Wednesday, July 3, 2013

An agenda-free gun doc? In A GIRL AND A GUN, Cathryne Czubek comes pretty close.

Wow. A documentary all about guns (and the ladies who lunch on them) that either does not have a pro or con agenda or seeks to bury it far enough below the surface that maybe we won't notice one lurking about. It could be that A GIRL AND A GUN -- which may or may not be deliberately quoting Jean-Luc Godard's famous (and famously dumb) statement, "All you need for a film is a girl and a gun," which, like so much of Godard's verbiage and film-making is given immediate obeisance, when a hoot and the boot would be more appropriate -- is simply exploring the question and history of women and guns in the USA. If only this had been done this a bit better.

The movie -- directed, co-produced and co-written by first-timer Cathryne Czubek (shown at right) and edited and co-written by Amanda Hughes -- is all over the place and back again, as it introduces us to a whole bunch of women, beginning with a few who whisper sweet-nothings in our ear about their weapons: "My best friend, my first boyfriend," notes one, fondling her firearm. "It's owning my womanhood!" insists another. God help us. But then we meet some more gals and get to a point of some intelligent and nuanced statements and feelings.

One attractive blond woman, Robin (above and below), who teaches Tai Chi, and whom we visit time and again throughout the film, starts with a more-or-less pro-gun attitude (she needs it to ward off a heavy-set ex-boyfriend who has already broken into her apartment). Her response is understandable and sad, but eventually Robin finds alternate ways to "arm" herself and others.

Along the way we meet a young woman with an infant who has actually used her gun to kill an intruder. She looks and acts like a basket case (but as this was filmed very close to the time of the killing, we shouldn't be too surprised).

We get history -- from Annie Oakley to women during WWII, the famous and crazy J. Edgar Hoover to those venomous female killers from the B movies of the 40s and 50s. Hollywood did and does have a habit of connecting its phallic firearms to big boobs (and big hair) and photographing its pretty women in poses that no real gun user would ever maintain. We're offered some tangy, good-old-gal music along the way, see a fashion show of frilly camouflage clothing (below), and then we meet a mom for gun control and her paralyzed-for-life daughter, left that way as a victim of gunfire.

Visiting a prison, we encounter an inmate who, well over a decade ago, killed her girlfriend in an argument with a gun. As she relives these few moments, it seems clear that, had she not had that gun, the girlfriend would be alive and she'd not be a prisoner. All this is anecdotal, at best, though occasionally we're given some stats and figures to go with the women we meet and their stories. And throughout much of the movie, the tone is oddly and inappropriately light-hearted.

By film's ends (it's a short one) we're pretty much ready to admit that the American woman's relationship to the gun is more complex that a simple yes or no. Though what we've really learned from all this is questionable; we could probably have figured it out on our own. And, really, given the movie's 75-minute length, there's just too much showing off of those gun collections (though gun lovers will probably cream over all this).

A Girl and A Gun opens today for one-, two-, or three-day runs in several cities around the country: click here to see all scheduled playdates, cities and theaters). In New York City, it opens Friday for a week's run at the Quad Cinema, and in the Los Angeles area, look for it at Laemmle theaters in Santa Monica, Pasadena and Claremont on July 6 and 7 only.


Anonymous said...

I finally got around to seeing this film, but walked away seeing no real point in it. Don't waste your time with this one people. Also, I read somewhere that this film took ten years to make. Really?!?! I have to bet that everyone associated with it wishes they had that time back to work on a project with something tangible to offer.

James van Maanen said...

Couldn't agree more, Anon. And learning that ten years were spent on the making of the movie has me viewing it as even more wasteful. Thanks for commenting!