Now Playing! The Return of Steven Arnold’s Queer Hippie Epic

Scene from Steven Arnold's 'Luminous Procuress,' 1971. (Courtesy of BAMPFA)

Freedom and liberation, self-expression and experimentation -- the cri de coeur of the late '60s and early '70s -- inevitably led to flamboyant examples of excess. Whether such indulgences should be celebrated or mocked by our soberer selves is perhaps not a terribly interesting question, especially when one is presented with the late filmmaker Steven Arnold’s 1971 magnum opus, Luminous Procuress. Baroque, bizarre and dizzyingly creative, Arnold’s only feature film is clearly of its time and, like a magic dream, outside of time.

Scene from Steven Arnold's 'Luminous Procuress,' 1971.
Scene from Steven Arnold's 'Luminous Procuress,' 1971. (Courtesy of BAMPFA)

Produced in a warehouse on 17th Street closer to the Mission than to the Castro, Luminous Procuress imagines a pair of hippies under the spell of -- ah, could it be a drug? -- who embark on an explicitly carnal and ultimately spiritual journey in a mysterious mansion. They encounter a variety of trippy tour guides, such as the Cockettes and poet ruth weiss, en route to their ascension to a higher plane of consciousness.

Newly restored thanks to the efforts of the venue's former curator Steve Seid, the 16mm film premieres Friday, April 21, at BAMPFA in conjunction with the Hippie Modernism exhibit. Original Cockette Rumi Missabu, weiss, Tsvi Strauch, Vishnu Dass and Seid take the stage after the screening to discuss Steven Arnold’s legacy, gender-bending performance and, quite possibly, the dismaying de-emphasis of glitter and sequins in contemporary film and theater. More details and tickets here.

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