One of Kenneth Anger’s first works—and the earliest that I can find on DVD; perhaps this is his debut film intended for distribution?—Fireworks marks the beginning of Anger’s exploration into what would become his pet themes: sex, violence, and that which is not allowed (often cult activities), and how they merge together into one single, overwhelming force. Here, Anger dives into homosexual lust and tantalization. Fireworks, which is all a “dream,” opens with approximately five minutes of a young man—played by the then-20-year-old Anger himself—dressing while macabre images surround him: hands with fingers chopped off at the knuckles, etc. The scene then shifts to a topless, muscle-bound teenage boy (about 16-17) flexing his muscles, from his sculpted biceps to his washboard abs, while a salivating Anger (The Dreamer) looks on. The forbidden fruit, however, quickly lives up to his name, as The Dreamer is beaten to a bloody pulp by a gang of uniformed sailors (played by a bunch of Anger’s friends, who were apparently real sailors) in a public bathroom. One might be tempted to interpret this as an indictment of homoerotic thoughts, but the following slow-motion sequence of milk being seductively poured over Anger’s shirtless body says otherwise. Instead, Fireworks is about how breaking the rules can be sexy as fuck. The title stems from one of the film’s final shots, where a firework emerges from one of the sailor’s pants and goes off, but it could just as easily refer to the explosive feeling of rebellion. Phallic symbols abound. At just 15 minutes, Fireworks isn’t life-changing, but it’s a really impressive start for the brilliant-but-crazy Anger, and as of now, one of my favorites of his work.