6/15/19 // The Decay of Fiction

Posted May 28th, 2019 in Co-Presentations, Events and Screenings, News / Events


The Decay of Fiction
Saturday, June 15th, 2019 // 2:00 PM
Roxie Theater // 3117 16th St, San Francisco, CA

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 Coconut 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 various sinister men arrive and ask for Jack. Jack is expecting trouble, but not this kind of trouble…” (Pat O’Neill)

The Roxie and Canyon Cinema present the rarely screened original version of The Decay of Fiction in 35mm.  Released in 2002, following 8 years of production, Pat O’Neill’s The Decay of Fiction screened at festivals, but never saw wider distribution. In recent years O’Neill has re-imagined several films as multiple projection installations. In 2018 The Decay of Fiction was reworked and installed as a 5 channel installation at Phillip Martin Gallery in Los Angeles. Another of O’Neill’s installations, Three Answers, is currently on view on SFMOMA’s 7th floor.

“At once a metanoir and a portrait of Los Angeles’s Ambassador Hotel, with its fabled political and showbiz ghosts, it mobilized some of the most sophisticated visual effects ever to hit the screen. In adding many kinds of magick of its own to the tropes of Surrealism and other European modernisms as they had been reconstructed in the traditions of US avant-garde cinema, The Decay of Fiction epitomized the narrow possibilities for avant-garde film at the turn of the millennium and summarized the multiple forms of its dialogue with the medium’s industrial use.” (David James)

“The concatenation of two incompatible time-rates in a single image is profoundly unsettling. With the accelerated time of the hotel backgrounds juxtaposed with semi-transparent characters enacting scenes in natural time, it is almost impossible to comprehend the overall temporality of the sequences. Once one becomes accustomed to the effect, the scenes convey a powerful sense of the inevitability of time’s passage, even as the past is enfolded into the present, but there remains an aspect beyond rational assimilation, evocative but never quite determinate.” (Grahame Wienbren)

“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.” (Pat O’Neill)

Canyon Cinema’s co-presentation of this event is made possible through the generous support of the George Lucas Family Foundation, the Owsley Brown III Philanthropic Foundation and the Zellerbach Family Foundation’s Community Arts Program.