Kenneth Anger grew up in the '30s and '40s in glorious Southern California, a rare boy for whom the toxic proximity of the Dream Factory overshadowed the sun and sea. A child actor in studio productions, Anger turned to directing 16mm dress-up movies with kids from the 'hood (cutting a trail eventually followed by the Kuchar brothers and John Waters, among others). Barely out of his teens, he caused an underground sensation with Fireworks (1947), a 15-minute cavalcade of sadomasochistic images and homoerotic allusions that found a warmer reception in Europe. So Anger moved to Paris, where he penned the compulsively readable Hollywood Babylon in 1959, a still-in-print history of screen-god debauchery and suicide laced with arch innuendo and side-splitting slander. With postwar American movies and music infecting the globe, Anger returned to the States to make Scorpio Rising (1963), a groundbreaking sendup of American myth, machismo, and marketing, featuring a leather-clad biker gang and pseudoromantic AM radio hits like Blue Velvet. Kenneth Anger: Restored Prints revisits these touchstones of avant-garde cinema whose once-shocking techniques were long ago co-opted by mainstream movies, commercials, and music videos with affectionate but not defanged nostalgia.
Thu., Dec. 17, 7 p.m., 2009