1970's Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Messiah of Evil (1973)

Enjoy the piece? Please share this article on your platform of choice using the buttons above!

Point Dune, California is host to an artist's colony and stiff, if helpful, townsfolk.  Arletty arrives at Point Dune looking for her father, and soon discovers there's a whole other side of the town waiting for the arrival of their dark messiah.  Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz wrote the screenplay for and directed Messiah of Evil, which stars Marianna Hill.

My urge to laugh at Messiah of Evil was the most pleasant minute of its run-time.  How could I not?  There's a disheveled man stumbling around in the dark while some cheesy tune singing about messages to the wind and stories to the sea strummed about on the soundtrack.  That urge died as quickly as the unidentified man when he stumbled into pale blue light, under the watchful eye of a stoic girl, who takes advantage of the moment he catches his breath to slice his throat open before the film cut to darkness.

Blue to red, black to white - Messiah of Evil continued working in extreme contrast long after my urge to laugh died.  The tone that kept me terrified throughout is more firmly established in the scene following the excellent misdirection of the opening.  In a blinding hallway, a black figure emerges and starts a monologue about how no one will hear you scream.  Again, potentially cheesy, but the light is so bright that the figure emerges like someone experiencing a reverse near-death experience, and Arletty's (Marianna Hill) scream so piercing that even a nervous chuckle would be cut cold.


Mid-week Anger: Lucifer Rising (1972)

Enjoy the piece? Please share this article on your platform of choice using the buttons above!

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

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.


Mid-Week Anger: Rabbit’s Moon Recut (1979)

Enjoy the piece? Please share this article on your platform of choice using the buttons above!

Rabbit RecutI'll be brief for this week's Kenneth Anger as it's a recut and rescored edition of Rabbit's Moon.  The previous iteration of Rabbit's Moon immediately became one of my most beloved cinematic experiences not just of Anger's career but of my last few years of watching movies.  This new version isn't without its charm, but the quickened pace and new soundtrack create a sort of live action Looney Tunes experience that I couldn't completely engage with.

Now, reminding me of Looney Tunes is never a bad thing.  It's just that the original Rabbit's Moon struck such a bizarre and wonderful chord with its doo-wop soundtrack, beautifully artificial staging, and multicultural approach to visuals and acting styles.  These things are all still technically present in the new cut but Anger quickens the pace of the story by removing frames and editing out a lot of the ebb and flow of desire from the original cut.


Stan Brakhage: The Domain of the Moment (1977)

Unlike previous entries, today's Stan Brakhage film is not readily available online but can be watched as part of The Criterion Collection's second "by Brakhage" volume.

The Domain of the Moment - 1977We live in the time where advertising the reality of the ever-annihilating now is more popular than ever.  Sure, there hasn't been a generation in all human existence that hasn't felt the creep of seconds on the clock.  But how many Buzzfeed articles or Upworthy links reminding you that every moment you don't spend reading their text or watching this video is another moment that you aren't living?  I don't mention this as a negative, just an illustrative example of what existence for humans means today, and I'm thinking about that because today's Stan Brakhage film is all about the constant death of the moments that build life.

There's definite resistance to those pieces of ever-annihilating consumption, most curiously in those videos where someone just rubs styrofoam for an hour.  But The Domain of the Moment forces self-contemplation by examining the sensory input of non-humans.  Brakhage has done this before, most notably in Mothlight, I just haven't been as moved as the results.


Stan Brakhage: Burial Path (1978)

Many of Stan Brakhage's films are available for viewing in multiple venues.  You can watch Burial Path here.

Burial Path - 1978 I’m most interested in Stan Brakhage’s films when they deal with death.  Brakhage is never morbid about the subject and approaches it with a form of artful realism.  Death is never the explicit subject but sort of sneaks up on the viewed Brakhage’s careful distortion.  The bodies of The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes do not seem to be dead until the carving instruments come out to start the autopsy on each corpse.  Even when dealing with death through symbols, such as in The Dead, Brakhage’s camera does make it clear that we are observing graves before making the connection to the humans still alive.

Like these films, Burial Path does not seem to be about death at first.  The opening seconds contain one of Brakhage’s most brilliant visual misdirections.  We look at  what appears to be a drawing of a bird then the contrast lessens quickly, and what once appeared to be an illustration becomes the physical body of the bird laying in a box.  There’s barely time to process this realization of death before the camera begins observing the air and engages in quick, blurry close-ups of trees and other outdoor locations.