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, http://www.hi-beam.net/hi-beam/tenbest.html

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.


January 27: First Sight Scene: New Works by Southern California Filmmakers

Sunday January 27, 2008, 7:00 pm

At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
First Sight Scene: New Works by Southern California Filmmakers
Curated by Jaimie Baron and Victoria Meng

First Sight Scene is Filmforum’s celebration of the bounty of creative work being made by local filmmakers. It was started in 1992, and was last held in 2000. This year’s First Sight Scene program, which brings together new work by experimental filmmakers in Southern California, emphasizes the creation of different kinds of spaces and reflects the continuities and breaks between film and video, the analog and the digital, the real and the perceived, documentary and fiction. While Madison Brookshire’s Opening meditates on everyday landscapes through long, beautiful film takes, Christina McPhee’s video Carrizoprime fragments the space of the San Andreas Fault, creating a new layered and polymorphous digital landscape. John Cannizzaro’s Fountain of Youth mourns the passing of time and the Super8 format by portraying the ideal space of childhood, and Gwenaelle Gobe’s cut-out animation The Old Noise uses stop-motion to create a impossible space, events, and juxtapositions, while Thomas Helman’s df/dx generates a world of nightmares through digital manipulation. Erik Deutschman’s Stare Gently plays tricks on viewers’ perceptions, inducing animation of static shots through optical illusion, and Dena DeCola and Karin E. Wandner’s Five More Minutes blurs the line between fiction and documentary in order to explore the experience of past traumas in the present moment.

Festivities to follow the screening.

Films include:

1-27-08-opening-still.jpegOpening (Madison Brookshire, 16mm, 25 min, with live sound accompaniment)
“Using everyday images of overlooked spaces, Opening shows that the city casts a shadow. A collection of off-ramps, power lines and alleys reveals the city in the landscape and the landscape in the city. Three musicians playing very clear, very quiet, very long tones accompany Opening. The score transforms the film, infinitely repeatable, into an indeterminate work, different from one performance to the next.” (Madison Brookshire)

1-27-08-carrizoprime-still.jpgCarrizoprime (Christina McPhee, 2006, video, 13 min)
“Polymorphous layers explore seismic distortion between waking and sleeping. Traveling along the San Andreas Fault, traces of events in the landscape appear without the possibility for their prediction, only for their probabilities. Remnants charted. Fault activities backdrop ruined homesteads, abandoned schemes in California Valley on the Carrizo Plain. The images are accompanied by the sound of P-waves from the 2004 Parkfield Quake. Shot on location at the San Andreas Fault, Soda Lake, and Wallace Creek, in the Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, 2002-2006.” (Christina McPhee)

1-27-08-stare-gently-still.jpgStare Gently (Erik Deutschman, Super8, screening on DVCam, 2.5 min)
“Follow the instructions and see.” (Erik Deutschman)


1-27-08-fountain-of-youth-still2.jpgFountain of Youth (John Cannizzaro, Super8, screening on mini-DV, 13 min).
“The last home movie. Shot in the now discontinued Kodachrome 40 Super8 film stock. A cine-poem to time, childhood and the color of memory.” (John Cannizzaro)

1-27-08-oldnoisestills05.jpgThe Old Noise (Gwenaelle Gobe, 35 mm, 4 min)
“The Old Noise tells the story of Stephanie, a two-headed girl who wakes up panicked, realizing she has given birth to four babies, four chairs, and a table. This experimental animation, using silhouette cutout techniques, explores the emotion of fear when confronted with the unexpected and the unusual.” (Gwenaelle Gobe)

1-27-08-dfdx_still_01.jpgdf/dx (Thomas Helman, HD screening on mini-DV, 2007, 6:16 min)
“An overexposed spiraling descent of false-awakenings into the recurrent nightmare of alienation and the subsequent clockwork manufacture of an insatiable desire for unity – df/dx is an abject refutation of the closure of any form.” (Thomas Helman)

