Eurotrash is so delighted to share this very special post with all her readers. A few weeks ago my good friend, Phil Leers, aka Old Top of Blogtown, alerted me to Kenneth Anger’s latest (final?) endeavour: making a film for Missoni’s fall 2010 ad campaign. What follows here is the first-ever guest post featuring the stellar piece Old Top wrote for all the eurotrash and Kenneth Anger fans, which at times likes these, should very well be one and the same.
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As a “general interest” (read: of interest to me) blogger, I feel a bit out of place writing on a style blog. I’m not the most stylish – nor, certainly, the most style-conscious – guy in town. I grew up in thrift shops, and had to teach myself to buy new clothing after graduating college, when I feared the “worn-in” look was beginning to look like the “slept-in” look. But one glance at the YSL billboard hanging around my waist, doubling as a belt-buckle, speaks volumes about the Eurotrash lingering just beneath the surface.
Well, when I saw the short video (I believe he shot it on video, though most articles have insisted on calling it a film) that Kenneth Anger made for Missoni’s Fall/Winter 2011 campaign, I alerted Whatever….Eurotrash and immediately began composing my reactions. I mean, this is the first time an experimental filmmaker and a cutting-edge fashion designer have come together – except for Maya Deren’s disastrous Banana Republic campaign – and if there’s one person who should care about this, it’s Ms. Eurotrash. First things first, though, have a look-see:
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From most of the comments I’ve seen, people seem most surprised that Anger, one of the fathers of the American avant-garde film movement, has “gone mainstream” or, at least, started working for a paycheck. This is a guy, after all, who has funded much of his artistic output by publishing the tawdry Hollywood Babylon books, recounting the unreported scandals, shocking sex lives, and spectacular deaths of Hollywood stars. But to suggest that Anger is selling out (and why shouldn’t he?) misses the point.
I think it’s more fitting to think of Anger’s collaboration with Missoni – paycheck notwithstanding – as the culmination of a career spent making fashion films, but under a different name. In Anger’s best work, we can sense the conflict between a critique of capitalism in its shallowest manifestations – pop music, car culture, Hollywood, and, yes, fashion – and an unmistakable fondness for the same. The guy was “counterculture” to be sure – his films are chock full of homosexuality and Satanism and stuff – but he wasn’t anti-culture. And though he is often cited as a primary influence on John Waters, the Kuchar Brothers, and other purveyors of (not my term) “Trash cinema,” Kenneth Anger the trash filmmaker is constantly tempered by Kenneth Anger the haute filmmaker. In other words, he should be treated like a god by Eurotrash, or at least adopted as a mascot. In fact, just behold this photo, and try not to pass out at the thought of an 80-year-old with so stunning and complicated a sense of style:
But back to the Missoni video. If it gives full figure to Anger as haute filmmaker, we have to give that the seeds were sown very early in Anger’s career. His beautiful Puce Moment, made in color in 1949, begins with a succession of dresses, reduced in close-up to abstract, shimmering colors and patterns, sliding toward the camera. It’s the most effective rendering of the (sumptuous, hypnotizing, fascinating) fetishism of design object I’ve seen on film – and I’ve seen over forty movies. It’s a story of Hollywood excess told in materials, colors, and textures – not so different, probably, than the thinking behind a fashion line.
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The same can be said about 1963’s Scorpio Rising, IMHO hahaha Anger’s greatest work, only here the silks and tulles are replaced by leather and denim. Scorpio Rising follows a day in the life of a motorcycle gang, and an early scene shows the bikers ritualistically dressing. Zippers are zipped, belts cinched, jackets shrugged on, the machismo of the bikers and the hardness of the materials undercut the entire time by the accompaniment of Bobby Darin’s “Blue Velvet” (“She wore bluuuuue velllllvet, whoa whoa….”) on the soundtrack. The film’s main thrust, the homoerotic underpinnings of the manly gang, is again told in a language of fabrics and fashion. Anger draws out the scene, lingering on every crease and chain, making for an unmistakably feminine “getting ready” scene – basically a masculinized counterpart to Puce Moment. Oh, and I forgot to mention that earlier in the film, the title appears on screen, written in studs across the back of a leather jacket, worn by a faceless, shirtless stud. The camera pans down the biker’s body to reveal that the jacket’s belt is studded with the words “by Kenneth Anger.”
Now, both of you still reading this might be thinking, “But how come that Missoni video doesn’t look anything like those other two?” Indeed, the similarities I’ve been talking about have been more thematic (if fashion can be a theme) than formal. But the visual style of the Missoni video is no anomaly; the kaleidoscopic, frenetic, superimpository (© me) images are something Anger used to great effect in films like Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954), Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), and Lucifer Rising (1970-1980), layering sexy, druggy, occult-y scenes into, as far as I can tell, a close approximation of Kenneth Anger’s weekend plans.
I haven’t really discussed the Missoni video itself, and that’s because I’m not really that interested in it. As far as Anger’s films go – and, oh right, many of them are now on DVD, go get them right way! – it’s just so-so. But, as a logical conclusion for Anger – a combination of his formal experimentation with his interest in fashion as a critical text, for lack of wanting to try and think of a more appropriate term, it’s something I can’t stop thinking about.
And, finally, I can totally understand the partnership between Anger and Missoni, even as an admitted fashion dilettante. Missoni is famous for its own kaleidoscopic designs, its mixing of disparate patterns and bright, natural colors, and (probably) its deep investment in Black Magic. Really, there’s a strong and legitimate affinity between the filmmaker’s work and the designer’s, and it’s nice to see like minds collaborating across media – it brings people together, as we’re seeing on this very blog. And if Anger’s making a little cheddar from it, so be it – fashion don’t come cheap.Tweet