By Aaron Hillis
By Casey Burchby
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Calum Marsh
By Kera Bolonik
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Ernest Hardy
By Eric Hynes
The original sunshine noir, prototype for The Black Dahlia and Hollywoodland (as well as such less self-reflexive thrillers as Chinatown and L.A. Confidential), is Sunset Boulevard. Made in the late afternoon of the studio system, Billy Wilder's exercise in gothic neorealism is pure magic hour, evoking the uncanny nature of motion pictures as well as the disembodied creatures that populate them.
The Decay of Fiction, Pat O'Neill's magnum opus (opening for a one-week run next Wednesday at Anthology), takes the historical phantom zone first evoked by Wilder as its subject. Literally superimposing dream on documentary, it defines sunshine noir. Special-effects whiz O'Neill uses a combination of 35mm location shooting and a digital overlay to transform the once grand, long-shuttered Ambassador Hotel into a haunted mansion. The Ambassador has enjoyed a curious afterlife as a movie set (used in Pretty Woman, Forrest Gump, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, to name a few). O'Neill allows the hotel to represent itself in a state of physical deterioration.
The past feels material. Everything is time-lapse. Empty rooms are animated by creeping shadows, fluttery curtains, and the memory of guests past. Silver ghosts gather around the derelict swimming pool. The old Coconut Grove nightclub, originally furnished with papier-mâché monkeys and the fake palms from a Rudolph Valentino vehicle, is a moldering wreck populated by gangster apparitions. O'Neill coaxes the suggestion of a story out of various movie moments, bits of soundtrack, and references to the Ambassador's legendary past (including Robert Kennedy's assassination in the hotel kitchen), but The Decay of Fiction is less a narrative than a monument. In its abstract movie-ness, this 74-minute carnival of souls exudes a wistful longing to connect, not so much with Hollywood history as with the history of that history.
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city