around, adding to it scenes of McAuley, or "Scorpio" as he became known, desecrating a derelict church. Anger incorporated more controversial visuals into the piece, including Nazi iconography, nudity, and clips of the life of Jesus Christ taken from Family Films' The Road to Jerusalem
The Road to Jerusalem
The Road to Jerusalem is the first book in Jan Guillou's The Knight Templar book series. The book follows the fictional character of Arn Magnusson from his birth and until he sets off to Jerusalem....

. In Scorpio Rising, Anger intercuts images of Christ from the cheap religious film with those of Scorpio. The whole film has a soundtrack made up of popular 1950s songs, including "Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet (song)
"Blue Velvet" is a 1950 popular song, written by Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris. It has been recorded by several artists, most notably Tony Bennett and Bobby Vinton, and has inspired a film of the same name.-History of recordings:...

" by Bobby Vinton
Bobby Vinton
Bobby Vinton is an American pop music singer of Polish origin. In pop music circles, he became known as "The Polish Prince".-Early life:...

, "Torture" by Kris Jensen
Kris Jensen
Kris Jensen is an American singer and guitarist.Jensen began his career in music cutting records for Colpix, for whom he recorded his first single in 1959. He graduated from high school in Fort Lauderdale in 1960 and then recorded with Kapp Records and its subsidiary, Leader Records...

 and "I Will Follow Him
I Will Follow Him
"I Will Follow Him" is a song recorded by Little Peggy March. The music was written by Franck Pourcel and Paul Mauriat . It was adapted by Arthur Altman...

" by Little Peggy March. Anger himself described the film as "a death mirror held up to American culture... Thanatos
Thanatos
In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the daemon personification of death. He was a minor figure in Greek mythology, often referred to but rarely appearing in person...

 in chrome, black leather, and bursting jeans
Jeans
Jeans are trousers made from denim. Some of the earliest American blue jeans were made by Jacob Davis, Calvin Rogers, and Levi Strauss in 1873. Starting in the 1950s, jeans, originally designed for cowboys, became popular among teenagers. Historic brands include Levi's, Lee, and Wrangler...

." It immediately became popular on the underground cinema scene although was soon brought to court with complaints claiming that it was obscene. The all-female jury ruled in favor of the prosecutors, and Scorpio Rising was banned, although this ban was subsequently overturned on appeal to the California State Supreme Court.

With Scorpio Rising finished and Anger now living in San Francisco, he went to the Ford Foundation
Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is a private foundation incorporated in Michigan and based in New York City created to fund programs that were chartered in 1936 by Edsel Ford and Henry Ford....

, which had just started a program of giving out grants to filmmakers. He showed them his ideas for a new artistic short, entitled Kustom Kar Kommandos
Kustom Kar Kommandos
Kustom Kar Kommandos is a 1965 experimental film by Kenneth Anger. The 3-minute short features panning shots of a young man buffing a customized hot rod in front of an amorphous pink background, to the tune of "Dream Lover" by The Paris Sisters...

, which they approved of, and gave him a grant of $10,000. However, Anger spent much of the money on living expenses and making alterations to some of his earlier films, meaning that by the time he actually created Kustom Kar Kommandos, it was only one scene long. This homoerotic film involved various shots of a young man polishing a drag strip racing car, accompanied with a pink background and the song "Dream Lover
Dream Lover
"Dream Lover" is a song written and recorded by Bobby Darin on March 5, 1959. It was produced by Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler and engineered by Tom Dowd. It is considered a soulful rock song. The song became a multi-million seller, reaching #2 in US charts and was #1 in UK for three weeks during...

" by The Paris Sisters
The Paris Sisters
The Paris Sisters were a 1960s girl group from San Francisco, best known for their work with producer Phil Spector. The group consisted of lead singer Priscilla Paris; her older sister, Albeth Paris; and their middle sister Sherrell Paris...

. Soon after, Anger struck a deal that allowed Hollywood Babylon to be officially published in the United States for the first time, where it proved a success, selling two million copies during the 1960s, and around the same time Anger also translated Lo Duca
Lo Duca
Lo Duca is the surname of the following people:*Joseph-Marie Lo Duca , Italian writer*Paul Lo Duca , American baseball player...

's History of Eroticism into English for American publication.

The Hippie Movement and Invocation of My Demon Brother (1966–1969)


The mid 1960s saw the emergence of the hippie
Hippie
The hippie subculture was originally a youth movement that arose in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The etymology of the term 'hippie' is from hipster, and was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved into San Francisco's...

 scene and the increasing use of the mind-altering drugs that Anger himself had been using for many years. In particular, the hallucinogen LSD
LSD
Lysergic acid diethylamide, abbreviated LSD or LSD-25, also known as lysergide and colloquially as acid, is a semisynthetic psychedelic drug of the ergoline family, well known for its psychological effects which can include altered thinking processes, closed and open eye visuals, synaesthesia, an...

