The only feature film of photographer, designer, and Salvador Dalí protégé Steven Arnold, Luminous Procuress is that rarest of endeavors—a lavishly appointed queer underground epic that was tipped as a potential crossover hit by investors besotted with the softcore success of I Am Curious, Yellow. The cosmic aspirations of this wide-eyed hippie bacchanal are in no way diminished by the fact that it was shot in an abandoned industrial laundry works in San Francisco’s Mission District. As two shaggy-haired simpletons are initiated by the mysterious Procuress, we are guided through a series of sparkling, Kodachrome tableaux of frank couplings, backed by Warner Jepson’s soupy synth score. The Cockettes, the renowned drag troupe that got its start at Arnold’s midnight movie seances, are on hand to provide color commentary. Luminous Procuress premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival, played Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, and received a run at the Whitney before vanishing almost entirely from the avant-garde canon. Newly restored by Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive and the Walker Art Center, Luminous Procuress returns to us, per J. Hoberman, as a singular “blend of art nouveau stylization, occult rituals, Hollywood camp, and rampant orientalism.”
(Steven Arnold, USA, 1971, 75 min., 16mm from Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive)
Co-presented by the Chicago Film Society.