Action at a Distance

by Gidal, Peter

Film: 16mm 1980


‘As to Bedroom (1971), Room Film (1973), Condition of Illusion (1975) and 4th Wall (1978) the inscription, not only of Gidal's resistance to (distanciation from) the lure of the sensual, sublimated visual object but also of the spectator's possibility of similar resistance is not just a parallel resistance. It is an attempted inscription of the spectator's possibility of resistance to the identification with the pleasure of the filmmaker in that object or even an identification with the filmmaker's act of resistance. In Gidal's films, the first level of resistance, that of the filmmaker to the lure of the object, is chiefly inscribed through the action of the camera in its 'looking at' the space - variously through, motion, distance, focal length's effect on perspective, zoom or focus. The second level, the attempt to distanciate the spectator from the identification with the enunciator, is chiefly inscribed through devices like, repetition, graining out or darkening out of the image in printing, or disruptions in the flow of images and motion. It is particularly in the devices of the second level of distanciation - the effects on the screen of 'material flatness, grain, light movement' - where Gidal, in an attempt to produce a condition for the spectator of response to the film, rather than identification with the filmmaker, that he has recourse to those features 'intrinsic' to film. In his attempt to reduce ('eliminate', his rhetoric would tend to demand) identification with the filmmaker, he attempts to stress the film act itself. The film work presented as a film work is an attempt to permit the spectator to utilise, appropriate, transform the film unencumbered by the ego of the filmmaker - its terms are public rather than private - a public discourse.’ - Malcolm LeGrice, Some Introductory Thoughts On Gidal's Films and Theory, Independent Cinema Documentation File No. 1.


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