Thursday, June 18, 2009


Anger began making private reels during this period, one of which--perhaps his greatest film maudit--briefly landed him in hot water as a federal fugitive. Freelancing for the Kinsey Institute, he recorded a sadist doctor putting his masochistic patients through stiff workouts in the man's soundproof torture chamber. The acts were consensual, but when Anger foolishly had the footage developed at a drugstore, the San Jose County police thought they had a bona fide snuff film on their hands. The doctor was arrested and Anger was interrogated, an experience the director appears to have relished. The Institute came to his aid, but Anger, who was to be the state's witness, defied an order to remain in California and ventured to Colorado for a film festival. He was taken into custody at director Stan Brakhage's house by the town sheriff (a friend of Brakhage's) and a San Jose County Assistant District Attorney. Brakhage's friendship with the sheriff, who now opened a file on him, ended then and there. One hopes that Anger's footage did not suffer the same ignominious fate as The Love That Whirls.

Anger made more private reels and returned to San Francisco to document the hippie scene. By now he had joined his friend Anton LaVey's Church of Satan, and his new project was a "fallen angel manifesto" called Lucifer Rising. Inspired by Crowley's "Hymn to Lucifer," Anger searched for the devil he considered "the patron saint of the visual arts." Lucifer is the Roman name for the planet Venus, and was worshipped both as Aurora (morning star) and as Vesper (evening star). The Gnostics revered Lucifer as the Herald of the Dawn, and Robert Graves speculated that the rebellious King of Babylon in the Book of Isaiah was derived from the observation that Venus is the last proud star to defy the sunrise, and that it must have been punished for its disobedience. Lucifer is also a surrogate for Horus, the "Crowned and Conquering Child" whose id dominates his superego, and he manifested himself in the form of Bobby Beausoleil. Beausoleil ("beautiful sun") was a guitarist and artist who'd been an early member of the Los Angeles rock band Love; he was also a member of Charles Manson's entourage.

Beausoleil became Anger's chauffeur and moved into his house, a former Russian embassy. The pair presented the Equinox of the Gods ritual for Mabon at the Straight Theatre, where Beausoleil's band, the Magick Powerhouse of Oz, performed. Inevitably the two fell out, with Anger accusing Beausoleil of stealing his Lucifer footage from his car trunk after the guitarist decamped. This was the impetus for the full-page October 26, 1967 obituary for himself that Anger ran in The Village Voice to mark not the end of his life, but his cinematic career: "In Memoriam Kenneth Anger Film Maker (1947-1967)." The advertisement recalled Crowley's 1930 mischief when the Beast staged a suicide in an unsuccessful attempt to interest a publisher in a novel about just such a stunt. Anger recycled what was left of Lucifer as his "attack on the sensorium," Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), which won Film Culture's Tenth Independent Film Award that same year.

The director traveled to London, drifting into the orbit of the Rolling Stones, to whom he functioned as a kind of Cagliostro figure. Beausoleil had by this time been arrested and sentenced to death for the murder of Gary Hinman in a drug deal gone sour, though his sentence was commuted to life after California's abolition of capital punishment. The Stones' biographer Tony Sanchez contends that the group believed that Anger actually inspired Beausoleil to homicide, which made him a "perversely fascinating" figure for the rockers. Mick Jagger, whom Anger involved in his Lucifer project, is credited with "sound" on Invocation--an abrasive drone created on a Moog Modular synthesizer. (This same keyboard, which appears as a prop in Jagger's feature debut, Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell's Performance [1970], was sold by the dissatisfied singer to Berlin's Hansa by the Wall recording studio, and ultimately wound up in the capable hands of Tangerine Dream member Christopher Franke).

If ever a movie looked like a spell, Invocation of My Demon Brother (color, 11 minutes) is that picture in spades. The film is bookended by three yellow circles forming "as above, so below" triangles, effectively uniting starry world with atom. Horus appears in a painting under the titles. Anger combines frantic fragments of the Mabon ritual with shots of a dope-smoking funeral for his feline Midnight (LaVey cameos here in full devil gear, a shrunken cat head in each hand), as well as the Stones' disastrous, butterfly-obliterating Hyde Park concert in memory of their late guitarist Brian Jones, and looped footage of American soldiers disembarking from a helicopter in Vietnam. (This footage, printed on a C roll and playing to the A and B rolls, appears throughout Invocation and is allegedly visible through infrared glasses.) The albino Wand Bearer (Speed Hacker) presides over images of nude boys lounging and a hanged man's contorting legs, his photophobic eyes contracting in seemingly speed-induced muscular spasms. Back at the Straight Theatre, Beausoleil's band grooves while the Magus (Anger) holds aloft Mercury's symbol, burns Crowley's "Testament of Oz," and widdershins around a magic circle to summon Lucifer--Beausoleil's body with a solar swastika projected onto it. Images come at the viewer like missiles, kaleidoscopically and subliminally: the Eye of Ra, the Eye in the Triangle, Beausoleil's glowing orbs--more than any other Anger film, Invocation watches us while we watch it. The death-obsessed bikers of Scorpio have become the expendable legions of our National Security State, impulsively going to their doom in the eternal return of American empire-building, playing the war games of the War God. Anger's flame imagery is as powerful here as it is in Pleasure Dome; light scorches the retinas in pagan pyrotechnics. The film's most astonishing sequence is a smoky accelerated shot of Anger descending the staircase of his Embassy like a marble statue come alive, to (de)generate into a voodoo doll bearing the sign, "ZAP! YOU'RE PREGNANT! THAT'S WITCHCRAFT!"

Fantoma's internegative is taken from the original reversal A/B rolls and looks fine. The disc features, as a delightful bonus, part of the Magick Powerhouse of Oz's original recording sessions for Lucifer Rising--indeed, this is the band's only recording, period. This quasi-Indian forerunner of Beausoleil's later, definitive score was located by television producer Brian Butler, and was originally released as the second disc in White Dog's 2004 Lucifer Rising CD package. Fantoma urges the viewer to understand that this jam session is "not intended as an alternative soundtrack," though it makes a fascinating footnote to this film's strange history, and--given Anger's extensive modification of his work over the years--it deserves acceptance, and utilization, on its own considerable merits.