Thursday, 28 April 2011
"Gun Crazy" Review
Bart being pulled in to life of crime provides the film's most fascinating dilemma. Bart has always loved guns but after killing a little chicken when he was young, he can't bring himself to kill anything. Bart says later in the film that if one is going to rob a place, he or she has to be prepared to kill, has to know it may come to that This is what appealed to me most about the film, that Bart is never portrayed as being an outright evil person At the beginning of the film, when Bart is sentenced, he is not portrayed as an evil kid who will always be that way but rather as boy who is a little strange. This makes his decent in to crime much more dramatic and tragic. As in many film noirs, you always say to yourself, "If only he hadn't..." It also makes the love story more complex and poignant. I believe that Bart and Laurie are genuinely in love, that they go together like guns and ammunitions as Bart says, but Laurie is still leading Bart to his doom, as well as her own. The film asks how far would you go to be with the one you love. Could you accept that person even if he or she was a killer?
Bart has to accept Laurie as she is. Like Bart, Laurie is never portrayed as being totally evil. While she does have psychopathic tendencies, there is still a vulnerability, brought to the character by Cummins, that suggests that Cummins is just as afraid and reluctant to kill anyone as Bart. Even when Laurie tries to convince Bart to use Bart's neice as a human shield near the end of the film when she and Bart hide at his sister Ruby's house, it comes across a patheitic rather than evil. It's also darkly funny. Cummins is very good here, being both deadly and vulnerable, always making the audience question her true character. Also, just finding out she is English, she does a convincing American accent.
The director Joseph H. Lewis brings a real sense of excitement to the proceedings, putting the camera in the getaway car so that the audience feels like they are driving away with Bart and Laurie. There was an element of guerilla fillmaking involved in the making of the picture. A sequence in a parking lot where Bart and Laurie escape after a robbery, was done without permission. Phillip Martin says this type of filmmaking anticipates the work of Jean Luc Godard with films like Breathless (1960). Of course, Godard was influenced by American filmmakers and Gun Crazy was one of the inspirations for Breathless. Martin also seems to think that the film can only be taken as camp, and not as a serious piece of work. I disagree. I found the film poignant and was quite masterful in terms of its pacing and mood.
I love how the film comes full circle, returning to Bart's sister and his friends, who still love Bart despite what's he done. I think the real accomplishment of the film, and Dall's performance, is that we kind of come to love him too, and we love him with Laurie. They are a perfect embodiment of the tragic noir couple and Gun Crazy embodies what is great about film noir, all its tragedy, sexual tension, and the excitement of a loaded gun.