, which at the time was still legal in the United States, was very popular, and in 1966 Anger released a version of his earlier film, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is a short 38 minute film by Kenneth Anger, filmed in 1954. Anger created two other versions of this film in 1966 and the late 1970s. According to Anger, the film takes the name "pleasure dome" from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's atmospheric poem Kubla Khan...

entitled the "Sacred Mushroom Edition" which was screened to people while taking LSD, thereby heightening their sensory experience. By this time, Anger had become well known throughout the underground scene in the United States, and several cinemas across the country screened his better known films all in one event. With this growing fame, Anger began to react to publicity in much the same way as his idol Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

 had done, for instance describing himself as "the most monstrous moviemaker in the underground", a pun on the fact that Crowley had been labelled "the wickedest man in the world" by the British tabloids in the 1920s. Anger's fame on the underground circuit allowed him to increasingly associate with other celebrities, including Anton LaVey
Anton LaVey
Anton Szandor LaVey , born Howard Stanton Levey, was the founder of the Church of Satan as well as a writer, occultist, and musician...

, the founder of the Church of Satan
Church of Satan
The Church of Satan is an organization dedicated to the acceptance of the carnal self, as articulated in The Satanic Bible, written in 1969 by Anton Szandor LaVey.- History :...

; despite their differing philosophies, the two became good friends and would remain so for many years. However, Anger also held a resentment towards certain celebrities, namely Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol
Andrew Warhola , known as Andy Warhol, was an American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art...

, who at the time was achieving success not only in the art world but also in the underground film scene. In 1980 Anger threw paint over the front door of a house that Warhol had recently moved out of.
In 1966, Anger moved into the ground floor of a large nineteenth century Victorian house
Victorian house
In the United Kingdom, and former British colonies, a Victorian house generally means any house built during the reign of Queen Victoria...

 in San Francisco known as the Russian Embassy
William Westerfeld House
The William Westerfeld House sits across the street from the northwest corner of Alamo Square at 1198 Fulton Street in San Francisco. Constructed in 1889 at a cost of $9,985, the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is San Francisco Landmark Number 135.William Westerfeld,...

. Around this time he began planning for a new film, which he planned to title Lucifer Rising and which would echo his Thelemite beliefs about the emerging Aeon of Horus. He had the name of Lucifer tattooed upon his chest and began searching for a young man who could symbolically become Lucifer, "the Crowned and Conquering Child" of the new Aeon, for Lucifer Rising. He met various young men who could fit the position, inviting each to live with him at the Russian Embassy, although eventually he settled upon a man named Bobby Beausoleil
Bobby Beausoleil
Robert Kenneth "Bobby" Beausoleil is a convicted American murderer and associate of the Charles Manson "Family" who is serving a life sentence. He killed music teacher and fellow associate Gary Hinman on July 27, 1969, and has been imprisoned since his arrest for that crime...

. Beausoleil also formed a band, the Magic Powerhouse of Oz, in order to record the music for the film. Then, in 1967, Anger claimed that the footage which he had been filming for Lucifer Rising had been stolen, and he placed the blame upon Beausoleil, who would deny the claims, later telling Anger's unofficial biographer Bill Landis that "what had happened was that Kenneth had spent all the money that was invested in Lucifer Rising" and that he therefore invented the story to satisfy the film's creditors. Beausoleil and Anger fell out, with the former getting involved with Charles Manson
Charles Manson
Charles Milles Manson is an American criminal who led what became known as the Manson Family, a quasi-commune that arose in California in the late 1960s. He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the Tate/LaBianca murders carried out by members of the group at his instruction...

 and his cult, the Family, eventually carrying out Manson's bidding by torturing and murdering Gary Hinman.

Anger subsequently decided to publicly reinvent himself. In the October 26, 1967 issue of Village Voice he placed a full-page advert declaring "In Memoriam. Kenneth Anger. Filmmaker 1947–1967". He soon publicly reappeared, this time to claim that he had burned all of his early work. The following year he travelled to London where he first met J. Paul Getty, who would subsequently become Anger's patron, and where he also met and befriended Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger
Sir Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger is an English musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist and a founding member of The Rolling Stones....

 and Keith Richards
Keith Richards
Keith Richards is an English musician, songwriter, and founding member of the Rolling Stones. Rolling Stone magazine said Richards had created "rock's greatest single body of riffs", and placed him as the "10th greatest guitarist of all time." Fourteen songs written by Richards and songwriting...

, members of The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are an English rock band, formed in London in April 1962 by Brian Jones , Ian Stewart , Mick Jagger , and Keith Richards . Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts completed the early line-up...

, as well as Richards' drug addicted girlfriend Anita Pallenberg. Anger then decided to use much of the footage created for Lucifer Rising in a new film of his, Invocation of My Demon Brother
Invocation of My Demon Brother
Invocation of My Demon Brother is an 11 minute film directed, edited and photographed by Kenneth Anger. The music was composed by Mick Jagger playing a Moog Synthesizer. It was filmed in San Francisco at the Straight theater and the Russian Embassy.According to Kenneth Anger, the film was...

