Thursday, June 18, 2009


Anger's filmic output slowed to a crawl after Lucifer Rising. He has, however, been busy in recent years, and a splendid supplement to the second set is 2002's The Man We Want to Hang. (The punning title is courtesy of Lord Beaverbrook's Sunday Express attack on Crowley.) This wordless twelve-minute documentary examines thirty artworks either by or about the Great Beast, and was photographed at the October Gallery's 1998 Crowley retrospective. Anger's commentary is especially helpful as he identifies the various works while Adam Rogers' camera pans and zooms (lapsing for a split-second out of focus on one red-and-black-chalk mermaid piece). The film opens with Augustus John's sketch of Crowley, while along the way we see the mage's eerie self-portraits as ancient Chinese mystics with constellated orbs, his interpretations of the various Scarlet Women in his life (a portrait of Leah Sublime [Hirsig] sports a sinister grin like Conrad Veidt in Paul Leni's The Man Who Laughs [1928]), and watercolor landscapes of Stromboli (Anger helpfully points out the tiny tumescent figure in the lower left-hand corner) and Tibet. There are drawings of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and the Serpent, as well as Crowley's vampiric rendition of his follower Gerald Yorke. Of particular interest is a landscape of the Boca de Infierno ("Mouth of Hell"), the Portugese cliff face where Crowley staged his suicide. There's also the guru's sketch of Norman Mudd, whom Anger derides as "one of Crowley's disciples that couldn't hack it," and actually did kill himself. The end credits are followed, most appropriately, by a noose. Anger received, this same year, the Los Angeles Film Critics' Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Man We Want to Hang looks fine in its digital rendition, and Anatol Liadov's music is perfect accompaniment. Fantoma's second Anger volume is slipcased with another booklet containing more behind-the-scenes photos, as well as appreciations by Guy Maddin and Gus Van Sant, plus additional hosannas from Scorcese. Bobby Beausoleil's essay, "Fallen Angel Blues," poignantly recounts his Freedom Orchestra's attempt to "[reach] out of the darkness to touch the inner light of their better natures." Restoration before-and-afters are included for all pictures except The Man We Want to Hang. The sets make a handsome pair, and sport Lucifer Rising's sphinx/saucer logo on both covers. All films appear in their original fullscreen ratios.