On Kenneth Anger’s ‘Fireworks’ (1947)

Ars Osterweil at Artforum:

Germany Year Zero is the closest that Italian Neorealism came to reckoning with the psychic life of children. Made at the same time, Fireworks meditates on the generative possibilities of psychic and sexual shattering. In so many ways, Fireworks anticipates the explosion of the queer underground cinema that blossomed in the United States in the ’60s and in which Anger’s later film Scorpio Rising (1963) played a central role. Yet Fireworks is also a product of its own “queer time and place.”

In a famous quip, Anger described Fireworks as all he had “to say about being 17, The United States Navy, American Christmas and The Fourth of July.” When the film begins, we see his body draped, pietà-like, in a sailor’s arms. The film cuts to a close-up of Anger’s face as he sleeps, followed by shots of his nude torso, hands, and what appears to be a massive erection, but which turns out, in Eisensteinian fashion, to be a phallic African totem. A plaster cast of a hand with missing fingers inaugurates the film’s fascination with besieged corporeality. As in most dream narratives, we suspect that the dreamer has merely imagined himself in the sailor’s arms.

more here.