Thursday, February 15, 2007

When the Future Kisses the Past

I have now managed to catch up with both of the DVD compilations of the films of James Broughton and the first volume of those of Kenneth Anger. Anger, I have known for at least 35 years, mostly for the Hollywood Babylon books and Lucifer Rising and Scorpio Rising. Broughton was more of a vaguely familiar reference, and I'd never seen any of his work. Both, it could be argued, are JunkThieves, Anger in particular, who had no problem of weaving together trashy pop (or porn) images with higher, classical art. (The Rabbit's Moon being the best case of that.) Broughton, on the other hand is at once the worst embodiment of trippy hippie new age nonsense and just plain, childlike nonsense. He's been called the person best qualified to carry on the torch of Walt Whitman, though his "poetry" is more a weird mix of Dr. Seuss, Mother Guess and Dr. Ruth. Some of it is so laugh-out-loud bad that you're not sure if Broughton is in on the joke as he narrates his films like some tripped out kindergarten teacher leading us through an exercise of removing our clothing and consuming Kool Aid last with some mysterious substance. There are both similarities and contradictions in both. Broughton has a lot of nudity but not that much outright sex; Anger has a lot of sex and sexuality but not that much nudity. Both, it also could be argued, are the reason YouTube and its 10 minute limit. Both are masters of the six to eight minute form, but they falter when they opt for longer, near feature length works. (Dreamwood in Broughton's case and Inauguration to the Pleasuredome when it comes to Anger.) If there is anyone out there still doing this type of film (though Anger, at 80 this year is still out there), I would argue that it is Guy Maddin. Though he managed to keep my attention through most of The Saddest Music in the World, the closest he has come to an outright feature with actual stars he too is best in the ten minute or less form. Fun as Music was with an actual narrative of sorts, Maddin seemed to but trying to mesh a dozen or so short films into one big one with so many diverse styles and references that they ultimately overwhelmed whatever narrative or emotional continuity there was beneath his many surfaces. No wonder that Heart of the World, at a mere six jam-packed minutes, is his masterpiece. For all the diverse references and images, it is a coherent, gripping narrative in which the future of the universe is at stake. No wonder that Junk Thief finds all three film makers to be inspiration for their ability to see the past in the future or the future in the past or seeing that the future is actually Narcissus staring back at its reflection, ultimatley realizing that they are one in the same. What has been is what will become. Oops, what, did I lift that line from Broughton?

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