Kenneth Anger
By: David Smay | Categories: HiLo Heroes

You have to choose; is it hokum, or is it glamour? Fritz Leiber wrote a short story about it that poked at the dark forces lurking in those Southland canyons, murky in the canals of Venice. And Leiber was there, intimate with that early mix of California Black: cults (Crowley, Parsons, LaVey, Hubbard), fantasy, horror and science fiction. I choose glamour, the old sense of it, a deceitful, glittering lure. Was KENNETH ANGER (born 1927) the Changeling Prince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)? Apocryphal, doubtful and glittering true. Watching Anger’s films you tick off his influence: “Oh, that’s where Scorsese stole that. That’s that thing that Guy Maddin does. Kustom Kar Kommandos is David Lynch in three minutes.” What Anger took from Maya Deren was film as the dream of self. What he took from Crowley was film as a magickal art, in fact, a curse. In this wise, he is kin to Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, other practitioners who mold popular forms into ritual. More Babalon Workings. And what do you see in Scorpio Rising, Fireworks, Rabbit Moon, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Lucifer Rising and Puce Moment? Beauty — rapturous sexy sexy, glorious abandon at war with ethics. You cannot in the presence of his films deny their beauty, but how to reconcile these unfortunate truths? How did he get that fucking shot in front of the Sphinx? That volcano, those fireworks, those dresses — all so alluring. Can it be that truth pales before beauty? Is it hokum, or is it glamour?

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Gertrude Stein and Simone Weil.

READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist generation (1924-33).

MORE HORROR ON HILOBROW: Early ’60s Horror, a series by David Smay | Phone Horror, a series by Devin McKinney | Philip Stone’s Hat-Trick | Shocking Blocking: Candyman | Shocking Blocking: A Bucket of Blood | Kenneth Anger | Sax Rohmer | August Derleth | Edgar Ulmer | Vincent Price | Max von Sydow | Lon Chaney Sr. | James Whale | Wes Craven | Roman Polanski | Ed Wood | John Carpenter | George A. Romero | David Cronenberg | Roger Corman | Georges Franju | Shirley Jackson | Ray Bradbury | Edgar Allan Poe | Algernon Blackwood | H.P. Lovecraft | Clark Ashton Smith | Gaston Leroux |

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David Smay is the co-editor of two books about pop music, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, and Lost in the Grooves. He's also the author of Swordfishtrombones, the 33 1/3 series entry on Tom Waits. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.