1-27-08-five-more-mins.jpgFive More Minutes (Dena DeCola and Karin E. Wandner, DV Cam, 17:23 min)
Five More Minutes is an exploration of grief. Two women spend an afternoon recreating lost time. What begins as play-acting breaks open into a world where the tenderness and sorrow of having to say goodbye exist untempered.” (Dena DeCola and Karin E. Wandner)

Five More Minutes has a perfect pleasurable tension that sustains and builds throughout. There are complex layers of interest – the subtle profound relationship between mother and daughter, friends and performers, reality breaking through artifice, artifice through reality. It is haunting and grows in the mind.” (Larry Gottheim)

“We live in such a buttoned-up, fearful, cautious culture. Five More Minutes is an attempt to open us up. And it’s not afraid to take chances to do it. It’s not afraid to be emotional.” (Ray Carney)

“I only want to see movies by people who are desperately trying to figure out how to live, Five More Minutes is one of those movies. Dena DeCola and Karin E. Wandner obviously risked a lot to make themselves this vulnerable, and they did it because they had to.” (Miranda July)

Total Running Time: 75 minutes

January 20 and 21: Films by Robert Nelson – A Retrospective, parts 3 & 4

Sunday January 20, 2008, 7:00 pm1-20-07nelsonphoto.jpg

At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
In conjunction with REDCAT
Films by Robert Nelson – A Retrospective part 3
With a rare appearance by Robert Nelson!

Born and raised in San Francisco, Robert Nelson is an artist by background, having trained as a painter before unexpectedly becoming a filmmaker in the mid-1960s. By 1967, his short films, characterized by their free-spirited humor, unexpected twists, and inspired setups, were among the most circulated of the American underground.

This screening will present a unique opportunity to hear Nelson’s interesting perspective on his own artistic process – which is informed by his double background as a painter and a filmmaker. In the mid-1990s, Nelson re-evaluated his filmography, and decided to try to re-edit a lot of his films. Some of the re-edits were successful, many weren’t; and some of the films ended up being irretrievably destroyed. The screening will present three successful re-edits (King David, More, and Suite California Stops & Passes: Part 1), followed by a 25-minute reel of the remnants of many unsuccessful re-edits.
– Mark Toscano, Curator

This series will screen prints from the collection of Robert Nelson and the Academy Film Archive.

1-20-07nelsonsuitesm.jpgThis multi-part retrospective will culminate tomorrow night with a completely different program of films and another very rare in-person appearances by Nelson!

Tonight’s Films:

King David (with Mike Henderson, 1970/2003, color, sound, 9min. 16mm)

More (1971/98, b/w, sound, 15min.)

Suite California Stops & Passes: Part 1 (1976/2004, color, sound, 35min., 16mm) (rework-in-progress edit)

worms still writhing after cut by 1/2 (1965-1967, b/w & color, sound, ca. 25min., 16mm)
A reel of fragments. The abandoned remnants of failed re-edits: Thick Pucker, Thick Pucker 2, Oily Peloso the Pumph Man, Portrait of Gourley, Super Spread, Sixty Lazy Dogs, Half-Open & Lumpy, Penny Bright & Jimmy Witherspoon

This multi-part retrospective will culminate tomorrow night with a completely different program of films and another very rare in-person appearances by Nelson!

January 21 @ REDCAT Theatre, Disney Concert Hall
For more details, click here.

Still Underground: Films by Robert Nelson, part 4
Concluding a four-part retrospective.

Mon Jan 21 | 8 pm
Jack H. Skirball Series
$9 [students $7]

Known for prankster experimentalism and on-the-spot invention, the films of San Francisco native Robert Nelson are among the defining landmarks of the post-Beat American underground of the 1960s and ’70s. His free-spirited approach, sharp wit, and artistic rigor marked inspired collaborations with William T. Wiley, William Allan, Steve Reich, and the Grateful Dead, and helped shape a language and style for the burgeoning psychedelic culture. Nelson has only recently made his early films available again, and this evening he presents three: The Off-Handed Jape (1967), The Awful Backlash (1967) and Bleu Shut (1970). Concluding this program is Nelson’s latest major work, Hauling Toto Big (1997).

Featuring a very rare appearance by Robert Nelson!

