Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lock & Load: A Video Essay About Guns in Movies

As with the last video essay I cut, I will let this one speak for itself in terms of what it is expressing. It almost seems a bit overwhelming for this to come out so soon after "The Takeaway" considering there was a bigger gap between the time I cut one and the other. The one-two punch of them makes it look like I may be working out some issues of aggression through the form of video essays, though the subject matter really dictated the form.

This is actually for a fairly brand new website (less than two months old) called Capital, a site about politics, media and culture in New York, which deserves your support regardless of where you live. "Lock & Load" is actually timed with the release of "The Expendables", which I most likely will be skipping this weekend. This did come together pretty fast in the last couple of weeks, so I am actually still trying to process this one myself. I want to thank Matt Zoller Seitz and Aaron Aradillas for bringing me on to edit this. There is a montage about 9 minutes in that most editors probably wish they could get a chance to cut.

The high quality Vimeo version is above. You can also watch this at Capital here.

Hope you find it a blast!


Craig said...

Watching this piece on our culture's fetishism of violence (as simultaneously disturbing and exhilarating as I suspect it's intended to be), I'm reminded of how often I tune out the obligatory scene in so many films that's depicted here, when a character checklists the qualities of a piece of weaponry. I have no use for guns and hope I never will. And yet, admittedly, there's a voyeuristic fascination with that type of scene as well. The best movies convey this ambiguity ("Taxi Driver," "The Wild Bunch"), or have an emotional thrust to the violence where there's something at stake (Ripley's descent in "Aliens"). The rest run the gamut between deadening and exciting -- or, on rarer occasions, comic ("Raising Arizona," "Evil Dead 2") or satirical ("Starship Troopers"). I like the variety of movies in this piece, all showing on the face of it the same thing.

For me, the most powerful scene in a film involving the use of a gun is in "The Godfather," when Michael Corleone kills the drug lord and the police captain. It's overwhelming because it's one of the few times in a movie where we see the cost of taking a life on the person who takes it.

Another thought-provoking video essay.

Dersu said...

Oooh, guns, guns, guns! C'mon, Sal! The Tigers are playing to-night! I never miss a game.

P.S. You forgot RoboCop. :)

Jason Bellamy said...

Fucking bitchin'! So many artfully edited montages. I can't decide if I like the gun inspection montage or the "it's close" montage. Both are terrific. Nice work.

I think Craig's probably right about The Godfather, by the way.

Steven Santos said...

Thank you for all the comments. Yes, Craig's point about that scene in "The Godfather" is right on, even more so because everything that happens to Michael Corleone after that happens because he made that choice.

Helena said...

Like Craig, I have no use for guns, or particular admiration for anyone who chooses to use one, and my taste in movies inclines towards those where the consequences of the violence meted out by the gun are explored, rather than the gun itself fetished. However, Johnnie To is my blind spot, and I loved that you included Exiled in your choice of films.

Also, pondering the differences in national gun cultures, just wondered if you'd seen A Bittersweet Life, by Kim Ji Woon. There's a scene where the protagonist decides to buy a gun to revenge himself on his former boss. The problem is, despite being someone who clearly knows how to both attack and defend himself, he doesn't know how to shoot a gun - he's evidently not familiar with guns at all. So he has to pretend he knows what he's buying, gets just a brief lesson in how to load his purchase, and then has to put it into fumbling practice within minutes in order to fend off the very dealers who have sold him the gun. It's a really interesting moment: for a protagonist who is so clearly moulded on Delon's Samourai, it's actually shocking that he doesn't even know about guns (a vulnerability even he doesn’t seem to be aware of until you seen the realization dawning in his expression) that ratchets up the tension to great effect). Such a contrast with, say, American gangster films where it's a given that the protagonist will be familiar with guns. Interesting sidenote on the currency of the gun within different cultures (cinematic and otherwise).

Hokahey said...

Superlative editing here. I loved the inclusion of clips from The Day of the Jackal, and the clips from Taxi Driver provided a pervading thread that showed that that film is one of the best to depict gun fetishism.

Craig's comments above are right on!

I'll be honest here. I don't own a gun, but I have to admit that I enjoy shooting guns at targets. I visited a friend in a nowhere town in the Sacramento Valley this summer - and we did the kind of thing you do there in Yuba City. We had lunch at a saloon, we picked fruit and vegetables, we ate peaches, we fed the chickens, we rode his rider mower, we bought hay at a feed store, and I joined his son and friend who were blasting a tin can with a shotgun. It was fun.