ANGER: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger by Bill Landis

ANGER: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A New York--based film critic debuts with this balanced, only occasionally lurid biography of the controversial underground filmmaker and author. Born Kenneth Anglemyer on February 3, 1927, Anger is a compulsive mythologizer who has rewritten his life story numerous times. The author clearly had his hands full uncovering the truth behind the legends, but his digging has paid off to the extent that this is probably the most accurate biography one can hope for while its subject is alive. Landis traces Anger's early exposure to Hollywood (a brief career as a child actor), which sparked the lifelong fascination that led to the book Hollywood Babylon and its sequels; his unhappy relations with his very conventional family; the influence of occultist Aleister Crowley on his work and life; his drug use and homosexuality. The author describes each of Anger's films and its production in great detail, arguing strenuously that he is the premier figure in American underground movies and that works like Scorpio Rising and Invocation of My Demon Brother (for which thorough plot synopses are offered) have influenced many other directors. As for Anger's life, anyone whose circle of friends and colleagues includes Alfred Kinsey, Tennessee Williams, Ana‹s Nin, Mick Jagger, and Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil isn't likely to be dull. Landis tells Anger's story in prose that ranges from fractured-lyrical to drop-dead hip, an often uneasy mixture that reflects the tone of Anger's films. He sidesteps a few awkward questions: Is Anger, two of whose films are studded with Nazi imagery and who delivers an anti-Semitic tirade in one anecdote, a Jew-hater? Who was really responsible for the repeated beatings he sustained in New York in the '80s? Moreover, although Landis is relentlessly candid about Anger's personality, he views the films with relatively uncritical adulation. Not the definitive biography, but it fills the bill adequately for now.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: HarperCollins