Mid-week Anger: Rabbit's Moon (1950) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Mid-week Anger: Rabbit’s Moon (1950)

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

Project what I want pleaseI would first like to apologize for not putting this up a bit sooner.  Unfortunately my health issues put me in a bad spot and the events of last week didn't help the mood any further.

Know this - it took a tragedy of that magnitude combined with my ongoing health struggle to derail the total joy I felt watching Kenneth Anger's Rabbit's Moon.  None of the experimental films I've previously written about come close to the immense satisfaction which came from this bizarre piece of art.  Stan Brakhage might have given me more to ponder about the form of film and Maya Deren the importance of editing but Anger delights in making Rabbit's Moon with the same gusto Orson Welles took to directing when he said, "This is the biggest electric train set any boy ever had!"RejectionRabbit's Moon is one of those films which is bonkers in description but magnificent in motion.  There's a bit more of a narrative structure here than in the previous Fireworks or Puce Moment.  A man, who is also a mime, longs for a rabbit in the moon only to be disappointed in his attempts to reach it and is tempted with earthly pleasure by an image of a woman, who may also be a fairy, projected by the devil, who is also a mime.  All this takes place on a single set filmed in 35mm, the first and last time Anger would work with the stock, in a lovely shade of blue.  Oh, and Rabbit's Moon wasn't released for over twenty years after it's production in 1950.

Each component is wonderful enough on its own, but then the doo-wop kicks in on the soundtrack and I swear I transcended my physical body.  Anger borrows liberally from many cultures with the mime performances from the French school of Marcel Marceau, the "rabbit in the moon" motif from Japanese myth, and the American doo-wop on the soundtrack.  This is cinema at its finest, creating a sensual experience that transcends language through performance and direction.  Sure, non-English speakers won't be able to understand the words on the soundtrack, but that didn't prevent Americans from falling in love with Edith Piaf and "Non, je ne regretted rien".I'll be perfect for nowThe intoxication begins at our first glance of Anger's set and Pierrot's (Andre Soubeyran) expression of longing.  Anger's earlier films used smaller stock which gave their disconnect energy a harsher, more immediate feel.  The 35mm for Rabbit's Moon underlines the artificiality of the set, and with our minds already primed for fantasy the mime performance from Soubeyran further exaggerates the fantastical.  I could see this film maybe being a bit too much for audiences as the soundtrack comments on the emotions already heavily underlined by the performances and stock.  But since Anger is borrowing from so many cultural signifiers the effect is less one of frosting on top of a too-rich cake and more a desert whose tastes and textures unravel slowly.

Those interested in semiotics and psychoanalysis, as I am, will continue to find rich material to work with in Rabbit's Moon.  There's a playful pain at the core of Pierrot's reach for the moon which Harlequin (Claude Revenant) toys with by presenting an illusion of a woman within reach by projecting Columbine (Nadine Valence) into Pierrot's world.  Pierrot's desire of reaching the rabbit in the moon is impossible, so seems to conjure his own demon by rejecting his innocence and projects another fantasy he knows he can't have.  It's telling how Pierrot is unable to touch Columbine but Harlequin dances freely with her, as the life he wishes he recognizes is still an unobtainable fantasy.This is the spectacle I've madeThis is why I can't see Pierrot's last act as one borne of depression - at least within the context of Rabbit's Moon's limited universe.  Pierrot at times seems to be watching himself from the projector which once showed him a vision of Columbine, and he recognizes the way to complete the lack in his soul is through death.  Whether he finds what he wants, I cannot say, because from our viewpoint there is but a corpse, a forest, and a rabbit.

Perhaps it's only because Anger chose to present this suicide through a multicultural lens which makes it go down more as a positive event.  The seemingly disconnected signifiers in the music and visuals launch us into the fantasy space which the space itself recognizes is fantasy and terminates in hope of a better life on the other side.  This is sometimes how I feel when the credits close on a film, that the story is complete and may not exist but in that realm of non-existence I find lessons to take into my life.

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Posted by Andrew

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