two narcissi starring into a pool of metallic paint
by Douglas Messerli
Kenneth Anger (director) Kustom Kar Kommandos / 1965
Kenneth Anger’s 3.23 minute short from 1965, Kustom Kar Kommandos, is "camp" personified. Against the perfectly pink backdrop two handsome early 60s greasers, one in baby-blue jeans and shirt, the other all in white, lean over a custom-made car, starring into its glaringly shining surface and glistening engine parts as if, like two Narcissi, they were studying the beauty of their own faces more than the gears and pistons of the awesome machine before them.
Anger here is obviously carrying the metaphor of the American automobile being an extension of its owner’s cock to the limits. In his forward leaning and bending ministrations, the languid act accompanied by the 1955 hit song “Dream Lover,” sung by The Paris Sisters—
A dream lover will come my way
A boy to hold in my arms
And know the magic of his charms
Because I want a boy to call my own
I want a dream lover
So I don't have to dream alone—
might as well be a straight-forward act of masturbation, even if we know that nothing at all is “straight” about our denim-jeaned hero. The young mechanical genius peers into the row of small,
As if finally ready to submit he cautiously sits down in the driver’s seat, the camera following his extended legs and crotch with homoerotic pleasure as he jingles his lover’s gears in anticipation before the engine comes to growling roar and the film’s end.
The Ford Foundation granted Anger $10,000 for the production of this film. But obviously he spent so much on the Kar and the technicolor lighting that he only had enough left for 3 minutes of what was to have been a feature-length film focusing on the role of cars as fetish objects among young American males. Yet, I can’t imagine that anything more might have been said, unless the boy in white were brought back just in time for two to embark upon a road trip.
Los Angeles, March 6, 2021
Reprinted from My Queer Cinema blog and World Cinema Review (March 2021).