The short avant-garde works of Kenneth Anger have cast a long shadow on cinema history, as Martin Scorsese’s introduction to The Films of Kenneth Anger Vol. 1 (Fantoma, Unrated) suggests. Anger — best known to many as the author of Hollywood Babylon, a history of Tinseltown seediness — is an exciting, go-for-broke experimental filmmaker, as the five movies made between 1947 and 1954 collected here prove. This first five-title volume of Anger’s collected works includes two small masterworks. ”Rabbit’s Moon,” about 16 minutes, is set in a dark blue forest where mimes portray commedia dell’arte characters while such vintage doo-wop songs as the Dells’ ”Oh, What a Night” and the Capris’ ”There’s a Moon Out Tonight” set a driving, nocturnal mood. And ”Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” is an art nouveau fantasy, with various performers, including the poet-novelist Anaïs Nin — with a birdcage over her head and precious little else on her body — enacting a phantasmagoric bacchanal. Sounds fruity, doesn’t it? Yes, these films are precious in every sense, but they’re also hard-headed, grimly funny, endlessly inventive mixtures of high and low culture.
Posted January 19 2007 — 12:00 AM EST
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