Close-Up - Trouble in the Image: Pat O'Neill

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Pat O'Neill presents a programme of films selected from his five decade career to coincide with the UK premiere of his new film Where the Chocolate Mountains at the Tate Modern on 23 November.

A founding father of Los Angeles' avant-garde film scene, an influential professor at CalArts and an optical effects pioneer, Pat O’Neill is best known for his short works from the early 1960's onwards which are highly graphic, layered and reflexive assemblages based on a mastery of optical printing techniques. In O’Neill’s films boundaries fade, narrative collapses and layers of imagery draw the viewer simultaneously towards and away from linear meaning. O’Neill has combined found footage with experimental montage and compositing techniques to create a graphic language that deals with how different, often disparate elements assembled together in the frame relate to one another. His innovative optical techniques anticipated our digital landscape well before its time.

- Horizontal Boundaries (Pat O'Neill, 24 min, 2005, Colour, Digital)
Horizontal Boundaries takes on Los Angeles as an uncertain subject, a displaced location in space and time. Shot in and around the city and other locations in California with "the intent to produce "synthetic" depictions of locations made up of multiple and disparate parts," O'Neill combines the visual effects with a visceral soundtrack that demands the total attention of the viewer. As O'Neill writes, the goal is to "present an image that is both clearly understood and obviously altered.  Altering the imagery from its original photographic state raises inevitable questions concerning its reception:  What are we to believe? How is a representation changed by proximity with another? How does contradiction, itself, represent our experience?" And goes on to point out that, "My films share some of the concerns of other experimental filmmakers worldwide: defining parameters for the representation of space and time, exploiting personal experience as metaphor, using archival materials in a restated context." – Cherry and Martin

- Painter and Ball (Pat O'Neill, 10 min, 2011, Colour, Digital)
"Painter and Ball is a conversation between two filmmakers, one living and the other deceased. Richard Matthews began filming out the window of his tiny Kansas studio in 1976, recording from time to time the passing of days and seasons on his Bolex. Richard didn't live to finish his intended film, and the Ektachrome originals came into my possession. I made a similar recording of a piece of woodland just outside my studio in Pasadena. In editing, the two recordings were placed one upon the other, so nightfall in Kansas became morning in California, and so on. To this was added another piece of action—a genderless, child-manikin enacting a series of rituals in which energy seems to enter its body through contact with the stamen of a flower, causing it to roll and twitch spasmodically, as in rapture or pain or ecstasy. The title refers to the location, on a tract map, of the main image. Mr. Painter and Mr. Ball were land developers in the 1880s in Pasadena, California, who lent their evocative names to dozens of residential tracts." – Pat O’Neill

- Trouble in the Image (Pat O'Neill, 38 min, 1996, Colour, Digital)
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.

Book for this screening here:

Book for Where the Chocolate Mountains at Tate Modern here:

With thanks to Pat O'Neill, George Lockwood, Cherry and Martin, Carly Whitefield, Stefano Collicelli Cagol and Tate for making this programme possible.

More info:


Close-Up Cinema - London, United Kingdom


Saturday, November 25, 2017 - 17:30



Saturday, November 25, 2017 - 17:30


  • 97 Sclater Street
    E1 6HR   London, London
    United Kingdom
    Phone: +44 (0) 20 3784 7975
    51° 31' 24.8268" N, 0° 4' 25.0824" W