Scorpio Rising

Scorpio Rising ★★★★

Leather, studs, meth and Nazi paraphernalia abound in Scorpio Rising, which works both as a fetishistic gay fantasia and a jukebox musical of sorts, with a ‘60s pop soundtrack that runs the gamut from Bobby Vinton to Kris Jensen. Anger gleefully makes blasphemous connections to these intensely homoerotic bikers, including intercutting their leader desecrating an abandoned church with footage from an old Sunday school film about Christ’s life. The heretical act is counterpoised with the notion of the idealized hero, bringing into focus the rise of a new order of counterculture leaders that wish to overthrow the status quo that has preceded them. In other contexts they would be figured dangerously, but here their oppressive regalia and iconography is subverted by Anger’s queer interpolations: the sunny soundtrack that underscores their macho acts, of course, but also the intense way he sexualizes these men, until he brings us to a party scene wherein they enact all the queer fantasies that have broiled inside them. The line frequently drawn between tough-guy masculinity and homosexuality is erased, and we see that even the most imposing figures of this hegemonic strain are capable of performative acts, hiding behind threatening totems so as to forgo the difficult process of contending with their conflicting sexual identities. Anger casts them as the lost souls of their generation, forever undermined by their misplaced priorities, rebelling and rabble-rousing without first addressing their cognitive dissonance.

It’s an evocative and often-thrilling twenty-eight minutes that ends with Anger filming a biker wipe-out during a race and kill himself. Listening to his commentary afterwards, I have to admire his conviction in using the footage anyway because he didn’t know how else to end this. I can imagine him watching the accident unfold, shrug his shoulders and say to himself, “Sure, I could use that.”

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