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Seminal short underground film (in every sense of the word) written and directed by Kenneth Anger, starring Samson De Brier (a "notorious Hollywood recluse" and fellow historian), Cameron, Anais Nin, and himself, filmed at de Brier's home.

You either "get" this film or not. It depicts a "decadent" group of aristocrats gathered in mythological costumes at the opening of, well, a pleasure dome, here imagined as a kind of sacred/sensual temple, during an eclipse of the moon. Filmed Mit Out Sound, and synched to Janacek's Glagolithic Mass, the plot (such as there is one) begins with the languid toilette of de Brier's "Nero" (in which he swallows a crystal necklace). The scene changes to his impatient, bored, wife, waiting to play her part in the spectacle, played stunningly by Marjorie Cameron, Jack Parsons's "Scarlet Woman", who amuses herself by casually conjuring a salamander (a mythological one), and then drops it into the hands of her court jester to light her cigarette. Other courtiers arrive, similarly oozing ennui, and do other tricks. We then proceed to the ceremony itself, that climaxes with everyone drinking what looks like ayahuasca, from the ropy appearence, which causes everyone to erupt in spontaneous laughter, and Ganymede (here, a blonde, pretty male pinup sailor) to grin lasciviously, obviously bent on rape. The tables are turned, however — he finds himself the target of a horde of rapacious women, only adding to the general hilarity. There's more than a hint of violence, and images of death and ruin appear. At the last, only Nero and the Scarlet Woman calmly remain, having achieved true apotheosis.

All this using cheesy sets and costumes, such as a bunch of film students could have put together on a zero budget, adding a "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" layer to the film — are these people really decadent magic-using aristocrats, or are they just a bunch of arty types having a fun afternoon of dressing-up? Are these arty people actually Gods in mufti? Is this meant to depict true liberation of the spirit, or its imprisonment in shallow, repetative stagnation?

Kenneth Anger explains (on the DVD version) that the genesis of this film came from a masquerade party where everyone came as a dream they had. He himself, had a dream about this party, and decided to film it, adding Anais Nin as "Astarte" (here imagined as Bringer of Light, with Anais's head encased in a spherical birdcage), who was going to be the wife of Nero, until Camaron, who'd been pulled in as costumer/stylist, casually remarked that she'd had well, a lot of experience in this kind of thing, leading to a slight catfight when she got the lead. No sex here, but plenty suggestive, and even people experienced in the occult will come away wondering if they hadn't missed something. Although the Sigil of Baphomet was later added to the superimposed mystical symbols during the ceremony, this film is not, as some people have suggested, a Satanic film, or "filmed in Anton Szandor LaVey's Black House", the suggestion to use it probably came during the film's recutting during the 1960's with the help of The Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil. It drags a bit, and to an early 21st century pair of eyes, looks a bit like early MTV (as a matter of fact, Anger was a major influence in the surreal images of early music video, so it's only understandable). Science Fiction fans will also find this film enjoyable, since it draws heavily from the pulp-fiction and Classic Hollywood iconography of fantasy, and also was a major inspiration to New Wave SF writers through its heavy replays in college cinema courses and underground film festivals. YouTube contains a mash-up of this film, scored to music from the Legendary Pink Dots. One of the best films to have in the background (with or without sound) to your own homegrown orgy, it's one of those films that must be seen at least once in your life. I can say no more.

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