Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 7:30pm
Andrew Noren's Charmed Particles
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Charmed Particles, Andrew Noren, 1978, 16mm, 78 mins
Light Industry presents a rare screening of Andrew Noren's Charmed Particles, Part IV of The Adventures of the Exquisite Corpse, the artist's interconnected series of films which he began producing in 1968 and continued across four decades.
Though Noren was considered by his contemporaries as one of the most significant figures of the American avant-garde, his work has fallen off the radar of film culture, in part because of his own doing. In his youth, Noren was seen by many as a quintessential experimental filmmaker, making increasingly formalist diary films in dialog with figures like Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, and Nathaniel Dorsky that explored a muted heterosexual eroticism through virtuosic photography and printing, reimagining cinema as a more deeply contemplative medium. He was even said to have served as a model for the protagonist of Jim McBride’s seminal mock-documentary David Holtzman’s Diary. Several of Noren’s earliest films, however, were lost in a house fire, and in later years Noren pulled some of his best-known works out of distribution and strictly limited their public exhibition. Now, over a year after the filmmaker’s passing, his work is ripe for reconsideration.
Made in his mid-30s, Charmed Particles presents Noren at the height of his powers. Employing single-frame lensing and high-contrast cinematography, the filmmaker transforms stark bits of light and shadow captured around his modest home into a vast universe of optical abstraction. Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has noted that Charmed Particles “has so much to ‘say’ about light and texture—something that affects all our daily visual experience, a subject that spreads out over our lives as unmemorably as a picnic tablecloth over a patch of ground—that I can’t really ignore it. So black and white it can make you forget that color films exist, and so sensually rich it may make you want to go on a movie diet afterwards, this exquisite chronicle of Noren’s self-confessed activity as a ‘light thief’ and ‘shadow bandit,’ mainly within the limited yet limitless confines of a small city apartment, is fortunately silent, too. It creates visual music so concentrated that I’m sure any musical accompaniment would be redundant or, even worse, reductive in effect...Mottled shadows flicker across an eye, a horizontal wipe reveals clothes swaying on a line (like a glissando running up a keyboard), silvery light speckles a floor or atomizes on quivering water or turns a woman’s hair into the Milky Way, wind blows snow crystals at night, fragments of fabric drift past an open window (in a peekaboo pattern remaining a basic rhythmic component throughout, a perpetual give-and-take of now you see it / now you don’t), parts of human and feline bodies and diverse objects conspire in activities (walking, dishwashing, reading the paper, looking at a TV or a movie still, climbing stairs).”
Evoking both the anamorphic expressionism of Robert Wiene and the voluptuous style of Josef von Sternberg, yet freed from the strictures of narrative, Charmed Particles is an exemplary work of conceptual expansion via formal reduction. The film, Noren once explained, "was totally improvised, starting with the first image that appears in the finished film and continuing on from there. It was shot over a period of several years and the operating rule was that I would shoot every day, if at all possible and if the light was good, working with light and shadow and whatever was around me, not knowing in advance what I would be shooting, trusting that in the end, everything would cohere and come to meaning, which it did. Risé [Hall-Noren, who appears in the film] and I were living at the time in a tiny apartment on West Tenth Street, so small it was like living in a camera, although it got splendid light, and I took the basic elements of our life and worked to see what improvisation and variations were possible, to see if I could charm the disparate elements into form. Being able to invent and improvise and consciously shape material in a given moment has always been important to me, and I’ve always felt that even the commonest, most mundane things are wonderfully rich in possibilities, if you have the eyes for it.”
Tickets - $8, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.