, which starred Beausoleil, LaVey, Jagger and Richards, as well as Anger himself, and the music for which had been composed by Jagger. It was released in 1969, and explored many of the Thelemic themes that Anger had originally intended for Lucifer Rising. The story of the film, its making, and the people involved are the inspiration for the novel "Sway", by Zachary Lazar
Zachary Lazar
Zachary Lazar is an American novelist. Lazar was born in Phoenix, Arizona. He earned an A.B. degree in Comparative Literature from Brown University and M.F.A from the University of Iowa Iowa Writer's Workshop ....

.

Lucifer Rising (1970–1981)


With Invocation of My Demon Brother having used up much of the footage originally intended for Lucifer Rising
Lucifer Rising (film)
"Lucifer Rising" is a short film by director Kenneth Anger. The film was completed in 1972 but was only widely distributed in 1980.-History:Anger began filming around 1966, hiring a young musician named Bobby Beausoleil to act and compose the soundtrack. The film was abandoned in 1967 because Anger...

, Anger once more set about to create this film, which was designed to be a symbolic analogy of the coming Aeon of Horus as prophesied in the Thelemic sacred text, The Book of the Law
The Book of the Law
Liber AL vel Legis is the central sacred text of Thelema, written by Aleister Crowley in Cairo, Egypt in the year 1904. Its full title is Liber AL vel Legis, sub figura CCXX, as delivered by XCIII=418 to DCLXVI, and it is commonly referred to as The Book of the Law.Liber AL vel Legis contains three...

. Anger persuaded the singer and actress Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Evelyn Faithfull is an award-winning English singer, songwriter and actress whose career has spanned five decades....

 to appear in it, and tried to convince his friend Mick Jagger to play the part of Lucifer in the film, although he refused, and instead offered his brother Chris for the part, something Anger accepted, but was not happy about. Anger subsequently filmed eight minutes of the film, and showed them to the British National Film Finance Corporation
National Film Finance Corporation
The National Film Finance Corporation was a film funding agency in the United Kingdom which operated from 1949 until it was wound up in 1985...

 who agreed to provide £15,000 in order for Anger to complete it – something that caused a level of outrage in the British press. With this money, he could afford to fly the cast and crew to both Germany and Egypt for filming. Anger befriended Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

 guitarist Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page
James Patrick "Jimmy" Page, OBE is an English multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and record producer. He began his career as a studio session guitarist in London and was subsequently a member of The Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968, after which he founded the English rock band Led Zeppelin.Jimmy Page...

 around this time, with the two having a great mutual interest in Crowley. At Page's invitation, Anger would travel to Boleskine House
Boleskine House
Boleskine House was the estate of author and occultist Aleister Crowley from 1899 to 1913. It is located on the South-Eastern shore of Loch Ness in Scotland, two miles east of the Village of Foyers...

 on the shores of Loch Ness
Loch Ness
Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands extending for approximately southwest of Inverness. Its surface is above sea level. Loch Ness is best known for the alleged sightings of the cryptozoological Loch Ness Monster, also known affectionately as "Nessie"...

 in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, where Crowley had once lived and which Page had purchased, and helped the musician to exorcise
Exorcism
Exorcism is the religious practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or place which they are believed to have possessed...

 the building of what Page believed to be a headless man's ghost
Ghost
In traditional belief and fiction, a ghost is the soul or spirit of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living. Descriptions of the apparition of ghosts vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to...

. Page subsequently agreed to produce the soundtrack
Soundtrack
A soundtrack can be recorded music accompanying and synchronized to the images of a motion picture, book, television program or video game; a commercially released soundtrack album of music as featured in the soundtrack of a film or TV show; or the physical area of a film that contains the...

 for Lucifer Rising, and used the editing suite which was in the basement of his London home to shape the music which he produced. Anger later fell out with Page's wife Charlotte, who kicked him out of the house. In retaliation, he called a press conference in which he ridiculed Page and threatened to "throw a Kenneth Anger curse" on him. Page's music was dumped from the film and replaced in 1979 by music written and recorded by the imprisoned Bobby Beausoleil, with whom Anger had made up.
Meanwhile, Anger, who moved to an apartment in New York City, took the footage that he had filmed for Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit’s Moon is an avant-garde short film by American filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Filmed in 1950, Rabbit's Moon was not completed until 1972...

in the 1950s, finally releasing the film in 1972, and again in a shorter version in 1979. Around the same time he also added a new soundtrack to Puce Moment and re-released it. It was also around this time that the publisher Marvin Miller produced a low budget documentary film
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

 based on Hollywood Babylon without Anger's permission, greatly angering him and leading him to sue. He also created a short film entitled Senators in Bondage which was only available to private collectors and which has never been made publicly available, and had plans to make a film about Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

 entitled The Wickedest Man in the World, but this project never got off the ground. In 1980, he holidayed with his friend, the playwright Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs...

.

It was in 1981, a decade after starting the project, that he finally finished and released the 30-minute long Lucifer Rising
Lucifer Rising (film)
"Lucifer Rising" is a short film by director Kenneth Anger. The film was completed in 1972 but was only widely distributed in 1980.-History:Anger began filming around 1966, hiring a young musician named Bobby Beausoleil to act and compose the soundtrack. The film was abandoned in 1967 because Anger...

