“Magick is action. Mysticism is a withdrawal from action”
If you’re a Kenneth Anger fan, be prepared to be seriously blown away by this astonishing German television documentary from 1970 that shows the master at work on Lucifer Rising. It’s fun to ponder, as you watch, what the average German must have thought about this film, which doesn’t flinch from presenting some of the most outrageous ideas and imagery ever to be broadcast to an entire (unsuspecting) nation. It’s magnificently freaky stuff.
Not only would this have been the first look the world would get of Anger’s magnum opus (which he is seen shooting Méliès-style in a tiny space) there are substantial excerpts from Fireworks, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Rabbit’s Moon, Puce Moment, and Invocation of My Demon Brother, which showed hash smoking (and cocks!) on TV. It’s impossible to imagine something like this ever getting on television in America 44 years ago, but I don’t think the BBC would have touched something this insane at the time, either.
As filmmaker Reinhold E. Thiel admits in his voiceover, it was Anger directing himself that they got on film. As he states, Anger really wasn’t that into allowing them to film him in the first place, but when he did relent it was on his terms. Anger’s interview segments were shot as he sat behind a makeshift altar, lit in magenta and inside of the magical “war gods” circle seen at the end of the film.
Of special note is we see Anger flipping through his “Puce Women” sketchbook (he’s an excellent illustrator) of his unmade tribute to the female archetypes of Hollywood’s golden era and the architecture of movie star homes (This notebook was on display at the Anger exhibit at MOCA in Los Angeles). Anger is also seen here shooting scenes with his Lucifer, Leslie Huggins (both interior shots in Anger’s makeshift studio and among the stones at Avebury) and with the adept in the war gods circle. Oddly, we can hear what the adept is saying (“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”) whereas in the final film he just seems to be muttering something mysterious when Lucifer appears.
Anger discusses his Aleister Crowley-inspired theories of art: How he views his camera like a wand and how he casts his films, preferring to consider his actors, not human beings but as elemental spirits. In fact, he reveals that he goes so far as to use astrology when making these choices.
This is as direct an explanation of Anger’s cinemagical modus operandi as I have ever heard him articulate anywhere. It’s a must see for anyone interested in his work and showcases the Magus of cinema at the very height of his artistic powers. Fascinating.
Thank you Spencer Kansa, author of Wormwood Star: The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron