To describe Kenneth Anger as a “cult filmmaker” seems requisite but incomplete. The 87-year-old native Angeleno is indeed the writer and director of the surrealist shortsInauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954-66), Scorpio Rising (1963), and Lucifer Rising (1970-81)—some of the wildest and most profoundly influential experimental films of the last century. But his salacious narrative history of the industry, Hollywood Babylon, originally published in 1960, is also kitsch-famous, a kind of gossip gospel in the land of holy celebrity. His film and video works are in the permanent collections of various museums of modern art. And he is also the most famous living practitioner of Thelema—the ritual-based doctrine dictated to Aleister Crowley by the spiritual messenger Aiwass.
Over the course of his multivalent career, Anger has worked with and befriended such artists as Marianne Faithfull (a collaborator on Lucifer Rising), the surrealist Jean Cocteau, guitar god Jimmy Page, sexologist Alfred Kinsey, and Tennessee Williams, as well as fellow Thelemite Marjorie Cameron—star of Pleasure Dome and onetime wife of Jet Propulsion Laboratory founder Jack Parsons. Anger is the godfather of homoerotic cinema, having made his pioneeringFireworks in 1947. He has been famously obscene (and charged as such for Fireworks in California), happily hallucinogenic (his Invocation of My Demon Brother from 1969 was famously evocative of an acid trip), and quite consciously provocative (see all). Inside the industry, he’s never found a place to rest—he has Lucifer tatted on his chest. And he’s seen UFOs—three times.
Painter and filmmaker—and something of a hell-raiser himself—Harmony Korine has long appreciated the work and legend of Anger, but the two have never really had the chance to speak. We thought they should, so in April, Korine called Anger from his home in Nashville to discover that his hero is still working outside of the mainstream, still a scabrous critic of Hollywood, and still speculating about that Malaysia Airlines flight.