As the French director Jean-Luc Godard famously mused, “All you need to make a film is a gun and a girl.” In his latest montage film, aptly titled Film Ist a Girl and a Gun, director Gustav Deutsch takes Godard’s advice quite seriously. Weaving together scenes from a variety of media, including both early film and archival footage, Deutsch guides his audience through a dreamlike meditation on the life cycle, fixating on two of film’s greatest obsessions: sex and violence.
Before I delve into the meat of the film, I must give a fair warning to the less adventurous among us – Film Ist a Girl and a Gun is an often bizarre, mildly pornographic, and sometimes downright incomprehensible piece of work. The movie proceeds like a free association of strange and occasionally disturbing images that generally resist interpretation. That being said, there is a method to Deutsch’s madness, and those who are willing to submit to his experimental approach will undoubtedly recognize the artistic value of his work.
Deutsch’s film is particularly intriguing because it is comprised solely of “found footage,” meaning that its success is almost entirely the result of clever editing. Deutsch often jumps back and forth between two or more sets of footage to create fleeting vignettes, transitioning so quickly that the viewer has little time to reflect on their meaning. At other times, the montage is slow and reflective, with no concern for plot. While this approach may sound slightly disappointing, the overall effect is truly mesmerizing.
Regardless of technique, Film Ist’s raw material is a gold mine in and of itself. Benefiting from his access to a rare collection of historical and scientific footage, Deutsch selects scenes from the past archives of the Kinsey Institute – famous for its research on sex and gender studies – as well as from the specialist collections of the Imperial War Museum. Deutsch frequently arranges his nonfiction fragments with clips of early silent films to create dynamic montages of basic human drives, like sex or violence, and their cinematic representation.
Though the film has no concrete plot, Deutsch creates an internal coherence to his visual narrative by dividing the film into acts named after classical literature: “Genesis,” “Paradeisos,” “Eros,” “Thanatos,” and “Symposium.” These chapters, largely devoid of dialogue, are interspersed with philosophical quotes that illuminate the images they accompany. But it is the spectacular soundtrack that really sets the tone for the film. Ranging from classical symphonic music to modern electro beats, Film Ist a Girl and a Gun builds an incredible soundscape that is seamlessly synchronized to its visuals. The combination of music and poetic captions save Deutsch’s chaotic montages from total obscurity, affording the scenes a lyrical elegance that is actually quite moving.
Film Ist a Girl and a Gun is guaranteed to be popular among those who enjoy montage film or have a passion for early cinema, although its provocative approach is sure to pique the interest of a larger audience as well. Deutsch’s work is a refreshing break from mainstream cinema and a fascinating revival of film’s forgotten, controversial beginnings.
Film Ist a Girl and a Gun screens at Ex-Centris – Le Parallèle (3536 St. Laurent) on October 15 at 5 p.m. and at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) on October 16 at 7 p.m.