“Kustom Kar Kommandos” as a Representation of America
“Kustom Kar Kommandos” by Kenneth Anger is a simple short film with an underlying complexity that serves as a social commentary of 1960’s america. The film observes a young male clean and appreciate his glistening automobile as the camera creatively exemplifies details of the car that make it beautiful. I believe this piece represents america in a few ways.
Firstly, it completely captures the attitude of a young american teen with his shiny car. The cars of the 60’s serve as timeless emblems of the time period which shows how art can provide context to a culture at a certain point in time. A man’s car was his pride, his baby, his everything, and the care and attention exhibited by the young character of the piece toward his car embodies this belief. It is common to hear that men see their cars not as objects but living entities that compliment their life. This can be seen in a frame where the character is in his seat but the shot is framed to show negative space which is commonly used in cinema to suggest there is something else there. The car’s seat and headrest occupy this space insinuating that the car itself is another character completely. Some could say, these men take this relationship between them and their car too far which is exaggerated in this piece which contains sexual undertones.
The way the character cleans and interacts with the car resembles the gentle touch of one lover to the other. Additionally, the camera movement further progresses this insinuation. The camera dollies in and out and and focuses on certain aspects which make it seem like the audience is perhaps climbing into bed with the subject on screen. Adding to that, the song being played is “Dream Lover” performed by The Paris Sisters which contains lines such as “I want a girl to call my own, so I don’t have to dream alone.” This line clearly shows how there is a connection between the man and his car as two lovers. There are certain moments where the car itself resembles human parts of sensitivity. Some might say that the engine resembles a woman’s breasts at one point or the fact that the seats look like a woman’s reproductive organs. These implicit messages place the audience in a certain state of mind which is beneficial to sales, similar to how the first Coca-Cola bottles resembled a female’s figure. Perhaps that is why Ford Motors agreed to fund this film with $10,000.
However, some people may interpret these sexual suggestions as homosexual love. The color pink is prevalent throughout the piece which is considered to be a feminine color in most cultures. Also, it would be unlikely that a greaser type of the time period would clean his car with pink fluff. This feminine-like accessory further proves this notion.
As aforementioned, this piece serves as a social commentary because the 60’s were notable in history for the movements concerning gay rights. Perhaps Anger was suggesting that a man loving another man was just as normal or even more normal than a man loving his car. I believe Kenneth Anger’s “Kustom Kar Kommandos” can be seen as a representation of America in the 60’s and I believe Kenneth Anger critiqued by creating.