Andrew Noren, The Lighted Field

San Francisco Cinematheque

For all of its intoxicated virtuosity, or maybe because of it, Andrew Noren’s The Lighted Field, 1987, strikes the eye as a latter-day “early” film. Its surface energies are sparked from a retrenchment in cinematic self-consciousness; it has the novelty of a quasi-primal proposition about film’s transforming capabilities and reflexiveness. Since transformation is Noren’s theme, to watch him fire up those capabilities and mobilize them is to be transfixed by a magic-lantern display of recorded light and shadow outstripping solid matter in a rapture of shared deliquescence.

The Lighted Field is a silent, tightly built, 61-minute crescendo arrangement of accumulated black-and-white footage, some of it personal, some retrieved from the newsreel archive where Noren works. Although there is no plot (and no titles or credits either), the elements of a story line—an improvised parable or thesis—are

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