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Among the 1960's counterculture philosophy of moral liberation,
free-love, and flower-power utopianism were dark stirrings which came
to a malignant fruition with the Rolling Stones' disastrous Altamont
festival and the Tate/LaBianca slayings courtesy of Charles Manson's
"family", thus bringing the fledgling Aquarian age to an abrupt end.
And what, you may ask, has any of this to do with 'Lucifer Rising'? And
well, the answer, is everything(!) as the 1960s were essentially an
unconscious mass evocation of English Occultist Aleister Crowley's oft
misunderstood maxim "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the
law"...and no other figure has done more to promote the name and work
of Crowley in the arena of popular culture than Kenneth Anger.
Fascinated by fame (especially its darker aspects) from an early age, Anger had long been a fringe figure in Hollywood making and independently distributing obscure, homo-erotic, and occult inspired works that eventually attracted Their Satanic Majesties themselves the Rolling Stones. Anger was attracted to the power and pop-culture shamanic potency wielded by rock stars, and none more so than Mick Jagger who, hard as it is to believe these days, was back then viewed by parents and moral guardians as an androgynous, drug-addled threat to society. Perfect casting then, Anger reasoned, to play the part of Lucifer in his Magnum Opus 'Lucifer Rising'.
In the end Jagger chickened out, eventually leaving the role to be played by unknown Leslie Huggins. However, despite the lead role being played by an unknown, the film still boasts Donald Cammell (writer/director of 'Performance') as Osiris and Marianne Faithful as Lilith who play out a bizarre archetypal psychodrama against stunning backdrops of giant statues in Egypt, including, most evocatively, the Sphinx. Originally, the soundtrack was to be composed by Led Zeppelin guitarist, and fellow Crowley devotee, Jimmy Page (who puts in a blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo) but owing to contractual obligations with Led Zeppelin he was only able to complete 22 minutes worth of material and was subsequently fired from the project following a bitter fallout with Anger. Eventually the soundtrack was composed by Manson "family" member Bobby Beausoleil (Anger's original choice for the role of Lucifer but who had a disagreement with Anger and buried the original print of the movie in the Death Valley desert forcing Anger to reshoot the film) whilst serving a prison sentence for his part in the murders performed under the orders of the counterculture anti-messiah Charles Manson. The soundtrack itself is part chilling, haunting soundscape and part dynamic quasi-classical rock opus which has a magnetic and spellbinding quality which complements the film in a way impossible to imagine from any other composition.
So, all told, 'Lucifer Rising' is more than a short film, and more than a work of art even though the film is an exemplary example of both. However, more than these, it is the tortured result of a labour of love more than a decade long (filming began in 1966 yet was only finally released in 1980) which serves as a curious post-script to an era of fervent creativity in music, film, and art as well as being a curious admonition to those that seek unadulterated spiritual and moral exploration in the name of "Do what thou wilt" that with such potent virtues come all-encompassing costs.
Far removed from the 'satanic panic' of 1969's Invocation of My Demon Brother, and closer to the imagery, motifs and ideas of his earlier short Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Lucifer Rising finds the infant terrible of the hippie counterculture once again dabbling in the occult, the mystical and the mythological, only this time, with a clear, focused and assured approach. Gone are the frantic superimpositions and chaotic editing. Lucifer Rising is for the most part cleanly edited, more refined in the selection of images and more carefully constructed than its predecessors. It sees Anger harnessing his delirious side in the service of a certain film-making finesse, without losing any of his symbolic potency. What other proof is there that this is Anger at his most professional when he even uses tracking shots in some instances! What next, professional actors? A Crowley-esquire view of ancient Egypt then, with Lucifer as the bringer of Light, touching themes of death and rebirth, Lucifer Rising may lack the visceral, hypnotic madness of its predecessor but makes up for it with an air of spellbinding psychedelia.
