Scorpio Rising (1964)
Directed by Kenneth Anger
Starring Ernie Allo, Bruce Byron, and Frank Carifi
Cinematography by Kenneth Anger
Scorpio Rising, like later films by Lynch and Scorsese, makes brilliant use of 1950s pop songs (“My Boyfriend’s Back” and “Blue Velvet”, among others), both for the sake of irony and for the sheer pleasure, unique to cinema, of juxtaposing music and visuals in ways synthesize something new and unexpected. The sexual imagery of machinery and boots are introduced immediately into the montage, followed by the film title and director’s name written out on a studded leather jacket. Anger obscures his actor’s faces for the entire first half of the film, until we finally see a young boy playing with a wind-up toy motorcycle. The intercutting of that scene with the older boy fixing a real motorcycle was reminiscent of Soviet Montage in that it was saying something in clearly “intellectual” terms – in this case, that roles of masculinity are rehearsed in childhood before they are performed in adulthood. James Dean posters and comic books cement that notion, as does the stylized lighting which highlights the erotic forms in a distanced and artificial way; the bare-chested torsos make clear that Anger’s version of masculinity is decidedly homoerotic. I was less sure of what to make of the flash cuts, which introduced borrowed images of scorpions, swastikas, and Christian symbolism, but again I felt that the associations were meant to be intellectual somehow rather than visual or emotional. Like all of Anger’s films, this one had no dialogue or story, and it was refreshing to hear the voice of the director himself come through so clearly, even if I didn’t entirely understand what he was saying.