Pat O’Neill’s Water and Power presented with Bowerbird



Wednesday, July 13, 2022 (7:00pm)
University Lutheran, 3637 Chestnut Street




Water and Power by Pat O’Neill

Pat O’Neill’s rarely-screened masterpiece of West Coast cinema is a dazzling synthesis of fast motion and superimposition, appropriated footage and time lapse photography, chroma keying and long exposures. Water and Power layers images drawn from urban Los Angeles, its water source in the Owens Valley, and an otherworldly interior space in increasingly complex permutations. What results is a fractured history, not just of California and its environment but of the cinematic imagination. Through subtitles O’Neill also weaves a story of industrial expansion’s impact on the landscape from Sir Francis Drake’s exploration to situations that seem ripped from Golden Age Hollywood.


In the hands of O’Neill, landscape becomes not just the industrial and natural world but the reflection of how humans have imagined it, as the site of epics of silent film to ideal locations for resource extraction. The film abounds with visual rhymes, becoming unclear where human architecture ends and nature begins. And this is to say nothing of the surreal dreamlike figures that litter O’Neill’s imagined Los Angeles. Shot on 35mm, a rare luxury in experimental filmmaking, and masterfully utilizing the optical printer, Water and Power contains some of the most beautiful images in all of American cinema.



Water and Power / Pat O’Neill / 1989 / 57 min / 16mm


Tickets: $8-12 at the door.

Note: This is an “in person” event. All those attending must show proof of COVID 19 vaccination status (vaccination card or legible photo on your smartphone, plus photo ID) and wear a mask during the entirety of the event. There will be no exceptions to this policy. Capacity will be limited – advanced tickets are strongly encouraged.