How can I truly describe this film without giving away any spoiling
details? Well let me see to begin with I will go into what commonly (in
my perspective) qualifies as a movie these days. Normally something
that is out of the ordinary and eye catching is a good plus; don't
forget something with some sort of mysterious element that makes
viewers want more. Most importantly is the ability for a movie to peak
interest just upon seeing a clip of it.
Kenneth Anger's "Lucifer Rising" definitely meets these qualities head on and goes beyond them. I find it saddening that a few people are incapable of seeing the pure art presented here but alas to each their own. What is perhaps more saddening is the state the film industry is in today; we have countless movies being made out of 3D effects and action laced scenes of dramatized color. There is no soul to some music anymore some say and the same can be said about the film industry.
I gave this film a 10 out of 10 because it carries every aspect of mystique and mystery anyone interested in these premises could hope for. There is a definitive occult inspired quality to the film, the soundtrack is phenomenal (I began to tear up towards the end due to the music fused with the wonderful imagery, I won't spoil the details, see for yourself). How long has it been since you last saw a movie that not only made you want to feel and think but outright FORCED you to!? These days thinking and feeling a connection to a movie's characters is optional but this film reflects just the opposite. There is no way around connecting to every character present in this film; dialog isn't even needed to do so, simple proof that humanity can convey a message better without word and instead with pure imagination. Is it any wonder that ancient civilizations used symbols and carvings in their culture to capture the attention of others? This film goes beyond the human into the mystical then back into the human world once more. This film feels like it is, in itself, a spiritual experience of some sort, perhaps something simply on the human level.
If you have not seen this film yet then all I can say is see it. Light a candle, sit in the dark, turn up your speakers, play the film. Despite being only a half hour long the movie doesn't need much more than that to truly capture the attention of your eyes (all 3 of them); you may find your heart swelling with life as well in pure connection to the emotion put into this that is beyond description. See for yourself why don't you? Overall this film is timeless in every manner.Oh and I should also mention I was born fairly recent into the "newer" generation, in fact 18 years after this film was made. You'd think someone in my age group would not even know this film existed but I have the greatest respect for what Anger and Page, in fact, what every person behind this work accomplished.
As much as I'd love to give more specific details I feel this film is too unique to be perfectly described with simple words.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
So if you've seen Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Scorpio Rising,
and Invocation of My Demon Brother, you'll know what to expect in
Lucifer Rising, right? WRONG. Anger got his hands on some special
effects, film printing, and new film stock footage, and made something
unique in his own oeuvre, not to mention basically unparalleled
anywhere else in the history of cinema. Starting with some bubbling
cauldrons in the form of active volcanoes, he goes through a short tour
of some of the world's most famous pagan areas of worship (Egyptian
pyramids, Stonehenge, etc.) and, with some mightily skillful
transitioning, turns the world into a vessel for the ... well... Rising
of said Lucifer. This goes on for a while, gaining momentum and getting
ever the more abstract as peoples from different nations and settings
join in the festivities, until aliens appear. No, literally. It's all
in the creation of a new symbol that represents Dr. Anger himself, a
sort of sigil that you can see printed on some of his movies and
recently on the Films of Kenneth Anger compilations.
What's spectacular here is the color. Anger turns some of the color hues and tones you associate with tarot cards and brightly painted Satanism (as opposed to the darker, more firey stuff) and makes an entire movie out of that sense of primaries and contrasts. In doing so, he successfully recreates an entire new world, one that you explore visually and viscerally with him. Kudos goes to the guy who did the soundtrack (I forget his name) for matching that sense of color and space in the music, their cooperation turning the entire movie into a psychedelic awakening into Anger's own spiritual beliefs. It's like getting sucked into a religious demonstration without intending to, and for those who find Anger's belief remiss, this movie can be horrifying. Otherwise, for those just interested in his own idiosyncratic view of the world, Lucifer Rising is a coming-into-his-own unmatched and unexpected by his previous work.
Also features Donald Cammell who, like Anger, made a darker-side-of-counterculture movie with Mick Jagger, called Performance. With Marianne Faithful and Jimmy Page, Anger certainly pulled together a unique collaboration here.