. Based upon the Thelemite concept that mankind had entered a new period known as the Aeon of Horus, Lucifer Rising was full of occult symbolism, starring Miriam Gibril as the Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian goddess Isis
Isis
Isis or in original more likely Aset is a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature and magic...

 and Donald Cammell
Donald Cammell
Donald Seaton Cammell was a Scottish film director who enjoys a cult reputation thanks to his debut film Performance, which he co-directed with Nicolas Roeg.-Biography:...

 as her consort Osiris
Osiris
Osiris is an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He is classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh's beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and...

, as well as Marianne Faithfull as the Biblical figure of Lilith
Lilith
Lilith is a character in Jewish mythology, found earliest in the Babylonian Talmud, who is generally thought to be related to a class of female demons Līlīṯu in Mesopotamian texts. However, Lowell K. Handy notes, "Very little information has been found relating to the Akkadian and Babylonian view...

 and Leslie Huggins as Lucifer himself. Anger once again appeared in the film, starring as the Magus, the same role that he played in Invocation to My Demon Brother. He had surrealistically combined the roles that these characters played with footage of volcanoes, various ancient Egyptian temples and a Crowleyan adept reading from the man's texts.

Retirement (1982–1999)


Soon after the release of Lucifer Rising, a PBS documentary of Anger and his films was made, entitled Kenneth Anger's Magick, which was directed by Kit Fitzgerald, who later recalled interviewing him in his New York flat on a very hot July evening, during which Anger revealed that he was so broke that he had been forced to sell his air conditioner. Anger himself considered producing other films that would continue on from Lucifer Rising in a series, and he began referring to his finished film as "Part I: Sign Language", to be followed by two further parts. Nonetheless, these projects would never be finished, and Anger himself would not produce any further films for nearly two decades. In need of money, Anger subsequently released Hollywood Babylon II in 1984, as well as continuing to screen his films at various festivals and at universities; around this time he began wearing an eyepatch
Eyepatch
An eyepatch or eye pad is a small patch that is worn in front of one eye. It may be a cloth patch attached around the head by an elastic band or by a string, or an adhesive bandage. It is often worn by people to cover a lost or injured eye, but it also has a therapeutic use in children for the...

 to these public events, something likely due to him having been beaten up and getting a bruised eye, a story that he would bring up in various interviews, although partly changing who it was who had beaten him up in various versions of the story. In 1984, a notorious incident occurred when Anger was invited to appear on The Coca Crystal Show, however upon arriving at the studio he demanded that somebody pay for his taxi
Taxicab
A taxicab, also taxi or cab, is a type of vehicle for hire with a driver, used by a single passenger or small group of passengers, often for a non-shared ride. A taxicab conveys passengers between locations of their choice...

 ride there, and when they refused, he attacked the talent coordinator Maurice Ivice and tried to drag her into his taxi, before she was rescued by other members of staff – Anger reportedly escaped the scene by flinging a $100 bill at the cab-driver and screaming "GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

In 1986, he sold the video rights to his films, which finally appeared on VHS
VHS
The Video Home System is a consumer-level analog recording videocassette standard developed by Victor Company of Japan ....

, allowing them to have greater publicity. The following year he attended the Avignon Film Festival in France where his work was being celebrated in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of Fireworks. Soon after this, he appeared in Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon, a BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 documentary for the Arena series directed by Nigel Finch. In 1991, Anger moved to West Arenas Boulevard in Palm Springs
Palm Springs
Palm Springs is a desert city in CaliforniaPalm Springs may also refer to:* Palm Springs, Florida* Palm Springs, Hong Kong, a residential development in Yuen Long, Hong Kong* Coachella Valley, also known as the Palm Springs area...

, where the British Film Institute
British Film Institute
The British Film Institute is a charitable organisation established by Royal Charter to:-Cinemas:The BFI runs the BFI Southbank and IMAX theatre, both located on the south bank of the River Thames in London...

 sent Rebecca Wood to assist him in writing an autobiography, which was never actually produced. Instead, in 1995, Bill Landis, who had been an associate of Anger's in the early 1980s, wrote an unofficial biography of him, which Anger himself condemned, describing Landis as "an avowed enemy".

Return to Filmmaking (2000–)


For twenty years from the early 1980s, Anger released no new material. In 2000, at the dawn of the new millennium, Anger began screening a new short film, the anti-smoking Don't Smoke That Cigarette, followed a year later by The Man We Want To Hang, which comprised images of Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

's paintings that had been exhibited at a temporary exhibition in Bloomsbury, London. In 2004, he began showing Anger Sees Red, a short surrealistic film starring himself, and the same year also began showing another work, Patriotic Penis. He soon followed this with a flurry of other shorts, including Mouse Heaven, which consisted of images of Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks at The Walt Disney Studio. Mickey is an anthropomorphic black mouse and typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves...

 memorabilia, Ich Will! and Uniform Attraction, all of which he showed at various public appearances. Anger's most recent project has been the Technicolor Skull with musician Brian Butler, described as a "magick ritual of light and sound in the context of a live performance", in which Anger plays the theremin
Theremin
The theremin , originally known as the aetherphone/etherophone, thereminophone or termenvox/thereminvox is an early electronic musical instrument controlled without discernible physical contact from the player. It is named after its Russian inventor, Professor Léon Theremin, who patented the device...

, and Butler plays the guitar and other electronic instruments, behind a psychedelic backdrop of colors and skulls.

Anger makes an appearance in the 2008 feature documentary by Nik Sheehan about Brion Gysin
Brion Gysin
Brion Gysin was a painter, writer, sound poet, and performance artist born in Taplow, Buckinghamshire.He is best known for his discovery of the cut-up technique, used by his friend, the novelist William S. Burroughs...

 and the Dreamachine
Dreamachine
The dreamachine is a stroboscopic flicker device that produces visual stimuli. Artist Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs's "systems adviser" Ian Sommerville created the dreamachine after reading William Grey Walter's book, The Living Brain.-History:In the dreamachine's original form, a...

 entitled FLicKeR. In 2009 his work was featured in a retrospective exhibition at the MoMA PS1 in New York City, and the following year a similar exhibition took place in London.

Anger has finished writing Hollywood Babylon III, but has not yet published it, fearing severe legal repercussions if he did so. Of this he has stated that "The main reason I didn't bring it out was that I had a whole section on Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise
Thomas Cruise Mapother IV , better known as Tom Cruise, is an American film actor and producer. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards and he has won three Golden Globe Awards....

 and the Scientologists
Scientology
Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard , starting in 1952, as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics...

. I'm not a friend of the Scientologists." The Church of Scientology
Church of Scientology
The Church of Scientology is an organization devoted to the practice and the promotion of the Scientology belief system. The Church of Scientology International is the Church of Scientology's parent organization, and is responsible for the overall ecclesiastical management, dissemination and...

 has been known on several occasions to heavily sue those making accusations against them.

Themes



Several recurring themes can be seen within Anger's cinematic work. One of the most notable of these is homoeroticism
Homoeroticism
Homoeroticism refers to the erotic attraction between members of the same sex, either male–male or female–female , most especially as it is depicted or manifested in the visual arts and literature. It can also be found in performative forms; from theatre to the theatricality of uniformed movements...

; this was first seen in Fireworks (1947), which was based around Anger's own homosexual awakening, and featured various navy officers flexing their muscles, and a white liquid (often thought of as symbolising semen
Semen
Semen is an organic fluid, also known as seminal fluid, that may contain spermatozoa. It is secreted by the gonads and other sexual organs of male or hermaphroditic animals and can fertilize female ova...

), pouring over the protagonist's body. Similar homoerotic imagery is found in Scorpio Rising (1963), which stars a muscled, topless, leather-clad biker, and Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965), where a young man sensually polishes a car, with close up shots of his tight-fitting jeans and crotch. Images of naked men also appear in Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), where they are eventually filmed wrestling, and in Anger Sees Red (2004), in which a muscled, topless man performs press-ups.

Another recurring theme in Anger's films is that of the occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

, particularly the symbolism of his own esoteric religion, Thelema
Thelema
Thelema is a religious philosophy that was established, defined and developed by the early 20th century British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a religious experience that he had in Egypt in 1904...

. This is visible in Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Invocation of My Demon Brother and Lucifer Rising, all of which are based around the Thelemite concept of the Aeon of Horus and feature actors portraying various pagan gods. Anger himself linked the creation of film to the occult, particularly the practice of ceremonial magic
Ceremonial magic
Ceremonial magic, also referred to as high magic and as learned magic, is a broad term used in the context of Hermeticism or Western esotericism to encompass a wide variety of long, elaborate, and complex rituals of magic. It is named as such because the works included are characterized by...

, something that Aleister Crowley had been a noted practitioner of, and Anger once stated that "making a movie is casting a spell."

One of the central recurring images found in Anger's work is the concept of flames and light; in Fireworks there are various examples of this, including a burning Christmas tree
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

, and it subsequently appears in many of his other works as well. This relates to the concept of Lucifer
Lucifer
Traditionally, Lucifer is a name that in English generally refers to the devil or Satan before being cast from Heaven, although this is not the original meaning of the term. In Latin, from which the English word is derived, Lucifer means "light-bearer"...

, a deity whom Anger devoted one of his films to, and whose name is Latin for "light bearer".

In many of his films, heavy use is made of music, both classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 and pop
Pop music
Pop music is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.- Definitions :David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop...

, to accompany the visual imagery. For instance, in Scorpio Rising he makes use of the 1950s pop songs "Torture" by Kris Jensen
Kris Jensen
Kris Jensen is an American singer and guitarist.Jensen began his career in music cutting records for Colpix, for whom he recorded his first single in 1959. He graduated from high school in Fort Lauderdale in 1960 and then recorded with Kapp Records and its subsidiary, Leader Records...

, "I Will Follow Him
I Will Follow Him
"I Will Follow Him" is a song recorded by Little Peggy March. The music was written by Franck Pourcel and Paul Mauriat . It was adapted by Arthur Altman...

