A 20-minute, blue-tinged home movie, reveries within reveries, and the inauguration of Kenneth Anger’s private mythology. Jean Cocteau must have swooned from the first image, a sailor cradling a battered body to a receding camera while thunder rumbles somewhere in the distance -- cut to beefcake in close-up, the naked torso of pimply, 17-year-old Anger tossing in bed, an object d’art under the sheets evoking a mock-erection. The director’s yearning for unattainable beauty is already in place, and the young upstart, unbuttoned jeans and all, goes cruisin’ into the nocturnal darkness of the unconscious, stopping by a flat, painted-on barroom background to ask a weightlifter flexing his pecs for a light. The intimate longings of a youngster, queer, former child-star and magick enthusiast, playing with a camera while mom and dad are away for the weekend: the personal trip of a budding maverick bent on fashioning an Un Chien Andalou or Le Sang d’un Poète out of moist fantasies. Nothing if not aware of his own place in underground-film history, he enacts his masochistic death and artistic rebirth for posterity -- cigarette lit with a burning branch, Anger turns to meet a bunch of uniformed Navy thugs looming with chains. Fingers bloodily jammed into nostrils, guts ripped apart to reveal a literal ticker, and pulping on the tiled lavatory floor, before milk washes away the gore and an exploding Roman candle sprouts from the sailor’s crotch. The flaming tip of a X-mas tree signals agony toward ecstasy and a "bed less empty than before," the self-fondling violence and rapture of being "different" in America during the '40s, all caught in melding, transfixing rhythms. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce