Puce Moment (Kenneth Anger, 1949, USA)

Puce Moment is an early short from director Kenneth Anger. The film was shot in 1949 and then re-released in 1970 with a new soundtrack. The original soundtrack, from a Verdi opera, was replaced with psychedelic rock performed by Jonathan Halper, which sounds like Syd Barrett. The film was shot in the home of Samson De Brier, a silent film actor, and occultist who would later appear in Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954). The film stars Yvonne Marquis, a dead-ringer for Isabella Rossellini in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. Marquis was Anger's cousin, and supposedly was a mistress to Lazaro Cardenas, the former President of Mexico.

The film is some kind of tribute from Anger to old Hollywood, a scene that he grew up in. The film opens with a series of 1920s dresses, that appear in front of the camera and then are danced off one by one. The dresses belonged to Kenneth Anger's grandmother. We then are shown Marquis in a dark green gown, lounging, and applying perfume to herself. She lays for a bit in a chaise longue and then takes some Borzoi's out for a week. In contrast to some of Anger's more explosive and occultic work, Puce Moment is much more relaxing.


What is remarkable about Puce Moment is that despite being made in 1949, it feels like it could have been made yesterday. While a minor work in Anger's overall filmography, the film already displays the director's oneiric style and obsession with color. There is a trance and dreamlike quality to the film that permeates. One could view the film as an exploration of campiness, but also as an ode to a bygone and mystical era of Hollywood's past. Either way, Puce Moment is a worthwhile watch for fans of avant-garde cinema and Kenneth Anger. 


7/10

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