Night Light ★★½


My relationship to the films of Lawrence Jordan is complicated. As historical examples of a particular mode of experimental animation, I admire them greatly. Jordan's films use the light table as a space for unconscious, even Surreal ideation, with mute figures floating or appearing and disappearing in spare psychometric environments. They buzz about, sparkle like suns, or rotate on invisible axes.

These dreamscapes often recall the collage works of Max Ernst or the Metaphysical paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, which themselves tend to activate but also confound the very notion of figure / ground relationships. What counts as a figure is often highly ambiguous and subject to change. The ground, meanwhile, is sparse, flattened, and vaguely menacing, providing no sense of realized place.

I often feel as though Jordan's films are hit-or-miss, although I am not the best judge of his practice. My favorites, like Sophie's Place and Our Lady of the Sphere, tend to incorporate contrapuntal sound, activating the visual field with sonic dissonance, at least partially. They also employ repetition, musical rhythms, and other structural conceits. But several of his newer works seem to drift aimlessly in the comforting mist of earlier procedures, without drawing in new elements that would take the language further.

It's unclear how to read a film like Night Light, which establishes various discrete fields and orchestrates limited motion within them, but does not exactly create articulations between these individual fields. So the primary impression one takes from Night Light is that it superficially resembles a Lawrence Jordan film, but lacks the deep rhythmic structure that is a wellspring for his most successful efforts.