Scorpio Rising (Kenneth Anger / U.S., 1964):

Kenneth Anger's 28-minute masterpiece of blasphemy and rapture, outlaw sensation offered as a series of pop arias throughout Brooklyn garages. "Fools Rush In" -- the gel-head amid biker paraphernalia, concentrated as a monk; the title appears studded on the back of a leatherjacket, the director's name is studded above a snug pair of jeans. Glistening chrome and metallic blues, wind-up dolls in looming close-up, the Grim Reaper watching from the corner ceiling ("My Boyfriend's Back"). Polar extremes collide, tough guys and their zippers, chains, and caps are ornately feminized, Bobby Vinton's "Blue Velvet" is slathered over them -- home-movie footage given Powell's sense of color and edited for drug-like exaltation. Scorpio is a blond James Dean aficionado in shades, reading the funnies in bed while Brando swaggers on the telly; the apartment has cats, banners of skulls and crossbones, a jar of meth into which he dips ("You're the devil in disguise / Oh yes you are"). The Crystals' "He's a Rebel" launches an alternate black-and-white dimension, where Hollywood Jesus and disciples are phantoms of reverence and normalcy looking at a world with no use for them. Anger finds the pagan bash of Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome in the bikers' Halloween party, with merry sodomites donning satanic masks and skull wands in a travesty of Christian illumination ("I see the light, I see the party lights..."). Genitals and caustic mustard figure in us-guys pranks, meanwhile Scorpio sneaks into the dilapidated church next door to piss into a helmet and raise it ecstatically at the altar. Lugosi's Dracula, Mickey Rooney's Puck, Hitler, crimson sirens: "I'm at the point of no return / And for me there'll be no turning back." The whole thing builds to the image of the skull with dangling cig tagged "youth" that bridges the end of "I Will Follow Him" and the unholy cackling that opens "Wipeout." It's about death-wish and idols and cinema's malefic beauty; Scorsese devoured it from beginning to end, Schrader watched it more times than Pickpocket, Anger saw it as "virtually a documentary."

--- Fernando F. Croce

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