" by Little Peggy March and "Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet (song)
"Blue Velvet" is a 1950 popular song, written by Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris. It has been recorded by several artists, most notably Tony Bennett and Bobby Vinton, and has inspired a film of the same name.-History of recordings:...

" by Bobby Vinton
Bobby Vinton
Bobby Vinton is an American pop music singer of Polish origin. In pop music circles, he became known as "The Polish Prince".-Early life:...

, something that he believed was later copied by David Lynch
David Lynch
David Keith Lynch is an American filmmaker, television director, visual artist, musician and occasional actor. Known for his surrealist films, he has developed his own unique cinematic style, which has been dubbed "Lynchian", and which is characterized by its dream imagery and meticulous sound...

 in his 1986 movie Blue Velvet. He first used music to accompany visuals in the 1941 work Who Has Been Rocking My Dreamboat?, where he used tracks by the Mills Brothers
Mills Brothers
The Mills Brothers, sometimes billed as The Four Mills Brothers, were an American jazz and pop vocal quartet of the 20th century who made more than 2,000 recordings that combined sold more than 50 million copies, and garnered at least three dozen gold records...

. His use of popular music to accompany his films has been cited as a key influence on the development of music videos and of MTV
MTV
MTV, formerly an initialism of Music Television, is an American network based in New York City that launched on August 1, 1981. The original purpose of the channel was to play music videos guided by on-air hosts known as VJs....

, although he has stated his dislike for the whole music video industry. On one occasion the band Combustible Edison
Combustible Edison
Combustible Edison was a group founded in the early 1990s in Providence, Rhode Island, and was one of several lounge music acts that led a brief resurgence of interest in the genre during the mid-1990s...

 asked him if he would direct a video to accompany their song "Bluebeard" but he declined the offer, believing that while music could be used to accompany film, it was pointless to do it the other way around.

Personal life


Anger has always been an "extremely private individual," although has given various interviews over the years, with one interviewer, David Wingrove, describing him in 2008 as "a joy. Gentle, soft-spoken, immaculately tanned, he looks a good two decades younger than his 78 years".In 2008, Anger was actually 81, but claimed to be younger, as he has repeatedly done throughout his life. In such interviews, he refuses to disclose information on his name change from Anglemeyer to Anger, telling an interviewer who brought the topic up in 2004 that "You're being impertinent. It says Anger on my passport, that's all you need to know. I would stay away from that subject if I was you." In a 2010 interview however he stated that "I just condensed my name. I knew it would be like a label, a logo. It's easy to remember." Anger is openly gay, with one of his friends describing how he "was attracted to people who were either well endowed or the Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-American former professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, and politician. Schwarzenegger served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011....

 type." He once joked that he was "somewhat to the right of the KKK
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically...

" in his views about black people
Black people
The term black people is used in systems of racial classification for humans of a dark skinned phenotype, relative to other racial groups.Different societies apply different criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and often social variables such as class, socio-economic status also plays a...

, opening him up to criticism for racism. He is a passionate supporter of the Tibetan independence movement.

Anger is a Thelemite
Thelema
Thelema is a religious philosophy that was established, defined and developed by the early 20th century British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a religious experience that he had in Egypt in 1904...

 and after many years joined the Thelemic organisation, the Ordo Templi Orientis
Ordo Templi Orientis
Ordo Templi Orientis is an international fraternal and religious organization founded at the beginning of the 20th century...

. He viewed many of the men he associated with as living embodiments of Lucifer
Lucifer
Traditionally, Lucifer is a name that in English generally refers to the devil or Satan before being cast from Heaven, although this is not the original meaning of the term. In Latin, from which the English word is derived, Lucifer means "light-bearer"...

, a symbol of the Aeon of Horus in Thelemic philosophy, and had the name of Lucifer tattooed onto his chest, which he identifies as being his own. Despite being a Thelemite, Anger has shown an interest in various other religious movements, particularly those that are in some way occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

. For instance, he was a lifelong friend of Anton LaVey
Anton LaVey
Anton Szandor LaVey , born Howard Stanton Levey, was the founder of the Church of Satan as well as a writer, occultist, and musician...

, both before and after the founding of the Church of Satan
Church of Satan
The Church of Satan is an organization dedicated to the acceptance of the carnal self, as articulated in The Satanic Bible, written in 1969 by Anton Szandor LaVey.- History :...

 in the 1960s, and lived with LaVey and his family during the 1980s. LaVey also made an appearance in one of Anger's films, Invocation to My Demon Brother (1969) while Anger wrote forewords to two of LaVey's books, The Devil's Notebook
The Devil's Notebook
The Devil's Notebook is the fourth book written by Anton LaVey. It was published by Feral House in 1992; the first original collection of LaVey's writings to be published in two decades....

(1992) and Satan Speaks!
Satan Speaks!
Satan Speaks! is the fifth and final book written by Anton LaVey, completed a few days before his death on October 29, 1997. It was published the following year by Feral House.....

