Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 15th, 2007
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1947 (Fireworks), USA, 1949 (Puce Moment), USA, 1950 (Rabbit’s Moon), USA, 1953 (Eaux d’Artifice), USA, 1954 (Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome)
Director: Kenneth Anger
DVD released: January 23rd, 2007
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Fantoma Films
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.98
Kenneth Anger is one of the most influential avant-garde filmmakers of the twentieth century. He was a former child actor turned filmmaker. His early works made prior to making his break out film Fireworks have all been lost forever. Anger also gained notoriety as one of cinema’s first openly homosexual filmmakers. His films are filled with surreal and occult imagery. Many of his films have been inspired by the works of occultist Aleister Crowley. His scandalous book about the darker side of Hollywood titled “Hollywood Babylon” helped further his notorious rise to fame. After the release of his film Senators in Bondage Anger would take a self imposed break from filmmaking that would last nearly twenty five years until the release of his next film’s Don’t Smoke That Cigarette and Ich will! Both released in the year 2000. In recent years Kenneth Anger continues create his unique style of art that continues to fascinate each new generation who indulge themselves in his work.
Fantoma Films the Films of Kenneth Anger Volume 1 contains five of Anger’s earliest works.
Fireworks: A story about Youngman who is brutally beaten by Navy Officers after he tries to pick one of them up. Fireworks was shot in picturesque black and white making the violence all that more visceral and realistic. Memorable shots are when the young man is being beaten his nose starts to bleed and then milk is poured over him in slow motion. Also let’s not forget the most memorable shot in the film when a sailor opens his pants and a roman candle is being used to symbolize his private parts as the firework explodes.
Puce Moment: This is the briefest of the five films included and it is part of an unfinished film titled “Puce Women”. This plot is simple it is about a loner who tries on outfits and lounges around her home all day. My favorite shot in this one is her standing at the top of the stairs holding her dogs as she walks them down.
Rabbit’s Moon: Is a tale about a mime named Pierrot and his unattainable quest for happiness which he thinks he will find if he could only get closer to rabbit on the moon. Of the five films include with this collection Rabbit’s Moon has gone through the most changes with versions as short as seven minutes and the version included here is the sixteen minute version. The use of Doo-Wop music which also underscores what is going on is pure genius. Rabbit’s Moon is one of Kenneth Anger’s most gentle and unappreciated films.
Eaux d’Artifice: A woman walks through a Italian Garden surrounded by many fountains. This film is the most abstract of the five include and even somehow even without a concrete narrative it somehow manages to be one of the most visually striking and dream like creations of Kenneth Anger’s career. The lead actress was a midget and this choice pays off brilliantly as it makes everything around her look even larger then life. The choice of using Antonio Vivaldi’s “Winter” section from “Four Seasons” is a solid example of just how well the right piece of music can make all the difference.
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome: Lord Shiva invites over guests to his decadent party and as the guests lose their inhabitations throughout the night he becomes stronger. This film is widely regarded as Kenneth Anger’s masterpiece. Visually it looks like a flawless work of art that only gets better with each new viewing. Out of the five films included with this collection Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is the most Aleister Crowley influenced. Also there is a strong resemblance between Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death. The films score Leos Janacek’s “Glagolitic Mass” perfectly captures the mood of the film with its sinister sounding arrangements. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is a wonderful example of how film can exist as merely art and that for it to prosper the final product doesn’t need to be altered for economics reasons.
All Five films included in this collection (Fireworks, Puce Moment, Rabbit’s Moon Eaux d’Artifice, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome) are in their original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratios. All five films has gone under extensive restorations and the end results will leave you breathless as colors vividly leap from the screen and every frame looks sharp and free of any print damage.
Outside of the verbal prolog for Fireworks the rest of the soundtracks for all these films are made of music which includes 1950’s Doo-wop and ambient sounding styles. The soundtrack like the transfer had been painstakingly restored and it sounds nearly flawless.
The main extra for all of these films is audio commentaries with director Kenneth Anger who is lucid and full of insightful knowledge about all of these films include on this set. All five films also come with restoration demonstrations which show the great amount of work put into making these films look as good as they do now. Other extras include black and white outtakes for the film Rabbit’s Moon. This release also comes with a forty eight page booklet that includes a written introduction by director Martin Scorsese, extensive notes for each film, rare photos, never before seen sketches for Anger’s un-produced film Puce Women, Anaïs Nin’s dairy for "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome" and storyboards.
Fantoma Films first volume of films by the legendary avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger is an extraordinary release that not only comes with a wealth of extras. Each film has been immaculatently restored, highly recommended.
For more information about The Films of Kenneth Anger visit Fantoma Films here.