Shown in 1971
COMMENTSSteven Arnold in person as part of the New Directors series.
The creation of a personal dream-world in cinematic terms seems to have been the aim of film maker Steven Arnold. Mr. Arnold studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and received an M.S. in Filmmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1970. His short films have all been beautiful, visual experiments in color and mysterious settings where mythological creatures are given a celluloid life of their own. Mr. Arnold’s medium-length film, Messages, Messages, attracted a great deal of critical attention when it was shown during the New Directors section of the Cannes Film Festival, and it was linked by the French critics to the fanciful, cinema reveries of Cocteau or Fellini. If Steven Arnold admires the work of these filmmakers, his work does not imitate them, and his first feature, Luminous Procuress is an altogether extraordinary, individualistic phantasmagoria. It was filmed entirely in San Francisco over a two-year period, and describes the adventures of two wandering youths in San Francisco who visit the home of a mysterious woman, the Procuress. She is an elegant emblem of sorcery, her vivid features glowing under bizarre, striking maquillage, and one is not certain who she is or where she intends to lead the protagonists. Although the language she speaks is vaguely Russian, it appears that the Procuress has psychic powers. She discerns a sympathetic response to her on the part of the youths, and by magical means, conducts them through fantastic rooms, on a psychic journey. Through strange passageways, one voyages with the Procuress and her charges, glimpsing hidden nightmares and panoplied chambers of revelry, where celebrants, ornately festooned, dance and make love before unseen gods. The youths are soon drawn into the sensuality of the Procuress’ spellbound kingdom, and one is reminded of the sorceress-neighbor to Guilietta in Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits. Only here, in Arnold’s film, the spectator is a willing participant in some unspeakably attractive but menacing ecstasy. The sexes become androgynous and one remains entranced by the wonder of such a film as Luminous Procuress.