(1998). He describes himself as a "pagan" and refuses to consider himself to be a Satanist. He also claims Wicca
Wicca
Wicca , is a modern Pagan religious movement. Developing in England in the first half of the 20th century, Wicca was popularised in the 1950s and early 1960s by a Wiccan High Priest named Gerald Gardner, who at the time called it the "witch cult" and "witchcraft," and its adherents "the Wica."...

 to be a "lunar", feminine religion, contrasted with the "solar" masculinity of Thelema.

Filmography

Year Title Length Other Information
1937 Ferdinand the Bull Now lost.
1941 Who Has Been Rocking My Dreamboat 7 mins. A silent black-and-white film in which Anger filmed twelve other children in Santa Monica, California, interspersed with images of war and destruction, which ends when a fog fills their playground and they all fall down, apparently dead.
1941–42 Tinsel Tree 3 mins. A silent black-and-white film that Anger personally hand tinted with gold-scarlet over the flames. It featured a Christmas tree
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

 being dressed in decorations, before being shown stripped and bare and set on fire.
1942 Prisoner of Mars 11 mins. A silent black-and-white film that mixes futuristic science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 with the ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur
Minotaur
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur , as the Greeks imagined him, was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, "part man and part bull"...

. The plot revolves around a character, The Boy Elect from Earth, played by Anger himself, who is sent in a rocket to Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 where he finds himself in a labyrinth
Labyrinth
In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos...

 filled with the bones of other adolescents sent there in the past.
1943 The Nest 20 mins. A silent black-and-white film in which a brother (played by Bob Jones) and sister (Jo Whittaker) are examining mirrors when a third figure (Dare Harris), causes them to act violently against one another, before a magical rite takes place in which the sister's binding spell is destroyed by the brother.
1944 Demigods (Escape Episode) 35 mins. A silent black-and-white film based upon the ancient Greek myth of Andromeda
Andromeda (mythology)
Andromeda is a princess from Greek mythology who, as divine punishment for her mother's bragging, the Boast of Cassiopeia, was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. She was saved from death by Perseus, her future husband. Her name is the Latinized form of the Greek Ἀνδρομέδη...

, in which a girl (Marilyn Granas) is imprisoned within a seaside crumbling Neo-Gothic church guarded by a religious fanatic (Nora Watson), till she is saved by a boy representing Perseus
Perseus
Perseus ,Perseos and Perseas are not used in English. the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty of Danaans there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians...

 (Bob Jones).
1945 Drastic Demise 5 mins. A silent black-and-white work filmed by Anger in Hollywood on V-J Day. Consisting of footage of a celebratory crowd, it ends with an image of a nuclear mushroom cloud
Mushroom cloud
A mushroom cloud is a distinctive pyrocumulus mushroom-shaped cloud of condensed water vapor or debris resulting from a very large explosion. They are most commonly associated with nuclear explosions, but any sufficiently large blast will produce the same sort of effect. They can be caused by...

.
1946 Escape Episode 27 mins. A shortened version of Demigods (Escape Episode), it features Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy alongside the sounds of birds, wind and surf.
1947 Fireworks
Fireworks (1947 film)
Fireworks is a homoerotic experimental film by Kenneth Anger. Filmed in his parents' Beverly Hills, California, home over a long weekend while they were away, the film stars Anger and explicitly explores themes of homosexuality and sado-masochism...

15 mins. Filmed in black and white, it is a homoerotic
Homoeroticism
Homoeroticism refers to the erotic attraction between members of the same sex, either male–male or female–female , most especially as it is depicted or manifested in the visual arts and literature. It can also be found in performative forms; from theatre to the theatricality of uniformed movements...

 work seen through the eyes of the protagonist, played by Anger himself.
1949 Puce Moment
Puce Moment
Puce Moment is a short 6 minute film by Kenneth Anger, author of the Hollywood Babylon books, filmed in 1949. Puce Moment resulted from the unfinished short film Puce Women. The film opens with a camera watching 1920's style flapper gowns being taken off a dress rack. The dresses are removed and...

6 mins. Filmed in color, starring Yvonne Marquis as a celebrity in her home, and featuring music by Jonathan Halper, Puce Moment lasted only one scene and portrays her examining her dresses and perfume.
1949 The Love That Whirls Unknown Influenced by James Frazer
James Frazer
Sir James George Frazer , was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion...

's anthropological text The Golden Bough
The Golden Bough
The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer . It first was published in two volumes in 1890; the third edition, published 1906–15, comprised twelve volumes...

, it was set in the Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 civilisation, and featured a youth who was chosen to be king for a year before being ritually sacrificed. The film was subsequently destroyed at the Eastman-Kodac developing plant, who objected to its theme and nudity.
1950 Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit's Moon
Rabbit’s Moon is an avant-garde short film by American filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Filmed in 1950, Rabbit's Moon was not completed until 1972...

