The critically-acclaimed, but commercially-disappointing album, Paul's Boutique (1988) by the Beastie Boys is a landmark when it comes to sampling in the music industry. While this practice of taking clips of found beats, riffs, or lyric lines from existing song recordings and then incorporating them into an entirely new recording had been commonplace at that time, the Beasties' innovative production team, the Dust Brothers, took things to a new level. Samples from all genres, not just the more common funk drum beats and rock riffs, were fair game, and they crafted densely layered tracks packed with samples to support the give-and-take rhyme interplay of the Beasties.
But using this collage concept in cinema? I never had considered slicing and dicing up pieces of old films and assembling them to form an entirely new creation. However, Austrian director Gustav Deutsch does just that with the experimental film FILM IST. a girl & a gun (2009), playing this Thursday at the Hirshhorn. Deutsch toys with the rules of cinema, taking his work's title from the quote, "To make film all you need is a girl and a gun," by French New Wave film director Jean-Luc Godard.
Deutsch brings the girls, the guns and then some. With an archival footage treasure trove ranging from the 1890s to the 1940s at his disposal, he mixes and matches color-tinted clips from all sorts of genres, including naughty movies, scientific films, war documentaries and even iconic scenes from mainstream cinema. It's not all haphazard cutting and pasting though, as everything is actually arranged in a five-act narrative montage with underlying themes of creation, love, sex, violence and death in what the New York Times calls "a vision of cinematic paradise, found and lost."