San Francisco

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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