I've been thinking, about the original query from John Muse in light of the 
follow-up query about Michelson, doing some wild-ass speculating. Mark's post 
(he certainly knows WAY more about this than I do) suggests my imaginings are 
at least not grossly inconsistent with known facts. And my concluding 
suggestions are that John's project is misconceived in taking 
'structuralist/materialist' as a genre, and could be more productively framed 
as 'films by women relevant to the debates around "structuralists" and 
"structuralist/materialist" cinema'.
___________

I wasn't thinking about the possibility any interpersonal tension might be 
involved in Gidal's choices – and I'm not at all surprised there isn't any. 
Rather I was thinking about the function of his choices in relation to the 
theoretical/critical issues around different concepts of avant grade film, 
'formalist' aesthetics, etc. 

From what I remember (it's been, errr, awhile) Gidal's own essays are quite 
polemical, define 'structuralist/materialist' quite narrowly, and pretty 
hard-line towards anything/anyone that doesn't fit his aesthetic politics. I 
took the core of the position to be a radical left politics of representation – 
a sort of '_Screen_ Theory' on steroids – in which the goal is a sort of film 
that disrupts 'the dominant ideology', but goes way beyond the Brechtian 
concepts someone like Colin McCabe celebrates in the work of Godard. As radical 
politics, the 'structuralist/materialist' writings have some qualities of 
political manifestos – 'out there' in a bold way designed to disrupt and stir 
the pot, not necessarily to be followed to the letter. 

Thus, it makes sense to frame an edited anthology around the pot, not just the 
spoon. Having some stuff to debate is part of the fun of most good anthologies, 
and helps sell the book, as faculty will be more likely to use it if it offers 
useful contrasts between essays. 'Wrongheaded' is not necessarily 'bad'. 'Bad' 
would be something so off-base it's not worth arguing about. Michelson would be 
worth arguing against for Gidal simply because she's Michelson. Gidal's reply 
to Mark indicates he saw Michelson's piece on Wavelength as paradigmatic of the 
'American' view, a good example of 'wrongheadedness' (in the sense of both 
'typical' and 'strong') and thus a very good choice for 'problematizing a 
terrain rather than imposing one position'. 

If you're out to slay an idea-dragon, you show the dragon. And you take on the 
Big dragon, not some weak second stringer...


> “fetishization of process and idealization of the formal in its weak sense.”

Ahh, the 1970s. Those were the days, eh? 

This quote strikes me as pointing nicely to how the Brits were defining 
'structuralist-materialist' in OPPOSITION to the essentially apolitical 
aesthetic formalism of American critics including Sitney and Michelson. They 
had a high-theory, hard-line POLITICAL take, yes? Film, including avant grade 
film, played a role in the class struggle whether the makers and critics wanted 
it to or not, and any film or commentary that failed to address the question of 
the IDEOLOGY of form was indeed 'blind' – the joke version being that footage 
in focus was hopelessly bourgeois.

The choice of 'structuralist-materialist' as a rubric was a challenge to the 
'establishment view'. Since Sitney's 'structuralist' label for similar films 
was already in place, 'structuralist-materialist' couldn't help but create 
confusion and conflict – to "problematize". You could say the Brits wanted to 
appropriate (as in 'righteously steal) a chunk of terrain from the bourghy 
formalist wankers as a prize in The Struggle. In an intellectual turf war, you 
want there to be more at stake, so you take a wider view of the territory.

As a thought experiment, consider that Gidal et. al. could have just called it 
"materialist film" from the get-go, and made it clear that despite some 
apparent similarities, works like Wavelength and the sort of 
critical/theoretical position presented by Michelson were NOT what they were 
talking about. Had that been so, had they been defining a new genre, then 
there'd be no rationale for including Mcihelson's piece. But they wanted that 
turf. They wanted to say that Snow and Michelson were 'doing it WRONG!' 

As such, I'd suggest John's notion that he's working against the grain in 
including Ono and Ackerman is 'wrongheaded' in that the grain is not one of 
conformity to polemic principles, but tension and dialogue between those 
principles and other ways of looking at avant grade film practice. Thus, I'm 
thinking John is actually intuitively going with the grain, as the lumber in 
question can't be cut or planed smooth in any direction, and the whole point of 
the wood-crafting is to pull up splinters…
___________

In that spirit, I'll note one film/maker not included in Gidal's anthology, and 
not yet mentioned in this thread that strikes me as essential in looking at the 
subject in context (perhaps belaboring the obvious?): Laura Mulvey and 
Mulvey?Wollen's "Riddles of the Sphinx".
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