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By David Finkelstein | November 18, 2011

The footage in “Number One,” a ten minute abstract video by Leighton Pierce, is of elemental forces: tumbling stones, water, fire, nude bodies in motion. This footage is always shot with a wildly moving camera, and the imagery is further blurred by the use of video effects, so the video consists of a blurred, flowing stream of colors and liquid forms, in which individual objects can be hard to identify.

Pierce takes this flowing imagery as the basic material for the film, and he masterfully composes many layers of footage into overlapping, fuzzy-edged rectangles, usually arranged into symmetrical compositions, often with mirrored reflections. These rectangles are constantly changing size and relationship, so they go with the theme of a world in constant flux, yet their formal, symmetrical look creates a wonderful counter-dynamic to the completely fluid nature of the images. The sounds, also heavily blurred with reverb, are a collage of matching elements of water, fire, falling stones, and other ambient noises. Pierce creates considerable drama and thrilling musicality from the way one texture and mood suddenly veers into a contrasting one.

Overall, “Number One” gives a visceral experience of a world of flowing, intermingling energies, which nevertheless has a distinct and discernible structure. The bilateral symmetry of much of the film subtly reminded me of the bilateral symmetry of the human body, and this contributed to the visceral, physical feeling of the film. Pierce has a fantastic skill at making visual and sound compositions, and he has created a complex experience of contrapuntal images and sounds which is never less than mesmerizing to watch.

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