Julian Schnabel Shows the Anger

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Published May 20, 2010

PHOTOS BY STEVEN B EKEROVICH/SBE PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

Kenneth Anger sees the perversity in things—Mickey Mouse, he insists, is a demonic figure—but the now 82-year-old filmmaker always found the beauty in perversity, too. On top of the subversive but stylized homoeroticism and the fascination with the occult, Anger is a stylistic and technical innovator—his surreal way of cutting moving image in sync to pop music, if you want to get get into it, laid the foundation for the music video. Without Anger, there’s no MTV. And—could you imagine?—no Gaga.

Anger was duly honored last year at Anthology Film Archive’s 40th anniversary benefit at Hiro Ballroom in New York’s Meatpacking, and he honored the crowd with a performance by Technicolor Skull, the artist’s musical duo with Brian Butler. The seemingly by-chance monotone  sounded like the score to a Merce Cunningham piece and, to be perfectly honest, wasn’t exactly the crowd favorite, sheer devotion aside. After warming up with Now We Are Here and Jihae (who was great), there were the two de riguer bands for the art world, the Virgins and Sonic Youth, plus Moby, who provided the electronic interlude before Lou Reed took the stage. What is there to say about Lou Reed that hasn’t been said a thousand times? He’s Lou Reed. The man who made that great documentary of Lou Reed last year, by the way, grabbed the mic in between the Virgins and Sonic Youth’s sets. Turning to face the unseated masses up on the mezzanine—mostly those who could not afford to buy a benefit table down on the floor—Julian Schnabel delivered the night’s PSA. “You’re being fucking disrespectful,” he said. “And it’s a real drag.”

 

Someone booed—I don’t think he understood who he was booing, exactly—and someone else, likewise uninformed, yelled, “There’s a caste system here, asshole!” All of which seemed tone-deaf to the spirit of the night. As always, however undiplomatically put, Schnabel had a point. No one was listening to the emcee’s requests to support Anthology, which, in fact, was a drag. Anthology is one of those things in New York we take for granted until one day we find it’s no longer there. The brainchild of an iconic filmmaker himself, Jonas Mekas, “the godfather of avant-garde cinema” (who is still its artistic director after 40 years), Anthology promotes the city’s new and student filmmakers and give them a place and a historical context in which to show their movies—when no else would. And they help preserve and renew the legacy of the unheralded and worthwhile and sometimes difficult filmmakers by putting on screenings of their classic and new works on 50-foot movie screens—when no one would. Anger, who has expressed satisfaction that his films that are on YouTube are always crashing, would not be so accessible without Anthology. For those on the mezzanine who felt aggrieved because they had no good view of the stage, the emcee had a vigorous rallying cry: “If you cannot see upstairs, you can hear!” he shouted. “This is about vision and sound!”