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Kenneth Anger makes Fireworks, Hollywood

"In FIREWORKS I released all the explosive pyrotechnics of a dream. Inflammable desires dampened by day under the cold water of consciousness are ignited that night by the libertarian matches of sleep and burst forth in showers of shimmering incandescence. These imaginary displays provide a temporary release. A dissatisfied dreamer awakes, goes out in the night seeking a 'light' and is drawn through the needle's eye. A dream of a dream, he returns to a bed less empty than before." Kenneth Anger

Kenneth Anger's debut film Fireworks is one of the most important avant-garde films of post-war American underground cinema.

Aged just 17, Anger made the short film on a weekend when his parents went away. In the film Anger plays a dreamer journeying through his unconscious, who has a series of encounters, both violent and sexual, with men in homoerotic sailor suits. Inspiration for the film's title can be seen in the display of rather overt sparklers that protrude from one of the sailor's trousers and also in Anger's interest in the aesthetics of light itself, its technical ability to enhance mood, as well as its metaphorical resonance.

With its 'trance film' structure and rococo set design, Anger appears to have been influenced by both Maya Deren and Jean Cocteau, while in turn, the subversion of American culture and satirical view of social institution seen in Fireworks can be felt in the work of Derek Jarman and David Lynch.

Lara Thompson

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Still from Fireworks

Courtesy of Pip Chodorov
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