Mid-week Anger: Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
31Dec/150

Mid-week Anger: Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)

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The Kenneth Anger films discussed as part of this project are available for purchase in a collection from Fantoma.

IotPDMy default state during and immediately after Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome was stunned.  I stumbled at my initial attempts to process just what it is which made Kenneth Anger's multisexual devil-infused orgy of visuals and jewelry vex my mind so.  Then I stopped and looked at my notes, particularly the very sentence I just wrote, and it all "made sense".

Or at least as much as something like IotPD can.  Anger's films have, so far, been far more of a sensual and tactile experience than either Maya Deren or Stan Brakhage's.  This isn't to say those artists weren't capable of their own moments where the film stock felt alive and present.  More how Anger's films seem like deliberate attempts to build the moment where sensations conjure suddenly in our minds in response to art.  I loathe the word but if Anger had failed it would be àpropos to refer to his efforts as pretentious, as it stands IotPD succeeds so well it defies basic description and I am tempted to fall back onto "You just had to be there."

Prelude to the soviet grapes I guesBut you were not, and I was, so let's proceed and try to make sense of all this.  The homoerotic undercurrent reached what might be Anger's textual limit in Eaux d'Artifice with its visions of ejaculating fountains filmed in multiple pristine vantage points.  IotPD is a different beast as it's not concerned with men or women specifically but a multicultural blending of sexualities and tastes both in terms of material goods and spiritual longing.  Pleasure is brought not to a painfully extreme limit but blended together with others so thoroughly its difficult to tell where one person's experience ends and another begins.

It's funny how easily Anger was able to upset my subconscious expectations from the get go.  The opening title crawl starts off on the word "Inauguration", like I'd expect, but scrolls up instead of down.  I wonder how my brain would have interpreted it if I didn't know the title in advance but because of this slight change but my reading became dyslexic and even though the words were in order kept reading it as "Pleasure the Dome of Inauguration" which...Stylish hatNow that I type it out that's an entirely appropriate alternate title because of the way bodies intermingle throughout IotPD.  There's very little direct contact, but bodies always appear to be transitioning within one another to a different state.  Men dressed as women overlap with women dressed as men while even blurrier images of either to the point where gendered distinctions stop mattering.  It's a mess of indirect pleasure and combined with the symphonic sound track made me go a little insane.

As IotPD went on I started feeling drunk.  Not the tipsy kind of fun drunk.  But the full-on nauseous "the room is spinning and I want to get off this ride" kind of drunk.  IotPD made me think of how in a world of pure morality, where there is no bad and only good, how the distinction between behaviors would become meaningless if there was nothing to gauge "good" and "bad" against.Who's watching who hereIotPD makes for an interesting case study in directorial intent as well.  Anger initially designed the film to be projected on three different screens.  Such an arrangements would play into my drunken feelings wildly depending on how.  For example, if they were arranged 120 degrees from one another, I'd literally be spinning around trying to keep up with the images.  If they're one right next to the other, the lack of spatial continuity between each screen would likely make me mad.  The transfer of IotPD may not be as Anger originally intended, but is it any less effective?

Considering how badly I've stumbled over my thoughts the last day or so while attempting to describe the sensation of watching it - I have to go with a qualified no.  Anger's films have, so far, been a unique experiment in blending pleasure and pain going back to the blood and smoke of Fireworks.  I feel IotPD may have hit the limit of how far that blending can go, but I'm intrigued (and a bit cautious) as to if I will be proven wrong.

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Posted by Andrew

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