“The experience of being immersed in watching Hauling Toto Big seems to encapsulate the intangible, elusive nature of the filmmaker’s artistic quest. Robert Nelson’s films appear to me as a voyage of discovery: not only of what the material and conditions of cinema are capable of, but also for truths about life itself. Inevitably linked to the cultural environment in which they were made, they amount to a unique and personal journey through America’s post-psychedelic subconscious.” – Mark Webber

Films for the January 21 screening:

The Off-Handed Jape (1967, made with William T. Wiley, 9min. 16mm) – Print restored by the Academy Film Archive.
One of Nelson’s collaborations with painter and good friend of about 50
years, William T. Wiley. The two of them are challenged to act out
amusing and creative pantomimes while two voices (also Nelson and Wiley) are evaluating their success.

The Awful Backlash (with William Allan, 1967, 14 min., 16mm)
Nelson collaborated on two films with another painter friend, William Allan an avid fisherman – The Awful Backlash and the more rarely seen War Is Hell (1968). Quite unusual and essential in its time, the film is essentially made if one-take of a bad snarl in a fishing line being untangled – creating a powerful, unexpected, and surprisingly funny narrative.

Bleu Shut (with William T. Wiley, 1970, 33 min., 16mm)
New print from the Academy Film Archive
Hailed as a true masterpiece by connoisseurs, the film is broken down minute by minute, with a clock visible in the upper right corner for the entire duration to keep the audience aware of how much time is left. On the soundtrack, Nelson and Wiley play a game, trying to correctly guess the names of various luxury boats and yachts. In between each round Nelson offers us an entertainment of some kind, sometimes found footage, sometimes an unusual or funny shot. Artful and entertaining, Bleu Shut brilliantly toys with audience expectations..

Hauling Toto Big (1997, 43 min., 16mm)
In the mid 1990s, Nelson started assembling this film from a large stack of b/w footage he had kept from sketches, unfinished projects, class projects, outtakes, and other assorted remnants, informed by jazz music, poetry, and the I Ching in its construction. A dense and ecstatic work of fragmented narratives, dream states, chaos and serenity, verité footage rendered into poetry, this is Nelson’s most recently completed film to-date, and a culmination of his cinematic interests. A winner of the Grand Prize at the 1998 Ann Arbor Film Festival, Hauling Toto Big has been so far too rarely screened.

REDCAT is located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles at 631 W. 2nd St., on the northeast corner of the intersection with Hope St. We are housed in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex but have our own separate street entrance on 2nd St.

More About Robert Nelson

Born 1930 in San Francisco in a family of Swedish immigrants, Robert Nelson studied painting at San Francisco State University and the California School of Fine Arts – where he was introduced to a circle of Bay Area artists that converged into the California Funk Art movement of the 1960s. “This influence, together with the Beat sensibility of the poetry and jazz scenes, and the improvisatory theatre of the San Francisco Mime Troupe (directly involved in his first few films), formed the touchstones of Nelson’s developing aesthetic.” (Mark Webber). His second wife is the legendary Swedish experimental filmmaker Gunvor Nelson, and Nelson started working with film by collaborating with her on two home movies: Building Muir Beach House (1961) and Last Week at Oona’s Bath (1962). Nelson taught at various institutions, including the San Francisco Art Institute, Sacramento State and CalArts, before landing a teaching job at UW Milwaukee in 1979 till his retirement in the mid-1990s. He then retreated in self-imposed isolation to a remote house in the mountains of Northern California – where he began to reassess his filmography.

Nelson has influenced a number of major filmmakers, such as Peter Hutton and Curt McDowell. He was the main force in co-founding the independent distribution company Canyon Cinema in 1966, hiring his former student Edith Kramer (later the head of the Pacific Film Archive) as its first director.