Entertaining, slow moving, insightful, and sometimes shocking fourth installment to the Kenneth Anger short film collection; it possesses all these attributes, as well as being influential to experimental directors of today. A lot of what Anger was doing in "Invocation of My Demon Brother" (film layers, fast edits, bizarre soundtracks) can be seen in most of the music videos on MTV; a characteristic that has driven parents, as well as teenagers, crazy. The primary source of these ideas came from the Acid Trip footage, extensively explicated in Tom Wolfe's lysergic-fused biographical novel, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." Nevertheless, the idea caught on and Anger utilized the technique to the fullest in "Demon Brother," counterweighted by an equivocal tape-loop supplied by Mick Jagger. In the second film "Lucifer Rising," Anger had already developed his experimentation with edits and layers, this time presenting a more formalized run to the film. Marianne Faithful makes an appearance in the film, as well as an assortment of 60's notables, which includes Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil who also wrote the film's score. Altho not Anger's best volume, (Scorpio Rising is the better) it still has many elements -- as I explained -- that will turn some people on; ergo, a cult following.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Of all the shorts directed by Kenneth Anger, this has to be my favorite
This was a way more ambitious work, filled with lots of complex symbolism and allegories, taking several elements from different mythologies in order to create something unique and incredibly fascinating.
While in some ways, "Lucifer Rising" somewhat reminded me the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky (Particularly, "The Holy Mountain") there are still some notorious differences between those two artistic creations, being both very good and memorable movie watching experiences.
In my opinion, this is a wonderful short, having a mysterious and captivating quality that makes it a timeless experience, impossible to forget.
I think the most interesting about this short is the back story, which
I highly recommend reading up on. For good or for worse, the back story
alone makes this movie notable.
When it comes to the movie itself, it's visually stunning and the music is brilliant. And that's about it. As an art flick, there's not meant to be an explicit storyline, so if you are not comfortable with that, this movie will probably not be very enjoyable as a "short" - but maybe as a music video of sorts. The previously mentioned music and visuals are good and match somewhat, so watching this is a good way to let your mind wander.
If you are interested in the occult/spiritual world Anger taps into in his shorts, then you might get a kick out of this just for that. To me, that's less interesting. While I made an effort to connect the images with ideas and concepts that might lie behind them - I eventually lost interest and started following my own trains of thought.
Lucifer Rising is a film that is jam-packed for all of its 28 minutes
with images that are meant to do two different things depending on two
different groups are watching: if you don't really know that much about
all of the potent symbols and totems and markers and all of the things
that link Satan and Lucifer and Hell to things like the Egyptians and
the pyramids, then that's one thing. If you do know all about Mr.
Crowley and his teachings and prophecies and so on and know what the
images are meant to reference, then it'll likely be the blast of a
lifetime. What I know is closer to the former, yet what I responded to
most was Anger as a *filmmaker*, what he was trying to do and to make
it both provocative and yet something that's, I suppose for him, easy
to slip in to.
Now, I don't know all of the details of how Anger came to be among Satanists and other cultists (though the note that the composer of the film, Bobby Beausoleil, was a part of the Manson family and wrote/performed the psychedelic early Pink Floyd-era style soundtrack is one of the most disquieting things ever), but I have to assume that he wasn't born into it or raised with Satanists (they really came to be a 'thing' actually in the 70's, with Anton Levay and so on), so there's an element of indoctrination that makes the film so fascinating.
For about less than a minute of Lucifer Rising we see someone in a room reading a book (the camera pans back and forth and we see briefly what he's reading, only enough to gleam bits and pieces, and then an image of a devil or Satan fornicating), and I thought this worked well as a metaphor for the movie itself: Anger may be out to do something transcendent, but elementally it's all about consciousness expansion, and even if we don't come in knowing all of the representations of what this woman in Egyptian garb means or this guy in a cloak or that guy going naked into a tub, there's something about it all that feels like you're being taught some secrets, things that you certainly were NOT taught if you went to Sunday school (or if you're agnostic/atheist it's just alien information).