16 mins (1972) and 7 mins (1979) Filmed in 35mm, it is set in a small wooded glade where a clown stares up at the moon, in which a rabbit
Rabbit
Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world...

 lives.
1951–52 Les Chants de Maldoror Unknown Based upon the 1868 novel by Isidore Ducasse, Le Comte de Lautreamont, only test shots were produced, in which he employed members of the Marquis de Cuevas ballet.
1953 Eaux d'Artifice 12 mins. A short, monochromatic film appearing in dark blue, with only one moment of color - a woman opens a fan that glows in bright green. The woman appears in a gown stretching from neck to toe, wearing dark glasses and a feathered headdress. Water flows throughout, from fountains, and suggestively through the mouths and over the faces of statuary. Fluids pulse perhaps orgasmicly in arching streams, reminiscent of sexual climax. In the end the woman steps from a door seemingly from the side of a fountain, and is herself transformed into water. The film is set to the music of Vivaldi's Winter Movement from the Four Seasons.
1953 Le Jeune Homme et la Mort Unknown Based upon the ballet by Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau
Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau was a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker. His circle of associates, friends and lovers included Kenneth Anger, Pablo Picasso, Jean Hugo, Jean Marais, Henri Bernstein, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Erik Satie, María...

, this silent black-and-white film starred Jean Babilee as a young man and Nathalie Philipart as Death. It was a 16mm pilot designed to be used to raise funds to produce a 35mm Technicolor version, but the funding for this never materialized.
1954 Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is a short 38 minute film by Kenneth Anger, filmed in 1954. Anger created two other versions of this film in 1966 and the late 1970s. According to Anger, the film takes the name "pleasure dome" from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's atmospheric poem Kubla Khan...

38 mins.
1955 Thelema Abbey 10 mins. A short, black-and-white documentary on Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

's Abbey of Thelema in Sicily, which examined many of the exotic frescoes, a study in which Anger was assisted by sexologist Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Charles Kinsey was an American biologist and professor of entomology and zoology, who in 1947 founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, as well as producing the Kinsey Reports and the Kinsey...

.
1961 L'Histoire d'O 20 mins. Based upon Pauline Réage
Pauline Réage
Anne Desclos was a French journalist and novelist who wrote under the pseudonyms Dominique Aury and Pauline Réage.-Early life:...

's 1954 novel, L'Histoire d'O
Story of O
Story of O is an erotic novel published in 1954 about love, dominance and submission by French author Anne Desclos under the pen name Pauline Réage.Desclos did not reveal herself as the author for forty years after the initial publication...

, it revolved around the sado-masochistic sexual activities of a heterosexual couple. Anger would later relate that the money provided for the film had been a part of the ransom paid to the kidnappers of Eric Peugeot, heir to the Peugeot
Peugeot
Peugeot is a major French car brand, part of PSA Peugeot Citroën, the second largest carmaker based in Europe.The family business that precedes the current Peugeot company was founded in 1810, and manufactured coffee mills and bicycles. On 20 November 1858, Emile Peugeot applied for the lion...

 car company fortune.
1963 Scorpio Rising
Scorpio Rising (film)
Scorpio Rising is a 1964 experimental film by Kenneth Anger, starring Bruce Byron as Scorpio. Themes central to the film include the occult, biker subculture, Catholicism and Nazism; the film also explores the worship of rebel icons of the era, namely James Dean and Marlon Brando...

29 mins.
1965 Kustom Kar Kommandos 3 mins. In color, set to the tones of "Dream Lover" by The Paris Sisters, several handsome young men stand admiringly over the chasis of a suped up hotrod. A young man slowly works the chamois over the chrome and paint of the machine. The young man now smartly dressed in matching pastel blue gets behind the wheel and begins to work the controls. Finally the engine revs and the car rolls away.
1969 Invocation of My Demon Brother 12 mins.
1970–1980 Lucifer Rising
Lucifer Rising (film)
"Lucifer Rising" is a short film by director Kenneth Anger. The film was completed in 1972 but was only widely distributed in 1980.-History:Anger began filming around 1966, hiring a young musician named Bobby Beausoleil to act and compose the soundtrack. The film was abandoned in 1967 because Anger...

29 mins.
1976 Senators in Bondage Lost film.
1977 Matelots en Menottes Lost film.
1979 Denunciation of Stan Brakhage 7 mins. Lost film.
2000 Don't Smoke That Cigarette!
2002 The Man We Want to Hang 12 mins.
2004 Anger Sees Red 4 mins. Comprises footage of a muscled man, who identifies himself only as "Red", walking through a park and sunbathing, at which he is seen by Anger himself, who is also in the park, before subsequently returning home.
2004 Patriotic Penis
2005 Mouse Heaven 11 mins. A montage of Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks at The Walt Disney Studio. Mickey is an anthropomorphic black mouse and typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves...

 memorabilia from the 1920s and 30s, accompanied by contemporary jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 music.
2007 Elliott's Suicide 15 mins.
2007 I'll Be Watching You 5 mins.
2007 My Surfing Lucifer 4 mins. Color with no sound. "A Tribute to my Surfing Pal Adolph Bunker Spreckels III" "BUNKY". A young man with a white mercedes, the rolling waves breaking on the beach, the surfers riding them in. The film ends with a closeup of the skinned elbow of the surfer, presumably abraded during a wipeout.
2008 Death 42 secs.
2008 Foreplay 7 mins.
2008 Ich Will! 35 mins.
2008 Uniform Attraction 21 mins.
2010 Missoni 2 mins. 32 secs.

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