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Kenneth Anger, Renowned Experimental Filmmaker and Author of ‘Hollywood Babylon,’ Passes Away at 96

The world mourns the loss of renowned experimental filmmaker and author Kenneth Anger, who passed away at the age of 96.

Kenneth Anger
72 hours in André Balazs’ Chateau Marmont (with Kenneth Anger) by Floria Sigismondi for System Magazine & Gucci CC 2.0

Hey there! Sad news to share, my friend. The legendary experimental filmmaker, artist, and author Kenneth Anger has left us at the ripe age of 96.

His gallery, run by the awesome duo Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers, broke the news on their website. They paid tribute, saying, “Kenneth was a true trailblazer. His movies, words, and vision had this magical power to leave an everlasting impact on everyone who experienced them.”

Anger, born in 1927 in sunny Santa Monica, California, was quite the prodigy. Believe it or not, he created over 30 short films from way back in 1937 all the way up to 2013. Can you imagine that? The dude made his very first movie at the tender age of 10! Talk about early talent.

Known as one of the pioneers of openly gay filmmakers in the U.S., Anger fearlessly explored themes of erotica and homosexuality way before those topics became widely accepted. In fact, his 1947 film “Fireworks” caused quite a stir and landed him in court on obscenity charges. The daring part? He shot it in his parents’ Beverly Hills home while they were off on a weekend getaway. Now that’s some audacity! “Fireworks” is hailed as the first gay narrative film made in America.

After his little courtroom adventure, Anger jetted off to France, immersing himself in the avant-garde film scene. That experience fueled his own creative fire, leading to works like “Eaux d’Artifice” and “Rabbit’s Moon.” But he eventually returned to the good ol’ USA in 1953, where he churned out the mind-bending 38-minute masterpiece “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” and the intense 29-minute “Scorpio Rising,” featuring the one and only Bruce Byron.

In 1959, Anger took a detour from filmmaking and unleashed the gossip-filled bombshell “Hollywood Babylon.” This juicy book spilled alleged scandals involving Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and even the iconic Charlie Chaplin. But let me tell ya, the book faced its fair share of skepticism and ended up getting banned in the U.S. shortly after its release. Anger later dropped a sequel in 1984 after announcing his retirement from filmmaking, as he struggled to produce a follow-up to his 1972 flick “Lucifer Rising.” But guess what? The man couldn’t resist the siren call of the silver screen and returned to directing in the early 2000s, blessing us with more than a dozen short films until 2013.

Now, here’s a fascinating tidbit for you. Karina Longworth, in her fabulous 2019 season of the “You Must Remember This Podcast,” took it upon herself to dig deep into the stories spun in “Hollywood Babylon” and do some solid research to uncover the truth. Gotta love those intrepid investigators!

In a candid interview with The Guardian back in 2010, Anger spilled the beans that he had actually finished writing a third volume of “Hollywood Babylon.” But here’s the kicker—he held back on publishing it out of fear of repercussions. Why, you ask? Well, because he had a whole section devoted to Tom Cruise and those wacky Scientologists. Yeah, you heard that right. Anger wasn’t exactly best buddies with the Scientologists, so he thought it wise to keep it under wraps.

Now, let’s talk about Anger’s colorful personality. The man was an outspoken Satanist, causing quite a ruckus wherever he went. He forged strong friendships with other countercultural icons like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, the legendary Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, and the mesmerizing Marianne Faithfull, who even starred in Anger’s “Lucifer Rising.” Talk about rubbing elbows with greatness!

And as a grand finale to his life’s work, Anger weaved together a surrealist anthology film called “Magick Lantern Cycle.” This beauty stitched together nine of his mind-bending short films, including the groundbreaking “Fireworks” and the captivating “Invocation of My Demon Brother.” A real visual feast, I tell ya!

In their heartfelt statement announcing Anger’s departure, Sprüth and Magers beautifully encapsulated his vision, stating, “Anger believed that projecting his films was like an otherworldly psychosocial ritual that could unleash intense physical and emotional energies. He viewed film as nothing less than a spiritual conduit, an incredible alchemy that transformed the very essence of its viewers.”

So, my friend, we bid farewell to a true artistic pioneer. Kenneth Anger’s legacy will continue to mesmerize and captivate those who venture into his cinematic universe.

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