To Kenneth Anger (first letter)

Dear Mr. Anger,
I recently saw a retrospective of your films. I detest them but I also like them. It’s not 1947 or 54 or 62 anymore. Your actors gaze out at me from the screen like retro-active MTV cliches and heroin-chic has-beens. They’re subsumed by today’s Everyperson trying to be Somebody.

Why don’t they evoke the enigmatic unknowableness I associate with Garbo or the Somnambulist? Your subaltern universes and occult communities aren’t Other any longer. I see art students discovering bohemian identities, retirees buying Harleys and hitting the road, urban professionals at another cocaine sex party.

It might’ve been tough staying in the theatre if I wasn’t so fascinated by what’s become of your efforts.
I remind myself of when and under what conditions you made your films. The present keeps overwhelming them. Here are the hordes of the 21rst century — resigned to indulgences, dying alone and insane, pretending to be Gods, Immortals, Devils — anything but meat puppets.
Hell on Earth. Reality TV. The horrible and tedious faux-romanticism and lobotomized surreality of music videos. It all owes you so much despite yourself (starting with the art direction).

Before the advent of perpetual cliche, before deviancy as a lifestyle choice, I think you embraced something authentically taboo and seemingly impossible to acculturate. There is a sensibility — a faith — in revolutionary iconoclasm and an access to liberty through the pursuit of one’s own desires.

This was magic, but unfortunately magic has been reduced, just like your films, to an awkward, hieroglyphic emptiness.