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(Photo Credit: Kenneth Anger)


Short of the Week: A 1954 cult-classic by Kenneth Anger

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome

American filmmaker Kenneth Anger was one of the most influential figures in the evolution of experimental cinema during the 20th century. Anger infused his works with a revolutionary spirit that transformed homoerotic surrealism into a bonafide cinematic spectacle. His works have inspired some of the greatest living filmmakers, ranging from Martin Scorsese to David Lynch.

One of his most celebrated achievements is his 1954 cult-classic Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, a rich short film that draws on occult symbolism to construct a masterful commentary on religion and faith in the modern world. Imbued with cosmic power, the film flows fluidly from one image to another as Anger subjects us to a transcendental experience.

The idea for the film came to Anger when he visited a Halloween party which sparked his imagination. While many of the symbols were inspired by Anger’s obsession with the teachings of English occultist Aleister Crowley, the term ‘Pleasure Dome’ is a reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s acclaimed masterpiece Kubla Khan.

In a fascinating interview, Anger said: “I’ve always been intrigued by film, but I wanted to use it myself as an artist, more like a painter; the material rather than the narrative idea of film. My family had a 16 mm camera that was used primarily for holidays and vacations and most of the time it was just sitting there. 16 mm film was something that slightly affluent middle-class people had at that time to record their families, and I thought that artistic work could be done with a 16 mm.”

Adding, “There is a tradition of experimentation or avant-garde filmmaking that goes back to the 1920s. There were a few artists working with it in that way. Not only in France but a few people in the United States. I began by always thinking of the film as a tool of personal art rather than something commercial.”

Watch Kenneth Anger’s seminal 1954 cult-classic Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome in its entirety below.