The other thing that makes the movie so evocative and moving in its gonzo form is that it's also, most likely, about some kind of transformation. There's another character - of course no one has names here, unless one counts the fact that a guy at one point puts on a jacket that has "Lucifer" on the back (a possible in-joke, or just a running motif, following from Scorpio Rising) - a young woman who is climbing up a mountainside. What is she going for? Well, because she is being called? Or because there's something that simply compels and orders her to come. There's no great mission we're seeing, no little girl that'll be possessed in Washington DC and a horror movie will come out of it (though that was going on at the time as well in cinema). Things presented to us amount to... you're currently just a man, or a woman, but what if you could be something more, perhaps?
This is experimental cinema, so many of the images will appear obtuse to those who come in to it cold. But the feeling of things constantly being ominous, of spells being cast and a cultish atmosphere, where people succumb and give in to someone else - giving up their power for someone else, essentially, and it all leading up to a giant, uh, space-ship that floats across the pyramids of Egypt (fx by Wally Weavers of 2001 by the way!) - and that I can understand. If a good deal of it flew over my head that may just be my problem. It certainly, at the least, makes me curious to know more about how many of these images connect and make into a whole 'Raising up Lucifer' story, to which a resurrection plot, however it's really relayed out here, is one that involves a mission and followers and invocations and incantations and other 'ations'.
Or it may be a load of pretentious crank, but I don't think it's fair to discredit it too easily. This is someone who's seen some things and, in his own warped and yet not hard to look at way, and it's an extremely well shot presentation that, once you get into its somewhat languid rhythm, is crisply edited, you know you've seen the dark side. Whether you decide to fully go there... well, I leave that to you. But as a film in and of itself, for what it's trying to do, it's eerie and effective and totally unique - and does it get much more, frankly, 'evil' than to have a Manson family member do the score?
Egyptian gods summons the angel Lucifer - in order to usher in a new
This film has been on my to-see list for almost twenty years. In the 1990s, I was big into the counter-culture scene and was reading quite a bit on Charles Manson. The name "Kenneth Anger" came up again and again, and his work was something I just had to see. But the opportunity never presented itself.
Now (2015) I have seen it, and it did not disappoint. Some have called it an extended music video, which is not far off. Others say it is something "occult", but even there I think that is slightly off. I doubt very much the people involved were taking themselves seriously, blending images and symbols from the Druids, Egyptians and Crowley... what an experience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Lucifer Rising" is without a doubt one of the trademark films of
director Kenneth Anger, even if it not even half an hour long. There's
no doubt that the today 86-year old-filmmaker really shows a very
unique approach in almost all his works. However, I have to say that
"Lucifer Rising" could not wow me the way I hoped it would. While it's
occasionally breathtakingly beautiful and visually impressive from
start to finish, most of the other aspects were rather disappointing.
And that includes especially the soundtrack. i'm not sure why Anger
decided to let convicted murderer Bobby Beausoleil do the job. Maybe it
was his background history and he hoped to add a bit of controversy
this way to the movie. However, he really shouldn't have gone for a guy
which has never scored a film before and with whom cooperation will be
difficult due to him being in jail and how he can't just come over to
work on the matter together. They say the best soundtrack is the one
you don't even perceive while watching a film. I clearly perceived this
one and mostly not in a good way.
My favorite part of the film was, without a doubt the first sequence. It includes the stunning Myriam Gibril, who sadly almost did no further movie work at all afterward contrary to her co-star Marianne Faithful, as Isis, a perfect casting decision and her longtime partner Donald Cammell as Osiris. Both are perfectly cast for their respective characters. While the cinematography in this short film is magnificent, as mentioned earlier, also most of the costumes, mainly including Isis' and Osiris dresses, and set decorations couldn't have been much better. I'd recommend to watch the first sequence, which I'd definitely recommend, and, then decide for yourself if it's worth going on.
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