The Decay of Fiction

The Decay of Fiction

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How to explain The Decay of Fiction? Here’s a start: Imagine the human pawns from the naughtiest B noirs superimposed atop a tour of The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel. Except the people that inhabit this transfixing avant-garde exercise are actors approximating—some more successfully than others—the mannerisms of a bygone era, and the locale is really the historic Ambassador Hotel, the site of many an Academy Awards ceremony and in whose kitchen Robert F. Kennedy was fatally shot. Before the hotel was completely demolished in early 2006 (it was closed to the public since the late ‘80s), filmmaker Pat O’Neill surveyed the building’s periphery and its many rooms and corridors. His thorough, methodical footage provides the shell for what emerges as something not unlike a ghost story, literally and figuratively: The images of the hotel, though shot in 2002, have the texture of something much older—a writhing, unearthed lump of arcana, haunting both itself and its audience. Onto this backdrop, the director grafts the translucent bodies of his actors, whose characters range from mob types and pulp writers to snoopy hotel maids and a lady prone to taking her clothes off. Their stories barely register, but if they did the film would not scan so ephemerally. Though prone to redundancy, the film’s thrilling interludes—sick collages of retro clip art, burning flames, and black-and-white bodies moving in J-horror contortions—pick up the slack. The film’s superimpositions, movie-dialogue samples, and audio-visual burps collectively suggest an acid trip, and as such will have a different disorienting effect on everyone who picks up its frequency. Wasn’t that Joan Crawford I heard soothing a young girl’s frayed nerves?

Runtime
74 min
Rating
NR
Year
2002
Director
Pat O'Neill
Screenwriter
Pat O'Neill
Cast
Wendi Windburn, William Lewis, Julio Leopold, Amber Lopez, Jack Conley, John Rawling, Patricia Thielemann