Kenneth Anger, an innovative filmmaker, accomplished artist, and acclaimed author, has passed away at the age of 96. The confirmation of his demise came from his gallery, overseen by Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers. In their poignant announcement on their website, they expressed, “Kenneth was an extraordinary pioneer whose cinematic brilliance and profound influence will endure, forever shaping the lives of those who encounter his films, words, and visionary creations.”
Born in 1927 in the vibrant city of Santa Monica, California. Kenneth Anger embarked on an illustrious career that spanned several decades. From the tender age of 10, he exhibited his passion for filmmaking. Ultimately producing a remarkable collection of over 30 short films between 1937 and 2013. Notably recognized as one of America’s trailblazing openly gay filmmakers. Anger fearlessly explored themes of erotica and homosexuality long before the legalization of gay sex in the United States. His 1947 film “Fireworks,” renowned for its homoerotic undertones, landed him in court on charges of obscenity. Filmed discreetly in his childhood residence nestled in Beverly Hills, while his parents were away for a weekend escapade. “Fireworks” holds the distinction of being the pioneering gay narrative film ever produced in the United States.
Driven by his artistic pursuits, Anger relocated to France. Immersing himself in the avant-garde film scene that served as a wellspring of inspiration for his own groundbreaking creations. Noteworthy works such as “Eaux d’Artifice” and “Rabbit’s Moon” were born from this transformative period. Returning to his homeland in 1953, he gifted the world with two extraordinary cinematic marvels: the captivating 38-minute masterpiece “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” and the mesmerizing 29-minute opus “Scorpio Rising,” featuring the brilliant portrayal of Bruce Byron.
In 1959, Anger unveiled his controversial gossip-laden book titled “Hollywood Babylon,” unearthing alleged scandals involving luminaries of the silver screen, including Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and Charlie Chaplin. Although the book generated significant attention. It faced widespread discreditation and was subsequently banned in the United States shortly after its publication. Nonetheless, undeterred by these setbacks, Anger later released a sequel to the book in 1984, following his retirement from filmmaking. This decision was primarily influence by his inability to produce a sequel to his 1972 film “Lucifer Rising.” However, destiny had other plans, and at the turn of the century, Anger found himself drawn back to the captivating medium of filmmaking, directing over a dozen short films from 2000 to 2013.
In 2019, Karina Longworth dedicated an entire season of her highly regarded “You Must Remember This Podcast” to the meticulous examination of the narratives recounted in “Hollywood Babylon,” delving into extensive research and alternate sources in pursuit of more accurate accounts.
In a candid 2010 interview with The Guardian, Kenneth Anger disclosed that he had completed writing a third installment of “Hollywood Babylon” but refrained from publishing it out of concern for potential repercussions. He candidly expressed, “The main reason I didn’t bring it out was that I had a whole section on Tom Cruise and the Scientologists. I’m not a friend of the Scientologists.”
Unapologetically embracing his role as an outspoken Satanist, Anger carved a controversial path, forging meaningful connections with other countercultural luminaries. Notably, he formed close friendships with iconic figures such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, and the incomparable Marianne Faithfull, who portrayed a central role in his film “Lucifer Rising.”
Furthermore, the Magick Lantern Cycle, Anger’s surrealist anthology film. Masterfully wove together nine captivating short films, among them the groundbreaking “Fireworks” and “Invocation of My Demon Brother.”
In a heartfelt announcement of his passing, Sprüth and Magers eloquently captured Anger’s profound artistic philosophy. They stated, “Anger perceived cinematographic projection as a psychosocial ritual capable of unlocking dormant physical and emotional energies. Moreover, to the artist, film transcended mere visual entertainment. Functioning as a conduit for extraordinary alchemy that profoundly transformed its viewers.”
The contributions of Kenneth Anger to the world of filmmaking, art, and literature will forever be treasured. Additionally, his indelible mark on the creative landscape shall continue to inspire generations to come.