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Letters

The artist’s impulse — and, um, other impulses

The MassArt campus in Boston.
The MassArt campus in Boston.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Do the folks at MassArt know that it’s an art school?

Did anyone actually watch the 1989 film, “Notes After Long Silence,” the subject of Malcolm Gay’s April 1 Globe article, “Film shown at MassArt leads to professor’s departure”? I would contend that no administrator at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design could have seen it, or they wouldn’t reportedly have called in professor Saul Levine and accused him of sexual harrassment.

I have watched the film, readily available online. It’s a montage with many cuts and all kinds of random footage thrown together, including that of Gerald Ford, B.B. King, the Vietnam War, and a woman with her children. In between are occasional shots of human body parts so herky-jerky, abstract, and quick on screen that you can barely grasp that there’s something sexual going on. Very important: At no point do we see the filmmaker on screen as a person having sex.

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There is no sexual harassment or even the slightest thing inappopriate in presenting this film in a college course. A million mainstream Hollywood films, which anyone would screen in a class without a thought, have infinitely more sexual content than Levine’s little film. It wouldn’t even have an R rating.

Gerald Peary

Cambridge

The writer is a film critic and a retired film professor from Suffolk University.

Disservice done to a major figure in underground film

In my view, Malcolm Gay’s characterization of Saul Levine’s film, in Gay’s recent article about Levine’s position at MassArt, makes one wonder whether Gay actually viewed the film (though one would expect that he did). Levine is a major figure in the American underground film movement. A serious viewing of the film in question, “Notes After Long Silence,” would not bring an informed viewer of visual art to the conclusion that the film is either “graphic” in a sexual sense or that its complex musicality can be reduced to a description of “images of Levine naked and having sex with his partner.” The public, which is deprived of knowledgeable writing about experimental film, deserves to be informed about such matters by someone who can help create understanding rather than reduce a serious discussion to the lowest common denominator.

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Janis Crystal Lipzin

Sebastopol, Calif.

The writer is former chair of the San Francisco Art Institute Film Department and former director of the Antioch College film/photography program.

Banning Horovitz’s work altogether is an overwrought overreach

Re “Artistic reckoning” (Sunday Arts, April 1): As a feminist with more personal #MeToo stories than I can count, I am dismayed at the “throw the baby out with the bathwater” mentality that seems to have infiltrated an otherwise long-overdue and powerful social movement.

Even though we know of people who have been accused of despicable behavior, should we stop watching Woody Allen’s movies or, for that matter, any movies and TV shows where producers, directors, or screenwriters are suspected or proven predators? Absolutely, but only if it is one’s personal choice to boycott the work.

However, making an artist’s work unavailable is akin to burning books. While I applaud the Gloucester Stage Company’s ousting of playwright Israel Horovitz the man, I believe that refusing to mount his works is an overreach, and it has the potential to harm the #MeToo movement by crossing into the realm of overwrought extremism.

Mary O’Connor

Roslindale

When artistic works are banned, it’s the public that’s punished

Certainly no form of sexual harassment or violence should be permitted. However, some cases fit into the misdemeanor category and others into the felony category, yet it seems all are punished with a banning of the artist and the artist’s work. Picasso was a well-known womanizer. Should his work be banned? If it came to light that Shakespeare committed sexual assault, should his work be banned?

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Why deny the public of the good works of bad men?

Richard Price

Waban