The Man We Want to Hang (Kenneth Anger, 2002, USA)

The Man We Want to Hang is a later stage Kenneth Anger short, coming after a nearly 20-year gap in his filmography with the conclusion of Lucifer Rising in 1980. The film is an exploration of a gallery showing Aleister Crowley's paintings in London in 1998. The film takes a simple approach, zooming in on various paintings without explanation. Occasionally the camera will zoom in on a painting. The music used is performed by Anatol Liadov, a Russian composer who worked in the early 20th century and late 19th century. The film is quite brief, running around 10 minutes. 

The film tries to replicate the experience of walking around a gallery and does so successfully to the point that it can. In some ways, the film is a pure vanity project - it was authorized by the occult society Ordo Templis Orientis. On the other hand, there is some kind of self-reflexive exercise going on within the film. It is not clear how much of Anger's curation is going on, versus the curation of the gallery. It is clear that the paintings have been chosen for a specific reason, and Anger often focuses on specific aspects of paintings. 


We here were not aware of Aleister Crowley's paintings before watching this film. Crowley was an unpleasant person, but his artworks are interesting. Some of them are not disturbing at all, and are quite pretty to look at. There are landscapes. While some are very spooky and what you would expect from Crowley, others focus on preoccupations that you think would come from Crowley - such as phallic symbols. Overall, we've come away from Crowley's art more impressed than we expected it to be. Of all the contributions Crowley made, his artwork was probably one of the best. I would like to see more of his artwork.


6/10

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