Thursday, June 18, 2009


Anger moved to Paris after the destruction of The Love That Whirls. A collaboration with his admirer Jean Cocteau, Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, based on the latter's ballet, collapsed due to further money woes. (Cocteau's novel Les Enfants Terribles, filmed in conjunction with Jean-Pierre Melville, had earlier inspired The Nest, while Fireworks had taken the Poetic Prize at Cocteau's Film Maudit festival.) Anger labored in Henri Langlois' Cinematheque Francaise, most notably restoring a montage reel from Sergei Eisenstein's abandoned 1931 folk opus, Que Viva Mexico!, which the impressionable youngster had first seen at age five when it masqueraded under producer Sol Lesser's Thunder Over Mexico cut. The director then received some stock from a Russian team shooting in France, and was allowed to work in the Films de Pantheon studio during the four summer weeks it traditionally closed. The result was his only thirty-five-millimeter venture, Rabbit's Moon (B/W, 17 minutes). This fragment of a proposed longer project languished in the Pantheon's vaults until 1971, when Anger reduced it to sixteen-millimeter and scored it with classic doo-wop mixed with a Balinese monkey chant. Rabbit's Moon combines Japanese myth and imagery with the Commedia dell'Arte, the mysteries of sol with those of luna.

As the director notes in his commentary, what looks to the West like the man in the moon resembles a rabbit to the East, and Japanese children still put out rice cakes for this creature at the full moon. Against the stunning forest Anger constructed in perspective--itself not terribly dissimilar to Midsummer's (Holly)woodland dark and deep--the primal figures of Pierrot (Andre Soubeyran), Harlequin (Claude Revenant), and Columbine (Nadine Valence) enact their timeless triangle. Harlequin, the film's Lucifer surrogate, bedevils Pierrot by juggling invisible balls, planting invisible flowers, and conjuring an eighteenth-century magic lantern that projects an image of Columbine that Pierrot covets. Columbine, however, rejects the clown's loving offer of a full moon; she's a lunar illusion, a hope on the edge of eclipse. Pierrot's soul, symbolized by the hare, leads him into another, more lethal realm; his plummet from the satellite (a jarring dummy toss exorcising the director's contemporaneous suicide attempt) leaves the solar Harlequin triumphant as ever. Anger chose his cast from Marcel Marceau's mime school, and their poses, which he intended to suggest carved ivory figures, are picture-perfect. Revenant's movements, an entrancing trickster prance, are brilliantly contrasted to Soubeyran's hangdog haplessness, while Valence sparkles as a Bijou eidolon.

UCLA's reconstruction marks, astonishingly, the first time that Rabbit's Moon has appeared in its original left-right image orientation. The film underwent a reversal in reduction, producing a mirror image of Anger's photography. (The reversed-negative is being preserved in sixteen-millimeter and thus does not appear as a supplement.) The original blue tints, interspersed with magical red symbols, are even more otherworldly in this restoration, though a few vertical lines persist. Fantoma's disc provides a handful of silent outtakes.