Witchbeam tipped me to this typically idiosyncratic yet excellent 1991 BBC Arena profile of that grand sorcerer of cinema, underground or otherwise, Kenneth Anger. Balefully glaring from window of a chauffeured hearse as it tours the stations of the cross of Hollywood Babylon, Anger raps nostalgic on the scandals of the Golden Age of the Silver Screen, his own films, and life in Hollywood as “the chronicler of their foibles, follies and excesses.”
Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon illustrates his books of the same name with a slap dash reverence, weaving together footage of real-life celebrity embalmers, a singing Valentino worshiper “The Lady in Black,” a duo of overweight drag queens, and even a torch song performance from Marianne Faithful. Kenneth Anger could read a phonebook and make it fascinating, a raconteur comparable to Werner Herzog, whose Death For Five Voices this “semi-real” documentary does not un-resemble.
Archival footage and recreations performed by a stand-up comic as “The God of Hollywood” provide gloss over Anger's “print the legend” style of documenting the tales of the fatal hedonists, ego nihilists, and vehicular destruction that populate the City of Dreams: Fatty Arbuckle, Lupe Velez, Jayne Mansfield, James Dean, and Peg Entwistle who committed suicide by leaping nude off the “H” of the Hollywood (neé Land) Sign.
As Anger eulogies,
“We can imagine what truly ambitious and reckless men did here an age ago.”
(Our Youtube archivist presents the program in simultaneous VHS and digital pixelized artifacting for maximum decadent effect.)