Experimental Filmmaker and Author Kenneth Anger Dies at 96

Experimental filmmaker, artist, and author Kenneth Anger has passed away at the age of 96. Anger, one of America’s first openly gay filmmakers, was also the author of the controversial book “Hollywood Babylon.”

Experimental Filmmaker and Author Kenneth Anger Dies at 96
Experimental Filmmaker and Author Kenneth Anger Dies at 96

The news of his death was confirmed by the art gallery Sprüth Magers, which hosted several of Anger’s art exhibitions.

Born Kenneth Wilbur Anglemyer on February 3, 1927, in Santa Monica, California, Anger developed an interest in movies at a young age. He began making films as a teenager, and his earliest surviving work is the homoerotic short film “Fireworks” from 1947.

The film, which depicted a dreamer accosted by navy sailors amidst phallic symbolism, led to Anger’s arrest on obscenity charges.

However, he was acquitted after a California court ruled that the film was art rather than pornography. “Fireworks” is considered by many to be the first gay narrative film made in the United States.

Throughout his career, Anger continued to push boundaries and explore taboo subjects in his films. He became known for using soundtracks as counterpoints to his visual images, incorporating elements of erotica, homosexuality, occultism, and Nazi imagery. His works significantly impacted subcultures’ aesthetics in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly queer iconography.

In addition to his filmmaking, Anger gained notoriety as the author of “Hollywood Babylon,” a book published in 1959 that detailed alleged scandals and gossip involving Hollywood stars.

While widely discredited and banned in the United States shortly after its publication, the book became an underground classic and contributed to the mythology surrounding Hollywood.

Anger’s artistic vision and influence extended beyond the realm of film. He considered cinematographic projection a psychosocial ritual capable of unleashing physical and emotional energies. He viewed the film as a spiritual medium and a conveyer of alchemy that transformed the viewer.

Kenneth Anger’s experimental films, characterized by their mystical-symbolic visual language and phantasmagorical luxury, continue to be celebrated for their groundbreaking exploration of gay themes and erotica. His cinematic genius and influence will likely have a lasting impact on future generations.