Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gustav Deutsch's FILM IST. a girl & a gun: Composed found-footage makes AFA debut

TrustMovies wants to take this moment to admit to his readers that he is not the brightest bulb on the block (if you've read me for any length of time, this will come as no surprise), especially where experimental cinema is concerned. While he is aware of his limita-
tions (some of them, at least), he nonetheless feels a need to test himself occasionally by viewing experimental work in place of a mainstream, indie or foreign-language film. We all need a challenge.

This month's hurdle comes via Anthology Film Archives, in collaboration with the Aust-
rian Cultural Forum NY, which is presen-
ting a week-
long run of the composition of found footage by Gustav Deutsch titled FILM IST. a girl & a gun -- the latest (2oo9) work of this "composer" (shown above). The roughly 90-minute parade of silent-film images from the last century, many of them color-tinted, is full of war and sex (a bit of it hardcore), men and women, science and technology. There is constant music, often as florid as the images. And titles cards, too, from time to time. Beginning with a shot that nicely combines girl and gun -- it looks like Annie Oakley or someone of her ilk -- the film then offers up red and yellow-tinted images of chaos, moving on to boobs and bubbly lava, volcanoes and tongue kisses, before coming to rest in paradise (which resembles a lot more smoke) & then water -- and soldiers listening to flowers blooming. That's just for openers.

You've got to approach experimental film with an open mind or what's the point. Given the human condition, however, one tends to bring to one's viewing the usual baggage: the search for narrative, connection and what we already "know." You tell yourself to "let go and let it all wash over you," but still, your brain is ever at work, trying to connect. In the section called "I Long and seek after" a girl has a date with a see-through man, imbibing a bit and eating some cake (or not). Wow: fun! Plus there's probably no hangover, no calories, and she won't even get pregnant! Now these are thoughts that I suspect the filmmaker did not plan on my having, but there you are. Or maybe he'd be charmed by them, or even had them himself. Who knew?! Who knows?

Soon enough, I believe, there will be no way around realizing that you are viewing a kind of History of the World, though one with a very narrow vision -- it's all sex and war (and the war between the sexes) -- that is not without its charms and even bears comparison to the Mel Brooks version. Girls and guns are oft connected here but not always in the same manner. Jealousy rears its head, and a duel brings us back, in a roundabout way, to the opening shot. And those images just keep on connecting. One of my favorites is a safe in which... the male libido is stored? Nice!

Thanatos, too, get its licks in, as the movie mixes corpse-dissection and autopsies with sex and dancing, masked (above) and otherwise, with the choice of music sometimes alarming -- and meant to be. A little bestiality is tossed in for good measure, along with a wilting plant, torture by tickling and a raft of images from WWI. Connect as you will. Finally, though, we see that to conquer sexually is to court destruction. We knew that: Look at most marriages. But a timely reminder is always appreciated. As is the thought that to conquer another, even an entire country, is but to sublimate your erect, more likely limp penis into sword or missile.

Film ist. a girl & a gun is fun, no getting around that, even if it is a bit repetitive and glum. Just remember: It's good to be challenged -- and you can be -- starting Wednesday, December 2, through Tuesday, December 8, nightly at 7 and 9pm. Check out the AFA December schedule here.

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