Ira Cohen; The Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda DVD
” Ira Cohen’s fantasia from 1968 is one of the classics of psychedelic cinema, a Kenneth Anger-like delirium that makes great use of Cohen’s obsession with Mylar distortions. Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is the model here, with a cast of revellers adopting various guises; Cohen himself appears as The Majoon Traveler and Death. The long version of the film at YouTube is the expanded edition that Arthur magazine released in 2006. Unfortunately the original score by Angus MacLise has been replaced by something that’s even more annoying that the jokey music for NY, NY. I’d recommend finding a suitably trippy substitute.” — John Couthart
“IT took 38 years, but Ira Cohen’s cult film, “The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda,” which was first screened in 1968 at the high point of the psychedelic hippie head rush, is now commercially available. Given the close calls, the long absences and his chaotic archival system, Mr. Cohen, 71, is a little surprised himself.
“It didn’t really involve patience,” he said in his apartment on West 106th Street in Manhattan, surrounded by books stacked waist high. “It was just reality.”
In 1961 Mr. Cohen built a room in his New York loft lined with large panels of Mylar plastic, a sort of bendable mirror that causes images to crackle and swirl in hypnotic, sometimes beautiful patterns. After a few years experimenting with the technique in photographs, he invited his friends from the downtown scene — like Beverly Grant, Vali Myers and Tony Conrad — to make a film.
The finished product sets languid images of opium smokers (in fantastic makeup and costumes) against a droning, chanting, tabla-beating soundtrack by Angus MacLise, the original drummer of the Velvet Underground. Xavier Garcia Bardon, film curator at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, said the film is an important artifact of the era.
“It’s like going on an ecstatic journey to another planet, full of magical beings, animals and plants,” he said. “It’s a hallucinatory, almost trance-inducing experience.”
Continue reading the main story; at The New York Times\
Mint, sealed copy as issued in 2006