Mid-week Anger: Lucifer Rising (1972) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Mid-week Anger: Lucifer Rising (1972)

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THOSE TITLESI've come to the end, for now, of my look at the movies of Kenneth Anger.  In a curious twist I wonder how my reaction to Lucifer Rising might have been if I didn't spend the last couple of months watching Anger's work.  All the elements of Lucifer Rising are assembled from the different elements of style Anger assembled for his earlier movies.  We've got the multicultural imagery akin to Rabbit's Moon, the subtext of Fireworks, the fragmented editing combined with rock star soundtrack of Invocation of my Demon Brother, and an apocalyptic outlook similar to Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.

My reaction to Lucifer Rising was like eating a lackluster stew.  I sense all the familiar ingredients and, individually, love them.  But when Anger throws them together in Lucifer Rising my reaction grew from interest to boredom.  This throws me for a bit of a loop since I enjoy so much of what Anger puts into his films and some of the incidental buzz about Lucifer Rising I've gleaned recently made me excited to watch it.Pyramid of powerI think my subdued reaction was generated in part by the pace of Lucifer Rising is leisurely compared to other Anger films.  The camera lingers a bit more on open space, nature, and the Egyptian-styled performers as they emerge from their tombs, crypts, and go about their business.  I'm less taken aback by some of the odd images precisely because I get more time to digest them before moving on to the next.  Compare this to the approach Anger used in Invocation of my Demon Brother where the soundtrack keeps the viewer completely off track while the whirl of images shifts to different types of violence.

The relatively slow-moving Lucifer Rising is "easier" to follow but less fulfilling.  Even if I hadn't watched Anger's other movies the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated characters holding up ankhs to the sky (a symbol of life) as someone else awakens elsewhere isn't difficult to follow.  The eventual melding of these characters results in a satisfying and disturbing image of naked performers crawling over a demon cloaked in a hazy black and green.  But the steps in between felt...expected.

It's why I wish I could temporarily erase my memory to experience Lucifer Rising fresh.  When the ceremony of summoning finally reveals a frizzy haired man with a rainbow Lucifer jacket I thought a lot of things - like how Anger was playfully messing with the "satanic panic" which would become commonplace in the American '80s, and how all the demonic imagery brings about a harmless queer man in his jacket.  But these thoughts were ancillary to the experience, which was mostly bored, and I felt like I was close to becoming one of those mindless "think piece" writers plastered over the internet these days.Give praise to the sunThe soundtrack didn't help matters much.  Anger contracted Jimmy Page to do the score and didn't care for the results.  Can't say I do either, as the score isn't the "droning" Anger seems to think it is but to me sounds like a lot of aimless psychedelic noodling.  On its own the score would be unremarkable, but as a companion piece to the not so psychedelic images in Lucifer Rising it sticks out.

I wish I felt differently about Lucifer Rising but disappointment is still the dominant feeling.  Maybe something will snag in my memory like how I was able to draw the parallels between the images of Fireworks and the contemporary Magic Mike XXL.  For now I'll cherish the experience with Anger's other films and hope Lucifer Rising gains resonance as time soldiers on.

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Posted by Andrew

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