Owen Land

Two Films by Owen Land edited by Mark Webber

Publisher: Lux and Osterreichisches Filmmuseum, Vienna, 2005.

70 pages

I saw him when he was George Landow, the brightest bulb in the avant drawer. He had come to the Funnel to display his wares and excitedly announced that he had written a poem which happened to have the word “funnel” in it. He read for several days and it made so much sense that no one got a word of it. When his beautiful, hallucinatory movies showed the packed house was dumbstruck, and when the lights came up no one said a word. He glared back at us with undisguised hostility, pulled his folding chair to within inches of the terrified citizens of the front row, and announced that he hadn’t come all this way to be met with silence, and that he was prepared to wait “as long as it took.” More silence followed. A friend of mine and fellow film student bravely raised a shaking fist and asked, “In the movie about the car (Thank You Jesus for the Eternal Present) what film stock did you use?” Landow replied brisky, “I didn’t think we asked questions like that anymore.”

His work had been dubbed “structuralist” by reigning avant writing dean P. Adams Sitney, an unfortunate term which might be better named “conceptual,” as in, conceptual art film. Another indelicate term. But while Landow’s movies (he later changed his name to Owen Land because he was intent on getting land) were interested in the stuff of movie making itself, he was more concerned with the Christian conversion experience, a moment which he replayed and parodied and obsessed about, in movie after movie. In No Sir, Orison! this moment comes in a supermarket. In Wide Angle Saxon it arrives after falling asleep watching a dull fringe movie, the applause is enough to do it. His A Film of Their 1973 Spring Tour was commissioned by the Christian World Liberation Front. His witty, playful works are stuffed with palindromes and puns, and create a singularly odd quest for transcendence, as he returns insistently on the frame of the movie theatre.

Two Films by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow) provides detailed insight into the work of Owen Land. It features the illustrated scripts to the films Wide Angle Saxon (1975) and On the Marriage Broker Joke as Cited by Sigmund Freud in Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious or Can the Avant-Garde be Wholed? (1977-79), complete with footnotes which untangle their elaborate web of references. Reading far beyond the two films alluded to in the title, it also includes a new interview, annotated filmography and recent essays by the artist.

Introduction – 9
Wide Angle Saxon, annotated screenplay – 15
On the Marriage Broker Joke, annotated screenplay – 45
Heavens Tibet Sees, essay – 81
Remedial Reading Comprehension, essay – 86
The Booth Bimbo and the Charismatic, essay – 87
A Film of Their 1973 Spring Tour, essay – 89
Wide Angle Saxon, essay – 93
Sources of My Titles – 98
Interview with Owen Land – 101
Filmography – 113
Stage Plays by Owen Land – 125
Bibliography – 127
About the Author – 135