Kenneth Anger’s 1950s films Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Rabbit Moon, and Waterworks, are, as Suarez describes in her piece “Pop, Queer, or Fascist,” “more presentational than representational: rather than depict a narrative, they dwell on the process of staging and on precious settings, textures, surfaces, and gestures” (118). Looking at Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp,” these films could easily be considered campy from the descriptions, but do not fall into the category due to their lack of playfulness. The films’ aesthetic attributes inform a loose storyline, but Anger’s later film, Scorpio Rising, it’s quite the opposite, creating a campier avant-garde film. While all of Anger’s work has the “extravagance” Sontag talks about (283), Scorpio is the only one to blatantly comment on pop and mass-culture, becoming readable by a common audience. Camp production-design is extraordinary, but at the same time “of the human world” and recognizable, whereas avant-garde can be so abstract that all sense of origin is obscured. As Einstein said “creativity is intelligence having fun,” it could be the same relationship between avant-garde and camp. The narrative element that guides the film could be what ties the Scorpio to the real world, therefore making it campy. Juxtaposing posters of pop-icons like Marlon Brando and James Dean with film clips of Jesus, the message is obvious to a common viewer because it makes use of the familiar. The soundtrack of pop-earworms generates an irony against the dark visuals contrast the seemingly “simple” with the “abstract.” When camp loses its narrative structure, it’s easier to see it fall more into the realm of avant-garde because it loses its roots being of the human world.
Sontag, Susan. Susan Sontag: Notes On “Camp”. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
Suarez, Juan A. “Pop, Queer, or Fascist?” Experimental Cinema, The Film Reader. London: Routledge, 2002. 115-33. Print.