72 hours in André Balazs’ Chateau Marmont
Featuring Kenneth Anger
Photographed and filmed by Floria Sigismondi
Gucci means a lot of things to a lot of different people.
That’s the point. After all, few mainstream fashion houses would knowingly associate themselves with an array of people, places and cultural influences as mind-bogglingly diverse as Albert Einstein, Agnès Varda, Antonio Lopez, Antica Spezieria di Santa Maria della Scala, Antoinette Poisson, and A$AP Rocky reading Jane Austen. And that’s just the ‘A’s.
Throw Gucci at it, and it sticks. It’s diversity as a metaphor for our times.
In May, after Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele had presented the house’s Cruise 2019 collection in the south of France, System was left thinking just one thing. Or rather, one person. From the show venue
(a necropolis in Arles), the looming fog, the dancing flames and the vistas of tombs, to the pan-cultural cast of young, beautiful things, each seemingly plucked from the scenes of some psychedelic avant-garde short film… the entire event screamed Kenneth Anger.
Kenneth Anger: the godfather of American experimental cinema; the author of the salacious and gossip-ridden Hollywood Babylon (which the New York Times once called ‘a delicious box of poisoned bonbons’); the keen occultist and black magician obsessed with the writings of Aleister Crowley; the Hollywood child actor who spent his 20s hobnobbing across Europe with the likes of Cocteau, Truffaut, Godard, Anaïs Nin and John Paul Getty II; the sometime friend, confidant and nemesis of rock’n’roll royalty such as Marianne Faithfull, Jimmy Page and the Rolling Stones (‘Sympathy for the Devil’, it’s often been claimed, was inspired by him); the artist whose kaleidoscopic works grace the walls of galleries the world over, inspiring contemporary darlings Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney and Alex Israel; the influential filmmaker who, in his seminal 1964 short Scorpio Rising, accompanied the dialogue-free collage of fast-paced, jump- cut imagery with a pop-music soundtrack, decades before it became a hugely profitable marketing device called MTV; and the creative renegade who has influenced the aesthetics of David Lynch, Gus Van Sant, Martin Scorsese and Harmony Korine.
It all seemed to reside within the spirits of that Gucci collection.
A collection that also included a range of garments featuring the words ‘Chateau Marmont, Hollywood.’ emblazoned beneath a satirical emblem of Pan, the lecherous half-man, half-goat Greek god, chaser of nymphs, symbol of lust and sexuality, and companion of Dionysus the God of wine. Chateau Marmont, the hotel where Hollywood’s scandal, glamour and misbehaviour has always come to life – Anger’s Hollywood Babylon under one roof. Which led us the heady plan that now fills the following pages: Kenneth Anger himself, wearing Gucci’s Cruise 2019 collection, in the legendary hotel. Alessandro Michele was immediately enthusiastic (‘For me, Kenneth Anger is more than a myth’). Photographer and filmmaker Floria Sigismondi described it as a killer collaboration. And André Balazs, the Chateau Marmont’s owner, offered us the proverbial keys to the castle.
Which left one small task. Tracking down and persuading Kenneth Anger – now 91 years of age; a man with the word LUCIFER tattooed across his chest, and a prickly reputation for placing evil hexes on adversaries, including members of the press – to participate.
We needn’t have worried. Mr. Anger is unfalteringly polite, charming and in rude health – with a day-to-day existence that one can only summarize as ‘avant-garde’. It was the idea of ‘mythologizing bohemia’ – something that today both Gucci and the Chateau Marmont have played more than a hand in – that we also wanted to bring to life in the following pages. Because in an increasingly corporate, homogenized world, Kenneth Anger is perhaps the last true bohemian.
Consider him a new member of Gucci’s ‘A list’.