Re: Owen Land's DIALOGUES

From: Mark Toscano (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Mar 03 2009 - 16:27:10 PST

Hi Steve and all -

I went and can provide some answers...

Undesirables is/was a totally different project. Owen did recently add a couple of episodes to that fragment that was circulating, and, if I understand correctly, now considers it a finished 'unfinished' piece, like a finished fragment. i.e. I don't think he's doing anything further to it. He showed this 'finished' version at LA Filmforum last year, and I thought it was quite excellent.

Dialogues comes from a script Owen's been working on, I believe, for at least a few years. About 2-3 years ago, when Owen arrived in LA, Morgan Fisher told me Owen was still finishing the script and had written a scene in which Melpomane, the muse of tragedy, tells Morgan Fisher that he's "basically a nerd." This sequence does, by the way, show up in the finished film.

The film was presented as an advance preview at the Velaslavasay Panorama in West Adams district here, not too far from USC. It's an old movie theatre that Sara Velas & co. have fixed up into a wonderful venue for presenting diverse entertainments. A few scenes in Dialogues were shot at the Panorama, which is one of the reasons Owen wanted to do this screening there.

Owen introduced the film, giving some suggestive notes and relating a story from the bible that provided the basis for one of the sequences, and which he thought might be obscure and worth elucidating on. I took a couple of photos and can put one up on my blog when I get a chance to download them from the camera. Some cast and crew were there too, and he introduced them. There was no Q&A afterward.

The piece was shot largely or possibly entirely in HD video, and was projected from DVD at the show. It's two hours long, with an intermission a bit more than halfway through, by my guess. It's made up of a series of 50+ individual sections, each with its own title. Two titles I remember off the top of my head are 'A Waist is a Terrible Thing to Mind' and 'Glass Ashtrays Cast a Terrible Refraction'.

The whole work is loaded with references, sometimes overwhelmingly so, to experimental films and filmmakers, curators, and other personalities of the 'scene', plus biblical allusions, philosophical and historical allusions, myth, poetry, music... it's really dense. It has a really odd soundtrack of assorted popular music, Meredith Monk, Zombies, Stevie Nicks, and all kinds of other stuff.

Many of the sequences comprise somewhat self-contained plot fragments, with actors performing scripted dialogues. A few were more oblique or abstract. A couple at least comprised entire songs, with the complete lyrics - partially modified to reflect Owen's pseudo-autobiography and/or aspects of the film's storyline - scrolling onscreen. One of these songs was Tom Petty's 'Mary Jane's Last Dance'.

The overall content seemed to, at least in part, present a sort of fragmented autobiography of Owen, part truth, part fiction, part something else. Lots of sex(uality) and nudity. Lots of wordplay. Minimal settings. Some sequences used the narrative tropes of porn. One of the more memorable for me in this regard was a sequence which begins with an onscreen text from Owen, explaining that Paul Arthur once referred to him as an iconoclast. If he was an iconoclast, Owen decided, he should go and smash some icons. So he went to a Russian (?I forget which - Hermitage maybe?) museum with a small sledge hammer to destroy a painting, a sequence which is then acted out. (By the way, two different actors portray Owen.) After being caught doing this, he is brought to the museum director's (?) office, and she is a young, scantily clad woman speaking with a Russian accent, who comes on to him and tells him she's glad he destroyed the painting. Anyway, the
 whole thing is played like a story setup for a porn film, and there's quite a bit of this going on.

I realize this is an incredibly weird and unhelpful note about the piece, but it's kind of impossible to sum it up or give any kind of general idea of what it was like. It brought up a complex web of reactions and emotions from me. I found it funny, sad, touching, bizarre, brilliant, flawed, and just fucking weird.

I've seen pretty much all of Owen's work done as George Landow, most of them many times, and found it really moving in a way to see this new piece which is clearly by the same guy, but which is also clearly deeply touched/tainted/affected by whatever he's been going through for the past 30 years. It's very different than anything else he's done. But also so clearly a film by the same guy. And even though it's a narrowly trained piece in terms of its set of references, it doesn't feel like a throwback or nostalgic in some unevolved way in the slightest.

Hope these disorganized thoughts are of some weird interest to people.


--- On Tue, 3/3/09, Steve Polta <email suppressed> wrote:

> From: Steve Polta <email suppressed>
> Subject: Re: [FRAMEWORKS] Owen Land's DIALOGUES
> To: email suppressed
> Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 3:23 PM
> I'm very curious about this...
> Did anyone attend this event last weekend who can report on
> this?
> On the film? On Land's presentation?
> Or does anyone have any information on this film or Owen
> Land's recent work?
> Is DIALOGUES the same work that manifested a few years ago
> as the fragment known as UNDESIREABLES?
> Information eagerly sought, on or off list...
> ———steve polta


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