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Reverence: The Films of Owen Land

This touring exhibition celebrates the work of Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow), one of the most original and celebrated American filmmakers of the 60s and 70s. The films made during this period fuse an intellectual sense of reason with the irreverent wit that distances them from the supposedly ‘boring’ world of avant-garde cinema. Land’s early materialist works anticipated Structural Film—the definition of which provoked his rejection of film theory and convention—and include explorations into the physical qualities of the celluloid strip.  His attention soon turned to the spectator in a series of works that question the illusionary nature of cinema through the use of word play and optical ambiguity.  In several of these films Land constructs ‘facades’ of reality, often directly addressing the viewer using the language of television, advertising or educational films, and by featuring characters that are often the antithesis of those we might expect to see, such as podgy middle aged men and religious fanatics. Experimental film itself is also parodied, as Land mimics his contemporaries and mocks the solemn approach of theorists and scholars. Later works draw on the filmmaker’s experiences with Christianity but are far from evangelistic. Throughout, Land’s films contain numerous cross-references to the art and culture of our time, giving them a relevance and vitality beyond the hermetic avant-garde.

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From the Harvard Film Archive Collection …