Noël Burch

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For the 19th/20th century British cavalry officer, see Noel Birch.

Noël Burch (born 1932) is an American film theorist, who moved to France at a young age. Burch is known for his contribution of commonly used terms by film scholars (such as Institutional Mode of Representation (IMR)) and for his theories compiled in books such as Theory of Film Practice or La lucarne de L'Infini.

Burch's major contribution to the history of film theory is not his definition of classical Hollywood film tropes, which had already been done, but rather his focus on early cinema. There, he identified a set of film styles that he would identify as the Primitive Mode of Representation (PMR). In doing so, he found what he thought was a "purer" cinema, one untainted by what he considered bourgeois ideology.

Whether his ideology informed his understanding of film style, or vice versa, his Theory Of Film Practice is one of the key works in the canon of Western film theory.

In the foreword to the 1980 edition of Theory Of Film Practice, Burch repudiated some of his earlier theories, expanding on his younger self's limited conception of formalism as applied to the film arts. But, Burch insists the reader "sift out the nuggets that may still lie among the dross".

His book To The Distant Observer, while often criticized as a self-serving and selective idealization of Japanese aesthetics in the service of Burch's own anti-structuralist, Marxist ideology, was one of the first attempts by a western film theorist to situate Japanese cinema within the context of traditional Japanese aesthetics.[citation needed]

In 2010 Noel Burch received Venice Horizons Award on Venice Film Festival for documentary movie The Forgotten Space.

In January 2013 Noel Burch launched fundraising campaign on to make the narrative movie The Gentle Art Of Tutelage.


  • Correction, Please or How we got into pictures (Dir: Noel Burch/UK/57min/1979)
  • The Year of the Bodyguard (Dir: Noel Burch/UK/57min/1981)
  • Red Hollywood (Dir: Noel Burch/USA/120min/1990)
  • Sentimental Journey (Dir: Noel Burch/Germany/France/70min/1994)
  • Cuba entre chien et louve (Dir: Noel Burch/France/57min/1997)
  • La Fiancée du danger (Dir: Noel Burch/France/57min/2005)
  • The Forgotten Space (Dir: Noel Burch/Netherlands/Austria/57min/2011)