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Formal Analysis – Kustom Kar Kommandos – The Gaze

Kustom Kar Kommando



Kustom Kar Kommandos was a short clip made by Kenneth Anger with the hopes of raising money for his other movies. The three minute clip was originally supposed to be used in a series of eight, thirty minute movies about jocks or hot-rods (as some critics call them) fromCaliforniathat were obsessed with cars. At first glance this movie may seem awkward, to a male member of the audience such as myself. It portrays a man in tight, light blue pants that continuously caresses his car with a fur ball. It seems that there are hardly any elements of theHollywood”male gaze”, but actually incorporate more elements of the less popularized “female game”.


The “male gaze” is characterized by the objectification of women, and in Kustom Kar Kommandos there is a lack of feminine characters. It can be argued that the man in this video has female characteristics and they can be explained by the historical background that surrounded the era that this video was made in. The age of the “flower children” that hitAmericaduring the late 60’s into the early 70’s explains the attitude that both men and women adapted in regard to being open to the opposite genders’ clothing and behavior. For example, many men grew long hair and dressed in colorful clothing that today would be laughed at if wore on a daily basis. Same goes for women. I would just like to clear up ┬áthat the reference to “flower children” refers to the hippies. Now that I’ve given a small background to the time in which the movie was made, I can say that most women enjoyed this age because it was open and gave way to the feeling of love. This may be a little far-fetched to say this, however this may be the time when the whispers of the “female gaze” have been heard, but not by everyone. Even to this day it may be misinterpreted or unseen.


The provocative, flamboyant colors, slow motion caressing of the pink car, and a man with tight clothing are all features that made up a woman’s dream man during that time. On top of these dreamy characteristics, the background is a white to pink color ramp (color spectrum fades from really white at top to pink at bottom) that further emphasizes the flamboyance of the setting. The slow rubbing of the car with a fur ball can be widely interpreted. It can be seen as a sign of caring, something that the “flower children” adored, especially the women, due to the widespread feeling of “love” during this time. The dreamy visual effects and cinematography with the slow camera pans are all well done, but can’t be connected coherently. The music that plays for about two minutes in this entire clip does an excellent job of connecting every single “dreamy” feature in a woman’s mind.


The song “Dream Lover” by the Paris Sisters fits with the excellent cinematography on Kenneth Anger’s part. As the music changes beats, or has stops in it, the camera pans slowly or there are cuts to different shots.


As the music beings to play, the guitar and drums slowly ease in. At the start of this song, the camera slowly moves in the inside of the car and shows the darker shades of the flamboyant shades of red. As the song starts with the words “Every night and day, I hope and pray, that dream lover will come my way…” there is a zoom in on the car engine, and from behind the car the man in tight blue pants emerges. He is fully standing as the words “dream lover” are sang. This is extremely well choreographed, in the sense that the movements are synced with the music, and the zooming in shows Anger’s superior cinematography skills. This whole notion of slowness, to a slow song, and slow movements of the man, create the idea of the female gaze. It is slow, doesn’t gaze directly at the main character on screen, but studies him from many sides. The gaze doesn’t seem to be fast, quick and jerky as the male gaze. It does seem to be just as objectifying as it the male gaze is.


Even though there are no clear definitions for the gaze theories, there are many ways that they can be proven. The gazes differ depending on genre, the camera movement and things that can be contributing factors to either gaze, if argued for correctly.


Overall, the female gaze in Kustom Kar Kommandos is noticed based on the era in which the clip was made in and it’s historical background, in this case, the “flower children”. The feeling of love that emanated from this time contributed well for the argument that this movie actually has a female gaze. The cinematography, choreography and the music all contributed to proving the “silent” female gaze that has eluded cinema because it was not noticed. It is there, however the audience has to zoom out of the main picture and look at the time period that most movies were made in and how it resembles it on screen.












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~ by Pawel Forfa on December 9, 2011.

6 Responses to “Formal Analysis – Kustom Kar Kommandos – The Gaze”

  1. you did a great job writing a conclusion. It was a great way to talk about the male gaze and then try to compare it to the female gaze.

    When i saw this video, it was very awkward to me, but after reading your post, it became more and more clear what the director wanted to protray.

    Your arguement of how the male characteristics as a sort of a substitute for a female gaze is incredible. I did not even think about that. When i first saw the video, i thought the director was just trying to show different colors to give off different feelings, to show his wealth, how lavish he is etc

    if i had to make one small comment about your post, it would be the lack of terminogly. I mean your post is great but i feel that if you included terms like diegetic, nondiegetic, mise-en-scene, terms such as those, it wouldve added steroids to your post but overall it is a great post on a 3 minute video

  2. Yeah I can see what you’re saying. I tried to define the terms without actually naming the actual terms. I guess that was a bad approach. Thanks for the positive feedback on my viewpoint on this.

  3. Ty wiesz Pawel, you would choose this film. But you could not have chosen a better film to discuss since it is very provocative and controversial. There are many things you pin pointed, but one of the comments you have stated that people should put into consideration is that it was made in a different time period and maybe this was viewed differently back then. This really shows men getting in touch with their feminine side, which is very healthy for the heart. Also, there is a moral in this film and that is to not be afraid to experiment with new things.

  4. Wonderfully detailed description, especially in terms of the way in which the images are “choreographed” to the music! And excellent comments from your colleagues here (there were passages where more precise terminology would have driven the point home!).

    Since you did go out on a limb with such a provocative thesis, I’d love to talk more about exactly whose gaze is being evoked, though. And I agree completely that this film is a product of a newly emerging sexual freedom in the 1960s. But I’m not sure that I’d call this a FEMALE gaze. Two other students who have tackled this film argued for either a homoerotic gaze, or for an automotive gaze (the desire for an automobile!!!), both of which seemed pretty plausible to me. Maybe we can spark a discussion.

  5. Thanks for the optimistic comment. My original idea was to write about a double gaze, however that would be hard to discuss since some things would be contradictory. I was also going to write about a homo erotic gaze, however that’s one lense that this movie can be viewed from. This may perhaps sound a bit ignorant on my part, but the female gaze and my idea of a homo erotic gaze may be the same in this movie.

    Most women put on make up to make themselves look more attractive because of pressure from mainstream media of the ideal face, this also applies to some homosexuals. In the 60’s, when this movie was shot, most men and women dressed almost the same. I’m not trying to give group a label that, one does this and the other dresses like this, but that this movie gives me the idea that it’ll appeal to both a hetero-sexual female audience and a homo-sexual audience. The simple point made here is that both of those audiences like men, and the slow moves and gestures that the man in this movie apply to an interpretation of a female gaze but also appeal to a homo-sexual male audience.

    I can see where my classmates are getting those two gazes from, they are clearly present and shown on the screen. In my opinion there is a lot of symbolism in this film and that can interpreted differently when connecting two different mediums of gazes, the hetero female gaze and the male homo-sexual gaze. Yes, this movie does seem to have an obsession with cars and it does seem to hint at the director being homo-sexual (which he was), but once again there is always more than one view on something as long as it can be argued for. If any of my writing is unclear, comment back on it and criticize it.

    My sources for linking the two gazes would be from observation. I live in a flamboyant neighborhood: Williamsburg, Brooklyn on the street that’s been given the nickname of the “pedestrian mall”. It is one of the growing hubs of homo-sexual bars etc. My mother also works in the restaurant business and has many gay friends. My experience and observations have made me come to the conclusion of a double gaze, I just haven’t embraced it in my actual post.

  6. thanks for the comments. umm comparing to my writes, your write is really awesome.. its detailed, understandable, and i can see what your saying in here. nice work

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