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Anger gives cinema audience happy ending


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By John Seasly




Experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger had a bonus for the packed IU Cinema Friday night: three recent short films that he brought with him from his home in California.

The 84-year-old director is widely considered one of the most influential underground filmmakers in history. His lecture recounted his friendship with Alfred Kinsey, his filmmaking methods and his lifelong sense of humor.

“This is my adopted home in the Midwest,” he told the audience before introducing his films.


Quotes from the evening

Advice for young filmmakers: “Just follow your ideas, and don’t let anybody talk you out of them.”

On drug use: “I never bought a drug in my life, but occasionally one was offered to me.”

On short films: “Financial restraints mean (my films) have usually been quite short, but you can say a lot in three minutes and 20 seconds.”

On dirigibles: “I have a childhood fascination with an extinct form of transportation called airships. There it was in the sky, this tremendous silver apparition, a silver fish, on tour from San Francisco to Los Angeles, filled with hydrogen.”

On occultist Aleister Crowley’s definition of magick: “The magick is something that causes something to change.”

Films

For those unfamiliar with Anger's work, these films were the works shown at the IU Cinema, including the three Anger brought along.

“Fireworks” (1947): Made when he was 20, this film features a theme recurrent in Anger’s work — a burning Christmas tree. The wordless film, inspired by the Zoot Suit Riots in 1944, shows Anger use a pick-up line on a sailor, who returns with his fellow sailors to destroy Anger. The film ends with a milky-white substance poured over Anger. The first person Anger ever sold a print of “Fireworks” to was Kinsey, who interviewed Anger for his sex research and became one of his close friends.

“Scorpio Rising” (1963): Similar in many ways to “Fireworks,” “Scorpio Rising” fetishizes the symbolism of biker culture to a 1950s rock ’n’ roll soundtrack. James Dean imagery overshadows the biker in his elaborate leather outfit. Nazis and the occult interrupt the action. Spliced in is footage from a Lutheran Sunday School film, “Last Journey to Jerusalem,” which was mistakenly delivered to Anger’s door while he was cutting his film.

“Mouse Heaven” (2005): A tribute to “a great little demon,” Mickey Mouse, this lighthearted short examines one of the largest private collections of Disneyana in the world. It methodically shows one Mickey Mouse collectible after another. Only objects are shown, most static. Some, like the Mickey and Minnie Mouse puppets, move their mouths and tongues and bat their eyelashes.

“Airship” (unknown): This film is three minutes of beautiful newsreel footage of dirigibles hovering in the sky. The dirigible, “this tremendous silver apparition, a silver fish,” has fascinated Anger since childhood, when he saw one making the journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Made for $1,000, which was given to him by a fellow airship enthusiast, this film shows color ribbing around the outlines of airships, giving it an eerie, faux-3-D atmosphere.

“I’ll Be Watching You” (2007): Screened by audience demand, “I’ll Be Watching You” toes the line between the erotic and the explicit, with its homoerotic voyeurism and graphic nudity. As The Police’s “I’ll Be Watching You” plays, a security guard realizes that two men are having sex on his camera. He watches, aroused, as they pleasure each other and themselves in a parking lot. “I’m glad the audience got to see it,” said Kinsey Institute curator Catherine Johnson-Roehr, acknowledging IU Cinema Director Jon Vickers’ hesitation to include it among the night’s films.

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