Eaux d'artifice (Kenneth Anger, 1953, USA)

Eaux d'artifice is a 12-minute short from director Kenneth Anger, made in 1953. The film was made during Anger's extended time in Europe during the 1950s. The film consists entirely of a woman in eighteenth-century clothes wandering through the fountains of Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy. Anger used a little actress he had met through Fellini for the main character, to heighten the sense of the scale of the setting. The film includes several shorts of the woman walking up and downstairs, intercut with the water of the fountains. The water of the fountains takes up much of the film, giving an abstract quality. Eaux d'artifice is one of Anger's works that has been preserved by the US Library of Congress.

Eaux d'artifice is unique among Anger's work in that - on the surface - it does not appear to have any of his usual interests of homoeroticism or occultism. The film is just a pure visual spectacle, and shows some of Anger's technical expertise; the chiaroscuro visuals are a true pleasure to behold. This coupled with the film's hand-tinting (there is a slightly bluish aura to the whole film), as well as the use of music (Vivaldi's "Four Seasons") creates a hypnotic experience.

That being said, you cannot help but view the water here as something sensual and related to the human experience. Anger has a real fixation on the water and its movements, and he captures it beautifully. The film is also noteworthy for showcasing footage of the Garden of Monsters in Lazio, Italy. This garden was created in the 16th century and was created in the mannerist style. One particular aspect Anger focuses on is the Orcus mouth. Orcus is the god of the underworld in Etruscan and Roman mythology, suggesting perhaps there is more to this film than meets the eye.




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