Decay of Fiction, The


1.85:1 screen aspect ratio

The 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.

USA 2002, 35mm, 74:00
Director, editor, production: Pat O'Neill
Producer: Rebecca Hartzell
Camera, sounddesign: George Lockwood
Production-assistant: Nancy Oppenheim
Best Boy: Doug Cragoe;
Gaffer, key grip: Amy Halpern
Wardrobe: Violetta Elfimova
Makeup: Tereza Nelson, Tamara Margarian
Video-assistants: Eric Furie, Mark Michael
Camera, Rotoskopanimation: Kate McCabe
Muse: Beverly O'Neill
Actors: Wendi Winburn, William Lewis, Julio Leopold, Amber Lopez, Jack Conley, John Rawling, Patricia Thielemann, Dan Bell, Kane Crawford, Damon Colazzo, Jacqueline Humbert, Judy Lieff.