Jan 29, 2011

Kustom Kar Kommandos



Coming of age, I never could understand the infatuation other guys had for swooning over automobiles. Of course, I loved the freedom and convenience of driving but unlike other guys, I never had the desire to put thousands of dollars into a car that was probably worth less than my CD collection at the time. It has been over a decade now since I originally obtained my license and I still consider putting money into a car to be one of the most worthless investments a person could ever make. In the 3-minute long Kenneth Anger short Kustom Kar Kommandos, we watch as a Nordic Northern American Superman engages in foreplay with his stylistically audacious automobile. Despite my overall repugnance towards car worship, I found the short to be another example of Kenneth Anger's commitment to creating the most striking and sumptuous Mise-en-scène. Also, it does not hurt that the short was shot in 1965, a time when cars seemed to more resemble custom automotive art as opposed to the tacky jalopy four-wheelers that now flood American streets.



The soothing pop song "Dream Lover" by The Paris Sisters is played while the unnamed young man in Kustom Kar Kommandos buffs his shimmering automobile. Kenneth Anger makes the automobile symbolic of the young man's genitals and the revving of the engine acts as a auditory state of arousal. Of course, I am persuaded that Kenneth Anger wishes he was the car in the film so that he could be buffered by the young dream lover. Unlike most other films directed by Kenneth Anger, Kustom Kar Kommandos disguises the director's homoerotic scopophilia by making the car the main subject instead of the young rebel. Irish dandy Oscar Wilde once wrote, "Yet each man kills the thing he loves" but I prefer subscribing to the inverse of that piece of wild exiled wisdom. After all, was it not James Dean's beloved Porsche 550 Spyder that led him into a time-pausing fate of infinite cinematic youth? It is also one of the oldest stories in the world that man has always been willing to risk his life or even lose it to stay in favor of the woman that exploits his heart. Kustom Kar Kommandos ends climatically simply with the young man finally driving off. Upon first viewing the short, I anticipated seeing the young man mutilated in an accident but instead Kenneth Anger leaves the fate of the subject to the viewer's imagination. 


Kustom Kar Kommandos was originally supposed to be a much more ambitious feature-film about young males with car fetishes but Anger's grant money of $10,000.00 from The Ford foundation ran out quite swiftly. It is a depressing thought to realize that revolutionary experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger has never directed a feature-length film. Not since Aryan auteur F.W. Murnau (one of Anger's greatest influences) has there been a director like Kenneth Anger whose Mise-en-scène even strikes the jaundiced eyes of those that see cinema without artistic merit. Kustom Kar Kommandos is just a meager taste of what could have been a cinematic masterpiece yet is still highly notable in the aborted state that it is in. Luckily, the short caught the Sicilian eyes of Martin Scorsese as seen in the various extravagant car scenes featured in Taxi Driver and his various mafia films like Goodfellas. After all, a couple minutes from a Kenneth Anger film usually contains more Occult power and aesthetic magick than your typical Hollywood film director's entire filmography. Anyone can direct a film if they have the monetary advantage to do so but few have the gift of the all-seeing artistic eye and an enchanting organic vision that Kenneth Anger was blessed with. 


-Ty E

2 comments:

A.D. said...

Nice write-up on KKK and one of my favorite directors. It's always great to see Kenneth Anger pop up on the "blogosphere"!

Heather Drain said...

Good write up. I'm a huge Anger fan and while KKK maybe pales next to some of his denser work, its rich colors and eye candy yet appropriately mechanical tone are perfect.