Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising is as much a ritual as it is a document of the counterculture of the mid 60s in California. He was influenced by — as always — Aleister Crowley and his poem “Hymn to Lucifer.”
nor of good nor ill, what aim hath act?
Without its climax, death, what
paces an inane and pointless path
To glut brute appetites, his sole
How tedious were he fit to comprehend
Himself! More, this
our noble element
Of fire in nature, love in spirit, unkenned
Life hath no
spring, no axle, and no end.
His body a bloody-ruby radiant
Swept through the dawn colossal, swift aslant
On Eden’s imbecile
He blessed nonentity with every curse
And spiced with
sorrow the dull soul of sense,
Breathed life into the sterile universe,
With Love and Knowledge drove out innocence
The Key of Joy is disobedience.
Crowley referred to life as a near-boring machine that must be enlivened by the Lucifer the lightbringer, not a devil, but a near-mythic hero that represents the spirit of art and inspiration.
Anger began to search for a young man who could personify Lucifer for his planned film and seemed to find him in 1966 in the form of a musician named Bobby Beausoleil, who has said: “Before we really got into a discussion of what Lucifer Rising was to be about Kenneth showed me his films. I had heard of Scorpio Rising, but I hadn’t seen any of his films. The idea for Lucifer was to be the antithesis of Scorpio, which was kind of a death-image type of thing. The concept was that I would be representing the coming of the new age. In a mythological sense, we have come through matriarchy, we have come through the mother goddess. We have come to patriarchy where the goddess is male. And the Aquarian Age is supposed to represent the age of the child. This was the character I was supposed to play.”
Beausoleil served as Anger’s chauffeur but as Beausoleil was strictly heterosexual — opposite of Anger — there would be growing resentment and bad blood, as instead of a personal relationship their friendship was more business. For starring in the film and be allowed to score the movie with his band Magick Powerhouse of Oz, Beausoleil would not be paid but could live in Anger’s home for free.
Anger talked about the film more than he made it, according to the actor, but he was also making private films for collectors and also Invocation of My Demon Brother, which also features Beausoleil. After a September 1967 Equinox of the Gods didn’t go to plan, Beausoleil left Anger’s home. Anger then placed an ad in the Village Voice in which he declared his own death — IN MEMORIAM. KENNETH ANGER. FILMMAKER 1947–1967 — before burning several of his films.
Leaving for London in 1968, Anger came into the orbit of John Paul Getty Jr. — who would be a key patron of his art — and the Rolling Stones, whose Mick Jagger would score Invocation of My Demon Brother. After an attempt to make. Crowley biopic, he came back to Lucifer Rising and cast Chris Jagger as Lucifer, Performance director Donald Cammell as Osiris, Marianne Faithfull as Lilith and her brother Chris and the Rolling Stones’ personal photographer Michael Cooper signed on to help, with fashion designer Laura Jameson designing the costumes.
Eight minutes were filmed in Anger’s apartment with directors Cammell Dennis Hopper and Alejandro Jodorowsky in attendance before scenes were lensed in Germany and Egypt, then firing Chris Jagger.
Then the film stalled again.
Jimmy Page and Crowley became friends briefly and he nearly scored the film before Anger got into an argument with Page’s wife Charlotte, who threw him out of their London home.
Bobby Beausoleil had joined a whole different group, the family of Charles Manson. After kidnapping Gary Hinman and cutting off his ear before eventually murdering him set up to look like black revolutionaries did it. In 1970, a Superior Court jury in Los Angeles found the 22-year-old Beausoleil guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death, mostly due to the testimony of his pregnant girlfriend Kathryn “Kitty” Lutesinger.
By 1979, he wrote Anger from prison and all was forgiven. With help from a prison teacher, Beausoleil received musical instruments and recording equipment, formed the Freedom Orchestra and recorded a 44-minute soundtrack. As for the Page soundtrack, it was released in 2012 as Lucifer Rising and Other Sound Tracks and is also on the Sound Tracks box set.
This is Anger’s last work and the purest surrealism that I feel he’d create. Sure, the origins are rough, it took a long time to make and it caused no small manner of mental anguish — Faithful taking tons of drugs with her to Egypt nearly got everyone jailed — but the results are true art. And that UFO? A real one buzzed the crew and no one could film it in time and it needed to be recreated.
Also: the best satin jacket ever made.