Monday, June 25, 2007

To create a coherently irrationalist and amoral philosophy of pop, in addition to Bataille, Baudrillard (plus smidgeon of his acolyte Kroker), the pagan Paglia (who seems to have given up on her sequel to Sexual Personae, a massive volume on 20th Century popular culture, from Hollywood to rock), and Nik "Superpop" Cohn, you would probably also require:

>>some Wilde

>>some Warhol (inventor of the original Popism eh)

>> dash of Robert Pattison's under-appreciated The Triumph of Vulgarity: Rock Music in the Mirror of Romanticism

>> a goodly amount of Kenneth Anger. Not so much Hollywood Babylon (and wasn't he working on Rock Babylon at some point too, but never finished it?) as the movies like Invocation of My Demon Brother, Lucifer Rising and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome -- Acephale fever dreams of ceremonial glamour--the Sixties-superpop soundtracked Scorpio Rising -- and above all, Eaux d'Artifice. A clip whence you can look at here along with his other movies. Filmed in a Italian water garden, it's a visual tone poem paean to sovereign excess. Fountains have long been the symbol of aristocratic gratuitousness, a flaunting of the ability to make sport with a precious resource (which for most at that time would be something that was painstakingly laden or well-extracted for agricultural subsistence at its most servile), a fruitless irrigation of the air for the delectation of the regal eye. Frothing in foaming curlicues of conspicious consumption and ostentatious onanism, Anger's silvered spurts remind me again of the Victorian slang for coming: "spending".

The title Eaux D'Artifice was linked to Anger's previous short film Fireworks. As Alan Williams points out: "Eaux d'artifice does not exist as a correct phrase in French; instead, the title is constructed by one of language's oldest artifices, the pun. Eeux d'artifice means "Fireworks" (literally artificial fires), and so eaux d'artifice are logically waterworks or 'artificial' waters."

Which connects to the pyrotechnic essence of pop as a form of wasteful splendor and dazzling display. Indeed the ice queen Siouxsie Sioux expressed the glam impulse thusly: "we are fireworks".

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more on Anger here

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an old review of mine of the first-time video reissues of Anger's movies:

KENNETH ANGER'S MAGICK LANTERN CYCLE, VOLUMES 1-4
(Jettisoundz videos)

When they get around to unpicking the tangled threads
that connect The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Psychic TV,
somewhere at the web's centre will lurk the tarantula figure
of Kenneth Anger. Aleister Crowley fan, ex-chum of Jimmy
Page, and chronicler of the psycho-sleaze behind Hollywood's
glittering facade, Kenneth Anger is also the maker of a
series of films whose themes uncannily prefigure the abiding
fixations of leftest-field rock. Pass beyond a certain
limit, and you enter a realm where magic and ritual, S&M,
Crowley, Manson, Nazism, bodypiercing, tattooing,
hallucinogenics, mytho-mania, voodoo dance, all interconnect
as facets of the same quest: for the ultimate transgressive,
transcendent, self-annihilating mystic HIGH.

Both "Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome" (1954) and
"Invocation Of My Demon Brother" (1969) are about this search
for supreme bacchanalian release. ("Inauguration" was
inspired by taking acid, "Invocation" by the counter culture
created by acid). Both are a kaleidoscopic montage of images
grotesque and bizarre, with all the key Anger motifs (cocks,
pagan ritual, bikers, Swastikas, cabbalistic symbols) brought
into play. "Inauguration", with its strident Janacek
soundtrack and vampily made-up actresses, is simultaneously
camp and disturbing; "Invocation", with its maddening moog
soundtrack by Mick Jagger, captures the apocalyptic vibe of
the bitter end of the hippy daze, and must surely have
influenced Nic Roeg's "Performance".

"Lucifer Rising" (1970-80) shares much the same pre-
occupations as the other two films, but expresses them in
less histrionic fashion, through images of serene, stately
beauty, set to a beatific soundtrack by Bobby Beausoleil (an
acolyte of Manson's). "Lucifer Rising" is a rehabilation of
Lucifer, reclaiming him as the Light god, a Rebel Angel whose
"message is that the key to joy is disobedience". Anger's
biker movie, "Scorpio Rising" (1963), on the other hand, is a
"death mirror held up to American culture". The biker
represents American myths of Lone Ranger individualism and
Born To Run freedom, taken to their psychotic limit.
"Scorpio Rising" is a giddy miasma of death's-heads, Iron
Crosses, cocaine and blasphemy, with Anger salivating over
the well-stuffed crotches and leather-clad torsoes of his
subjects - and all set to the incongruous soundtrack of
Sixties pulp pop!

Of the five shorter films also included in this series,
"Fireworks" (1947) is a blue-tinted homerotic nightmare about
being brutalised by sailors (the final image is of a sailor
with a Roman Candle jutting out of his zip), while "Eaux
D'Artifice" (1953) is a beautiful Midsummer Night's
dreamscape, with a full moon suffusing off the cascading,
gushing and spurting waters of the Tivoli fountain gardens.
Sheer brilliance.

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