Scorpio Rising


Kenneth Anger captures the ambiguity that lies at the heart of cinema. We sit before a screen as zealots kneeling before an altar. The image is presented as something worthy of consideration, contemplation, even idolatry. Cinema has, in other words, supplanted religion by inciting renewed interest in the occult. It’s no coincidence that James Dean is proffered as a new Christ crucified in Scorpio Rising, while Jesus himself is relegated to the margins of the film, only able to assert himself by interrupting the otherwise flowing sequence of images. Scorpio, as he dons the ceremonial regalia, is preparing for his Golgotha, only without the hope for redemption. One can’t help but come to the conclusion that his “rise” is his “fall,” mirroring the narrative arc of Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost. The irresolute space that both these works straddle is neatly encapsulated by Lucifer’s ultimate call to arms: “arise or be forever fall’n.”

Cinephile Interest:

Kenneth Anger’s instinctual grasp of film as a plastic medium is rivaled by none save, perhaps, Eisenstein. But what’s so enjoyable about films like Scorpio Rising is watching Anger manipulate film to achieve a totally different end than traditional cinema. Anger’s films exacerbate (or bring to one’s attention, depending on the level of one’s self-awareness) the reserve that any enthusiastic moviegoer feels on a gut level upon leaving the theater. Before the screen, one is at the mercy of the image, subject to someone else’s will and control. It is only after the movie, as the eyes readjust to the light, that one exits from this trance. But even then one’s mind remains pregnant with the image. Anger’s beautiful cinematography combined with his masterful control over editing makes this dual state of hypnosis and impregnation all the more seductive, albeit more self-evident and, as a result, disturbing. The camera is a “magic weapon” in Anger’s hands – a term he himself coined – and the experience of watching his body of work is perhaps best summarized by the last frame of Invocation of My Demon Brother: “Zap, you’re pregnant, that’s witchcraft.”

-Todd Cooke

Watch Kenneth Anger’s ‘Scorpio Rising’ on YouTube

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