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February 5: The Floating World of Pat O’Neill, Part II

Tuesday February 5, 2008, 8:00 pm

At the Silent Movie Theatre
611 N. Fairfax Ave. just south of Melrose
Park across the street at Fairfax High School

Los Angeles Filmforum and CineFamily present
The Floating World of Pat O’Neill
The second 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.

Tonight Filmforum inaugurates its new venue partnership with CineFamily at the Silent Movie Theatre.  CineFamily has revitalized the Silent Movie Theatre with wide-ranging,  and smart programming.  From a continued interest in silent movies to experimental films, cult works to bizarre pop hits, foreign and domestic, CineFamily displays the cinephilic sensibility that we are delighted to share.

Tonight we’ll be screening Decay of Fiction (2002, 35mm, 74 min), preceded by Squirt Gun Step Print”(1998, 35mm, 6 min)

2-5-08-decay-of-fiction-2.jpgDecay of Fiction:
Rarely seen in Los Angeles since its premiere several years ago is Pat O’Neill’s brilliant, haunting film noir set in the decaying remains of the now-demolished Ambassador Hotel.

“While depicting the relentless passage of time with a power that few other films have captured, The Decay of Fiction sustains a mood of almost gothic sadness….The Decay of Fiction is so infatuated with vintage film lore that it leaves you with a disturbing sense of the power that the Dream Factory exerts on the historical imagination.” – Stephen Holden, NY Times

2-5-08-decay-of-fiction-3.jpgThe Decay of Fiction is an intersection of fact and hallucination in an abandoned luxury hotel. The hotel is in Hollywood. The walls of the Ambassador are cracked and peeling, the lawns are brown, and mushrooms grow in the damp carpets of the Cocoanut Grove. The pool is empty, and the ballroom where Bobby Kennedy died is shuttered and locked. A tall, elegant blonde stands transparently on the terrace of her bungalow, smoking and watching the sunrise. Voices and tinkles waft across the lawn. A contingent of vaguely sinister men arrive and ask for Jack. Jack is expecting trouble, but not this kind of trouble. Louise, a guest, replays a nightmare in which she drowns Pauline so that she can marry Dean. The sun sets and rises again. Two detectives seem to turn up everywhere, searching for Communist literature and telling one another pointless stories of underworld intrigue. In the kitchens and behind the scenes the daily routine continues, individuality melts, and workers fuse with their jobs. Winter passes, and then another summer, and finally it is Halloween, and there is a costume ball which claims the life of Rhonda the evasive soprano. And then the building comes down in a clatter of Spanish tiles and concrete, and fact has finally become fiction, once again. I scribbled the words The Decay of Fiction on the back of a notebook almost forty years ago, tore it off and framed it fifteen years later, and have wanted ever since to make a film to fit its ready-made description. To me it refers to the common condition of stories partly remembered, films partly seen, texts at the margins of memory, disappearing like a book left outside on the ground to decompose back into the earth. The film takes place in a building about to be destroyed, those walls contain (by dint of association) a huge burden of memory: cultural and personal, conscious and unconscious. To make the film was to trap a few of its characters and some of their dialog, casting them together within the confines of the site. The structure and its stories are decaying together, and each seems to be a metaphor for the other.

For an interesting perspective, here’s an excerpt of an interview before the completion of the film and before the demolition of the Ambassador Hotel.  From an interview between David E. James and Pat O’Neill, printed in Millennium Film Journal, No. 30/31 (Fall 1997) Continue reading


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:

2-3-08-trouble-stills.jpgTrouble 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,

2-3-08-horizontal-tiny-people.jpgHorizontal 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.