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November 12, 2009

SDFF 2009- Film is a Girl & a Gun

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Film Ist. A girl & a Gun
Gustav Deutsch - 2009
Six Pack Films

For the next week and a half, I will be covering some of the films at the Starz Denver Film Festival, also known as the SDFF. My coverage will not always correspond with when the films are shown but based on when I've seen the films. Some films will be seen at the festival, while others have been viewed as DVD screeners.

The truth is that I am not sure what Gustav Deutsch is really trying to say with his series of montages created from clips primarily from silent films. And I'm not sure if it even matters if I understand what what is being said, unsaid, or merely suggested. The footage is combined from various European archives of nature films, nudie cuties, pornography, excerpts from such disparate pioneers as Melies, William Dickson, G.W. Pabst, and Gustav Machaty. The contemporary music, from several composers, makes me think of the repackaging of silent films for a hipster audience, much like the DVD compilation, 'Music for Experimental Films", with Tom Verlaine noodling on the guitar against the visual fantasies of Man Ray.

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Where's P. Adams Sitney when I really need him to explain to me about the myths, about the quotes from Plato, Hesiod and Sappho, about what it is I'm looking at? The images are fascinating, even if I'm groping for some kind of cohesive meaning here. One thing is certain is that when it came to sex, the motion picture camera was there from pretty close to the beginning. One could even say that film was exploiting sex and violence as soon as someone figured out how to take the camera from the train station to the bedroom. I guess if I really wanted to understand what I was looking at, I could check out an essay by my former NYU pal and teacher, Tom Gunning, who contributed an essay on Deutsch in a recently published monograph.

The first image used is of Annie Oakley demonstrating her trick shooting skills. The last image is from one of the first westerns, with the outlaw shooting his gun, facing the camera. In between are images of women in various states of undress, volcanos, flowers, and wounded World War I veterans, mostly in monochrome tints, but also with some hand painted frames that may or may not reproduce reality. In part of the footage, two men who resemble the Smith Brothers of cough drop fame, play gynecologists to a nude woman on a table. Lovers are almost caught in the act by the woman's husband. Had Arthur Schnitzler's writings been made into film at the time of publication, these might have been some of the images that would have been seen, were it allowed for mass audiences. And maybe Deutsch film should be viewed as a dream, where there are some connections between the images, but the meaning, if there is one, is determined by the dreamer.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 12, 2009 12:28 AM