Social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the postponement of life-as-we-know-it. One of the many setbacks is the cancellation of gatherings, such as film festivals. But into this gloom and doom comes one piece of good news. A documentary exploring the life and legacy of Steven Arnold, the groundbreaking, yet under-recognized queer multi-media artist and protege of Salvador Dali will stream for free this weekend (April 10-12).
In a Facebook post, the film’s director Vishnu Dass stated, “Due to multiple film festival cancellations, my film, Steven Arnold: Heavenly Bodies will be streaming for free this weekend on Vimeo! Please check it out. FYI: contains nudity and mature themes.”
The film premiered in 2019 at L.A.’s Outfest, New York’s NewFest, and with Fahey/Klein Gallery at Paris Photo at the Grand Palais in Paris. The documentary was scheduled to continue making the film festival circuit in 2020 until the global pandemic forced the cancellation of many of these fests.
Arnold is best known for his work with film in San Francisco during the 1960s and early 70s and later for his deliriously gorgeous tableaux vivant photographs produced at Zanzibar, his Los Angeles studio, during the 1980s and 1990s.
His feature-length film Luminous Procuress (1970), which starred his muse Pandora and featured the gender-bending San Francisco performance troupe The Cockettes (which at one time included disco god/dess Sylvester) brought Arnold considerable attention as an avant-garde filmmaker, and so impressed Salvador Dali that he invited Arnold to Spain to assist in embellishing and inaugurating his Theatre-Museum Dali. Arnold died from AIDS-related illness in 1994.
Oscar winner Anjelica Huston narrates Steven Arnold: Heavenly Bodies, an exploration of the spectacularly dreamlike world of Arnold and his strikingly creative body of work. Arnold’s photography, filmography, paintings, and illustrations are filled with occult rituals, Hollywood camp, and surrealist whimsy. Taken from more than 70 hours of original and archival footage, director Vishnu Dass digs deeply into the inspiring life of this unheralded multimedia artist and countercultural icon.
Featuring interviews with Ellen Burstyn, Simon Doonan, Holly Woodlawn, and many more, and a sumptuous score from acclaimed composer Jack Curtis Dubowsky, the film paints a remarkable picture of the man behind the reemergence of art nouveau in America.
Click link here to watch the film.