Lucifer Rising (1981)
Directed by Kenneth Anger
Cinematography by Chris O’Dell
Starring Kenneth Anger, Bobby Meausoleil, and Donald Cammell
Lucifer Rising, even more so than Anger’s other work, removed the movements of its characters from any motivation or emotion. The film transmits its own rituals with such abstracted conviction that the audience feels almost compelled not only to understand it but to somehow participate. It’s easy to see why pop music videos, with their emphasis on absurdity and surface, have managed to mine Anger’s aesthetic without necessarily conveying any of Anger’s subversiveness. The contemporary pop video for Scissor Sisters’ “Invisible Light”, for example, borrows Anger’s use of Egyptian mythology as a kind of trope, along with Anger’s rhythmic intercutting of florid images with psychedelic rock. The UFO over ancient Egypt may have relied on sub-par special effects, but it’s still the type of psychedelic imagery that continues to be displayed, in a more sanitized form, by the super-stylized music video – especially those released in the past couple of years, given that the fashion cycle has brought absurdism and camp back to the foreground of pop culture. Lady Gaga’s spark-shooting bra seems to directly evoke Anger’s spark-shooting firework crotch in his earlier film Fireworks, and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome features a woman lying on a bed stringing a necklace into her mouth – an image that calls to mind a similar scene from Gaga’s Alejandro, which involved a string of rosary beads. Both bead-swallowing gestures are framed from the same angle at the foot of the bed, and the similarities are such that I believe Anger’s influence goes beyond his permeation of the cultural sub-conscious. Anger’s work so monumental to the entire music video industry (regardless of his personal hatred of it) that pop music artists most likely borrow consciously from his work.