I Put a Spell on You

25Mar07

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Alfred C. Kinsey and Kenneth Anger at Thelema Abbey in Cefalu

In 1955, Kenneth Anger made a voyage to Cefalu in Sicily to shoot a documentary about Aleister Crowley’s erotic frescos, Thelema Abbey.

The film was made for Houlton Television which was  a branch of Picture Post an extinct British Magazine. They lost it. I tried to find it and it’s untraceable. I lived in Crowley’s house, alone, but that kind of thing doesn’t bother me. I had to. It was the only way to get it done. I spent three months there scraping the whitewash, which had turned to stone, off the walls. It was a big job, but one of the most exciting things I have ever done. They were still there – all those hyper-psychedelic murals: goblins and demons in fabulous color, scarlet and pumpkin-red. Actually they were good paintings, similar in feel to Ensor.

Well, this film seems to be lost, but here you can find another film from Anger about Crowley’s paintings. And here is a montage of photos (not from Anger) showing Thelema Abbey and its frescos.

Anger also planned to do a bio-pic about Crowley that would “intersperse Crowley’s spiritual life with contemporary events, such as the sinking of the Titanic.” At one time there was talk about Nicol Williamson playing the lead.

From 1950 – 1961 Anger lived in Paris. During his stay he became friends with Langlois – founder of the Cinématheque Française – and Cocteau whose Le jeune homme et la mort Anger tried to adapt for the screen. Other projects were Lautréamonts Les Chants de Maldoror and L’Histoire d’O.

For Maldoror he had already filmed …

…the hymn to the ocean , on the beach at Deauville, with Rosella Hightower and members of the Marquis de Cuevas Ballet. They danced in the sea, tables were placed beneath the water line so the dancers could stand on their points. It looked as if they were standing on waves.

I also managed to film the war of the flies and pins. I put bags of pins and dozens of flies into a glass container; revolved the container and filmed in close-up. As the pins dropped, the flies zig-zagged to escape. In slow-motion, an impressive image.

It seems that the surrealists, who were always somewhat peculiar about ventures based on Lautréamont’s work, threatened Anger. But the main reason for not completing it was – what else – lack of money.

It was no problem for Anger to get the permission to film Histoire d’O, as its publisher was Jean-Jacques Pauvert, who also published Anger’s own Hollywood Babylon. This time it seemed that he would get the money he needed to complete the film when other problems emerged.

I was helped by the boyfriend of the girl playing O. It turned out that this money was bounty from the kidnapping of Eric Peugeot – grandson of the auto magnate. I knew nothing about this. I found out in a very abrupt manner. The young man was arrested and I was questioned about the money being used for my film. The young lady playing O was the daughter of a minister. Her parents knew nothing about her being in the film and when they did find out filming came to an instant halt.

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This dashing photo is from Anger’s version of L’Histoire d’O

The photos and the quotes are from the BFI publication Into the Pleasure Dome – the films of Kenneth Anger edited by Jayne Pilling and Mike O’Pray.

The DVD company Fantoma has issued recently volume one of The Films of Kenneth Anger. Here is a trailer.

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