Kenneth Anger didn’t like Nigel Finch’s documentary on Hollywood Babylon. He thought Finch’s film ended up more about Finch than it did about Anger. It was like a test run for making a movie, which of course Finch went on to make. Anger told me this while we waited in my room, at the Standard Hotel, West Hollywood, Fall 2004. I was about to interview Kenneth for a documentary, and while we chatted, waiting for the crew to set-up, he tore stories out of tabloid newspapers to send to the Kinsey Institute, and I smoked on the balcony, watching the shimmer of eucalyptus trees in the late morning breeze.
When it was time for the interview, we walked along the orange-carpeted corridor only to be stopped by another film crew who were making a movie. At a half-corridor stood George Clooney and Brad Pitt, filming a scene for Ocean’s Twelve. Both looked smaller, their heads somehow bigger. They must have kept their magic for the camera, for it seemed that neither had the presence or, looked as grand a star as Kenneth Anger, who stood half in shadow, quietly waiting by the AD.
Nigel Finch’s ambitious documentary uses Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon as its keystone to build a film about Anger’s life, his movies, his interest in Hollywood and its stars’ scandalous lives. But what is evident amongst all this is that Anger is too big a genius, too complex a character to be fitted in between dramatic reconstructions of Fatty Arbuckle, and tales of Hollywood death and disaster. Though there are some excellent moments, the documentary teases the viewer, leaving an unfulfilled desire to know more about the great Magus of Cinema. Still, it’s worth the price of admission, if only to catch Kenneth Anger on film.