The only feature film by artist, mystic and polymath Steven Arnold, Luminous Procuress is a mind-and-gender-bending odyssey of unabashed hedonism. A celebration of otherness, pan-sexuality and the exotic, the film is an anarchic vision of a sexual utopia where gender is abstract and liberation is absolute.
Luminous Procuress was an underground sensation upon release, but was feared lost for many years and vanished almost entirely from the avant-garde canon. Now fully restored in all its sensuous Kodachrome glory, the film is ready to be discovered anew.
Salvador Dalí considered Luminous Procuress “a work of genius” and he referred to Steven Arnold as his “prince”. Dalí held an elaborate screening of the film at the grand Versailles ballroom of the St. Regis Hotel in New York, one of his ‘Factory’ locations where he held court. He invited numerous luminaries of New York’s artistic society, including Andy Warhol, who also praised the film’s genius and dizzying glamour.
Featuring beat poet Ruth Weiss and the famed San Francisco drag troupe The Cockettes, Luminous Procuress begins when two wandering youths visit the modernist mansion of the mysterious Procuress – played by Arnold’s muse, model and childhood friend Pandora – and are drawn into the sensuality of her spellbinding kingdom with a magical potion.
The score by the electronic music composer Warner Jepson largely obliterates the sparse dialogue. From romantic interludes to spacey drones, acoustic and melodic compositions play off a more hard-edged series of early Buchla synthesizer works.
Luminous Procuress has been compared to Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (1963), Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954), Fellini’s Satyricon (1969) or James Bidgood’s Pink Narcissus (1971), and anticipates the cinema of Ken Russell. When asked at the film’s premiere if he was influenced by Jean Cocteau, Arnold unequivocally replied: “I am Cocteau!”
Luminous Procuress will be preceded by Jerovi, a key work of queer and Latino New York underground cinema. Though somewhat eclipsed by contemporaries Andy Warhol, Jack Smith and Kenneth Anger, Puerto Rican-born José Rodriguez-Soltero (1943−2009) can claim the mantle as one of the foremost figures in New York City’s mid-‘60s underground filmmaking scene. Just as Luminous Procuress, Jerovi was entirely shot in San Francisco – in this case not in a former industrial laundry building in the Mission District but at the Golden Gate Park. Rodriguez-Soltero attended classes there at San Francisco State University. He described the film as his “sexual probe of the Narcissus myth.” A boldly erotic, dreamlike portrait of Jeroví Sansón Carrasco, who also commissioned and financed the film, Jerovi offers a Narcissus for the 1960s period of sexual revolution, marking a significant shift from the introspective and psychoanalytic use of narcissism by previous queer experimental filmmakers, such as Jean Cocteau or Curtis Harrington. Even within a seemingly liberated cultural landscape, to depict a body engaging in self-love, notably a person of color’s body willingly self-subjectifying, was a groundbreaking act. As a jury member at the Ann Arbor festival, filmmaker Gregory Markopoulos waged a succesful battle for the public showing of this “masturbation film”. The beautiful male subject clothed at first in rich brocade, but later nude, is photographed lingeringly in a lush garden. Shot on super-saturated Kodachrome II and revelling in nature and adoration of the flesh, Jerovi is a singular, seductive vision and was cited by Jonas Mekas as one best films of the year.
〉 Pristine 16mm preservation & restoration print of Luminous Procuress from Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) shown for the first time in Europe!
〉 Print Jerovi: The Film-Makers’ Cooperative New York
〉 Contains explicit sexual content
〉 Program: Cis Bierinckx