The city’s longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, animation and video art.

February 3: The Floating World of Pat O’Neill, Part I


Sunday February 3, 2008, 7:00 pm

At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
The Floating World of Pat O’Neill
The first of two nights of films

Pat O’Neill is Los Angeles’s true avant-garde master, creating beautiful, moody films with floating mattes, variable film speeds, ghostly layering, wry wit, and masterful soundtracks, all working together to form a fractured almost-narrative, a reflection on the lost spaces and times of our city.  Among the films that we will see tonight is his latest, Horizontal Boundaries, which O’Neill has stated might be his last film.

“’In O’Neill’s films, boundaries fade; narratives collapse, and layers of images draw the viewer simultaneously towards and away from linear meaning.’ Since the early 1960s, eminent Los Angeles based artist and filmmaker Pat O’Neill has combined a mastery of optical effects with found footage, experimental montage and compositing techniques to create seamless streams of moving images.”

Tonight we’ll be screening:

Trouble in the Image (1996, 35mm, color, 38 min)
Trouble in the Image is a collection of visual and auditory ideas, many of which seem to radiate a sense of internal conflict, irony and rage. The film has no continuing characters, but is made up of dozens of performances dislodged from other contexts. These are often relocated into contemporary industrial landscapes, or interrupted by the chopping, shredding, or flattening of special-effects technology turned against itself. All is not lost, however. The reward is to be found in immersion within a space of complex and intricate formal relationships, where subject matter is almost irrelevant. The film was accumulated over a seventeen-year period by a filmmaker who continues to insist that film can be an art form independent of storytelling.

“For many years Pat O’Neill has comfortably straddled the uncomfortable line between fine art film and commercial movie production. He’s one of those rare individuals, perhaps the only individual, working within the film industry who has retained and nurtured his deep roots in experimental cinema. In recent years he has used professional-quality camera and optical printing equipment and his skills in special effects production to extrapolate metaphysical meaning from the ordinariness of industrialized culture. His previous film “Water and Power” was an odd special effects showpiece that stumbled admirably in its attempts to blend the worlds of art and commerce. In “Trouble in the Image,” O’Neill brings it all together: sharp, glossy, perfectly rendered imagery with incongruous and imaginative juxtapositions of picture and sound, in playful, witty, sometimes provocative and always compelling ways.” – Scott Stark,

Horizontal Boundaries (2005, 35mm, 23 min)
Unscreened in Southern California since its presentation at the Getty Institute in October 2006. A series of experiments with 35mm film frames that contemplates natural and manmade landscapes, with a new digital score by Carl Stone.  New print.

Coreopsis (1998, 35mm, 9 min) Abstract animation that utilizes scratching on film and other techniques to suggest representational imagery.


The next night with Pat O’Neill will be Tuesday February 5 at the Silent Movie Theatre, at which will be screened Decay of Fiction (2002, 35mm, 74 min.), preceded by Squirt Gun Step Print (1998, 35mm, 6 min.) along with new video work!

About Pat O’Neill
Pat O’Neill [born 1939, Los Angeles] received a Master of Arts degree in graphic design and photography from UCLA. He produced his first short film in 1963 in collaboration with computer-graphics pioneer Robert Abel. During the ’60s and ’70s he taught photography at UCLA, while experimenting with and refining the limited means for combining images that were available at the time [the optical printer, first in 16mm and then in 35mm]. In the early 1970s he was founding Assistant Dean for Film and Video at the California Institute of the Arts, and since 1975 has operated his highly regarded special-effects and optical printing company, Lookout Mountain Films. Recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, he received the prestigious Maya Deren Award from the American Film Institute in 1993. Aesthetic concerns he shares with a generation of California artists led him from sculpture to experiments with continuous-projection film installations which were exhibited in galleries and incorporated into rock-concert light shows. A respected member of the experimental film scene, he pioneered the sort of free-flowing, manipulated live-action imagery in which we are now all immersed.

O’Neill’s first feature, Water and Power, was a Sundance Grand Jury winner in 1990 and was hailed as a touchstone for filmmaking in the future. The film became an instant classic, and was shown at the New York Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Telluride, London, Los Angeles and many others. Trouble in the Image followed in 1995 and has also been widely screened throughout the world. Several of the fourteen avant-garde 16mm short films he produced between 1963 and 1982 are also considered classics and all are in international distribution and in the collections of major museums, from the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris to the Austrian Film Archive in Vienna. His most recent film The Decay of Fiction premiered at the New York Film Festival in Fall 2002.