“After years away from the public arena, Nelson has recently begun to show his work again… This willingness to offer the films to new audiences is unquestionably a result of the care and attention they have received in the preservation activities of Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley) and Academy Film Archive (Los Angeles). Now in his seventies, Nelson speaks of “leaving a neat pile” for after his death, and as part of this project, he is attempting to establish definitive versions of his films.” – Mark Webber

Selected Filmography:

The Mystery of Amelia Air-Heart Solved! (1962)
Plastic Haircut (1963)
Oh Dem Watermelons (1965)
Sixty Lazy Dogs (1965)
Confessions of a Black Mother-Succuba (1965)
Thick Pucker (1965)
Penny Bright and Jimmy Witherspoon (1967)
The Great Blondino (1967)
Grateful Dead (1967)
War is Hell (1968)
Special Warning (1974/99)
Suite California: Stops and Passes (Parts 1 & 2) (1976/78)
Hamlet Act (1982)

Special thanks to Alice Moscoso.

December 9: The documentaries of Jessica Yu

Sunday December 9 at 7:00 pm
Los Angeles Filmforum presents:
The Documentaries of Jessica Yu

Jessica Yu is one of the leading documentary filmmakers working in America today. On the opening weekend of her new documentary Protagonist, Filmforum is delighted to look back at Yu’s earlier award-winning documentary work.

Tonight’s screenings:
Sour Death Balls (1993, 5 min., 16mm)
Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien (1996, 35 min., 16mm)
In the Realms of the Unreal (2004, 81 min., 35mm)

Complete program notes here

December 2: Robert Nelson retrospective part I

Sunday December 2 at 7:00 pm
Los Angeles Filmforum presents:
Films by Robert Nelson – A Retrospective part 1

Echo Park Film Center
1200 Alvarado Street (at Sunset, northeast corner)

Born and raised in San Francisco, Robert Nelson is an artist by background, having trained as a painter before unexpectedly becoming a filmmaker in the mid-1960s. By 1967, his short films, characterized by their free-spirited humor, unexpected twists, and inspired setups, were among the most circulated of the American underground. Following up on an EPFC Nelson program in July 2006, this evening will feature two of Nelson’s legendary classics, Oh Dem Watermelons (1965) (with music by Steve Reich) and Nelson’s counterculture epic The Great Blondino (1967), made with artist William T. Wiley. Rounding out the program will be Hot Leatherette (1967), the rarely seen Deep Westurn (1974), and Nelson’s first released film, Plastic Haircut (1963), made in collaboration with Wiley, as well as SF Mime Troupe founder R.G. Davis, artist Robert Hudson, and Steve Reich.

Tonight’s screenings:
OH DEM WATERMELONS (1965, color, sound, 11m)
PLASTIC HAIRCUT (1963, b/w, sound, 15m)
HOT LEATHERETTE (1967, b/w, sound, 5m)
DEEP WESTURN (1974, color, sound, 5m)
THE GREAT BLONDINO (1967, color, sound, 43m)

November 18: Trumpetistically, Clora Bryant

Sunday November 18 at 7:00 pm
Los Angeles Filmforum presents:
Trumpetistically, Clora Bryant and more Jazz Films

In association with the Getty Research Institute’s Côte à Côte: Art and Jazz in France and California, at which Clora Bryant will be appearing. We’re delighted to host this portrait of the musician Clora Bryant, an essential player in the jazz scene of Los Angeles. We will have other short jazz films of California or French musicians as well, titles to be announced. Zeinabu Irene Davis’s new film Trumpetistically, Clora Bryant portrays the life and work of “trumpetiste” Clora Bryant, a largely unrecognized force in the Los Angeles and Central Avenue jazz scenes. Complete program description here

November 15: Gregg Biermann’s Material Excess


8:00PM at Echo Park Film Center
1200 Alvarado Street (at Sunset, northeast corner)
Los Angeles CA 90026

Material Excess (2002-03, DVD, color, sound, 73 min)
Gregg Biermann in person!

Material Excess is a large-scale animated movie, which borrows its structure from Dante’s The Diving Comedy. The animation is for the most part created in a digital process related to the hand-made film tradition. In a photo-editing program, scans of various objects are placed on a digital image strip without regard for individual frames. These images are translated into video sequences and the result is an exploding jumble of images. By its very nature, the animation cannot directly illustrate the various bits of narration that appear in the soundtrack. The two things simply happen simultaneously. Full program description here