Cobwebbed cans of silent and early sound-era film are turned into gold by master archive hunter Gustav Deutsch in docu “Film Ist. a Girl & a Gun.” Extracting World War I newsreels, stag films, racy Euro features and ultra-rare clips from the Kinsey Institute, Deutsch emerges with a heady essay on eroticism and violence in cinema’s formative years. Fests, cinematheques and selected art galleries and museums will want to play this dreamlike dissertation for adults-only auds.
The third installment in Deutsch’s “Film Ist.” project takes its title from D.W. Griffith’s maxim “All you need to make a film is a girl and a gun.” Divided into five acts — “Genesis,” “Paradeisos,” “Eros,” “Thanos” (death) and “Symposium” — and with quotes from Greek poets guiding the way, the docu begins with Annie Oakley firing her rifle in Edison’s famous 1894 kinetoscope. Cutting between nude athletics, medical examinations, a bizarre public parade of soldiers wearing gasmasks and Marlene Dietrich dancing in 1927’s “Cafe Elektric,” Deutsch raises the art of found footage assembly to stunning heights. The soundscape, ranging from bouncy electronica to throat singing, is a masterpiece in its own right.