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FILM IST. a girl & a gun
Directed by Gustav Deutsch
In the grand tradition of epic poetry, FILM IST. a girl and a gun
fuses found footage from cinema’s past and ancient Greek text, by the likes of Sappho, Hesiod and Plato, into 24 frames-per-second of kinetic ecstasy. Combing the vaults of international film archives and the Kinsey Institute, Austrian artist Gustav Deutsch returns to Tribeca with the third installment in his Film ist
(“Film is…”) series, bringing to light some of the most entrancing and indelible images of early cinema that you’ve never seen. The spectacles range from purple-tinted bodybuilders to Annie Oakley, nudist athletes to stop-motion flowers that blossom before the camera’s eye, stag film models to gun-toting women. Using the Greek writings as intertitles, Deutsch orchestrates the images into a five-act structure: Genesis, Paradeisos, Eros, Thanatos and Symposion. Within this framework, seemingly disparate images collide, creating a new cinematic world of gods and goddesses.
While the title recalls Jean-Luc Godard’s famous quip — “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun” — the film feels more in the tradition of Joseph Cornell’s Rose Hobart
(1936), in which footage from East of Borneo
(1931) was “remixed” with other found footage. Cornell disrupted pre-existing narrative continuities and built his own: the rhythms and logic stem from his own hyper-energetic perception as a viewer, and go above and beyond the limits of what is merely “on screen.” Cornell, like Deutsch, was inspired to go to the source and write his own cinematic genesis. Infused with a creative sense of wanderlust, Deutsch’s art is equal parts research and editing. The inter-relations from cut-to-cut vary: some create continuity where none existed before; others create clever image-play the way a linguist would manipulate words; still others create something more ambiguous, a poetry that is felt rather than thought.
Using images originally shot on that volatile dinosaur nitrate (whose grain was so fine that it even surpasses current digital technology, but which was also so unstable that it tended to spontaneously combust…), it is only fitting that FILM IST. a girl and a gun
be seen on the big screen. Some of the images may be over a hundred years old, but it is still one of the most pleasurable movies of the year to watch thus far.
Screens for the final time on Sat, 5/2. Currently without U.S. distribution.