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November 12, 2009 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-12

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4B - Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4B - Thursday, November 12, 2009 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

'GUN CRAZY' (1950)
Classic trigger-happy noir

DailyArts Writer
Cartoon-like rain pours down onto a
movie set. A young boy enters and presses
his face against the window of a store - his
eyes light up as his gaze rests on the pistols
in the display case behind the glass. Out of
nowhere, he smashes the window and steals
the guns, only to be immediately caught by a
local policeman.
His reason for stealing: "Shooting is the
only thing I like." Guns are his obsession,
but he never shoots to kill. Needless to say,
this excuse doesn't hold up well, and he is
sentenced to four years of reform school.
No, "Gun Crazy" is not about trigger-hap-
py rednecks or even about Charlton Heston
as a young man. The film is actually a 1950s
film noir about a romantically entangled
woman and man who love guns more than
they love each other.
Returning home from reform school as a
grown man, Bart (John Dali, "Atlantis, the
Lost Continent") attends a carnival where he
meetsAnnie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummings,
"Dentist in the Chair"), a British sharpshoot-
er who doesn't have an accent and loves guns
just as much as Bart does. The two go togeth-
er like "guns and ammunition."
Annie Laurie, however, is bad news. She
wants excitement and a luxurious lifestyle.
In order to attain the fur and diamonds she
desires, Annie Laurie convinces Bart to rob
banks. The two embark on a cross-country
heist, moving from small time crimes in
which they shoot gumball machines to
scare an elderly clerk, to bigger offenses that
include chase scenes through meat freezers.
As always, a life of crime doesn't pay and the
pair meets a tragic end.
For a movie from the 1950s, "Gun Crazy"
is remarkably oversexed. Annie Laurie and
Bart share a bed and go at each other like
wild animals during the make-out scenes.
Director Joseph H. Lewis ("The Big Combo")
made sure sexual tension ran through the
movie like a live wire. At times, the sexual
elements come out overdone, but that's
what makes the film enjoyable - seeing the
repressed tensions of the 1950s manifest
themselves onscreen.
"Gun Crazy" is innovative not only in its
portrayal of relationships between characters
but in its cinematography. One particularly
famous bank-robbery scene was created with-
out filmingthe actual robbery. Filmed inside a
car, the frame captures only the back of Annie
Laurie's head as she makes small talk with
a patrolman while Bart robs the bank off-
screen. No action is shown, just the reactions

of characters; suspense keeps rising.
"Gun Crazy" was among the first films
to consciously separate the camera and the
action. To this day, the technique appears
all over popular cinema; Wes Anderson's
"The Royal Tenenbaums" is almost entirely
crafted with this separation of action and
what's on screen.
Apart from the robbery scene, "Gun
Crazy" does little to distinguish itself from
other film noirs. But it's still a classic, and
while it may not have gained the critical
acclaim of movies like "The Big Sleep" or
"The Maltese Falcon," there is no reason to
dismiss "Gun Crazy" as irrelevant. These
films in general have a tremendous presence
in modern-day films and culture. Because
"Gun Crazy" has all the required elements
of a noir - hard-boiled dialogue, a touch of
A film just crazy
enough to influence
countless followers.
blood and gore, the swarthy small town cop,
shadows and the femme fatale - it can't be
written off.
Directors like Quentin Tarantino, the
Coen Brothers and even Eli Roth all bor-
row bits and pieces of quintessential noir
elements and mix them with the directors'
respective films' brisk dialogue and bloody
scenes. The genre's influence has spread to
television - HBO's "Bored to Death" con-
tains all the elements of film noir ala "Gun
Crazy." It can even be found on the radio,
with Garrison Keillor's "Guy Noir, Radio
Private Eye" onNPR.
Most modern-day noirs mock films like
"Gun Crazy," and it's not terribly hard to
do. The older noirs are stiff and outdated -
most actors would have difficulty keeping
a straight face while delivering lines such
as "Come on, Bart, let's finish it the way we
started it: on the level." For some reason, the
toughness of the old black-and-white film
noirs translates into nothing but laughter.
But this isn't to say their influence
shouldn't be taken seriously. There's a rea-
son noir-referenced motifs like fedora hats,
smoke curling from the end of cigarettes and
the blonde bombshells strutting into police
stations keep popping up. They are effort-
lessly cool and stylish - and these are quali-
ties a lot of films strive for.

From Page 1B
allows you to do a number of proofs and
stages.In a way, that's a document. Very
few art processes have that advantage.
If you paint over something, it disap-
pears," he said.
"In printmaking, you can actually
print images step by step and have it.
By looking at that proof, you make addi-
tions or deletions and move onto anoth-
er print again and compare those two
and see the differences."
"The Four Corners" exhibition
showcases the impact of this reas-
sessment and alteration. His art piec-
es, Two Anthropomorphs I and Two
Anthropomorplis II, are variations on
the same physical objects but express
two distinct feelings. The two prints
repeat the same images of birds and a
haunting figure with an overextended
appendage, holding a shield-shaped
The most striking difference
between the two is their differingcolor
schemes. The former harnesses an
intense orange while the latter seems
far less threatening with its use of a
chilly, light blue.
Takahara admits that color is a key
element of his work. It's also the most
challenging part of the intaglio process
to pinpoint. Ultimately, it's personally
rewarding when the exact shade is real-
"Because (getting the right color) is
difficult and challenging, you want to
do it," Takahara explained about the
tedious precision that goes along with
searching for the right color. "I didn't
invent that. That's always been the
"If you knew the result, then you
wouldn't do it," he added.
The breathtaking hues are what
attracted Takahara to the Four Cor-
ners region in the first place, but upon
arrival, it was the mysteriousness of the
region that intrigued him the most.
"There's something supernatu-
ral about that place," Takahara said.
"There's this giant, almost structure,
but it naturally eroded or created cliffs
and mountains. Something about that is
so overwhelming to me."
Although the Four Corners region
was his predetermined destination,
there was not a specific object or land-
scape he planned to capture. He instead
opted for a more holistic approach.
"I was not interested in a particular
spot to document," Takahara said. "1
(try to get) the sense of the place and
recreate that sense of a place in myself
and realize it. So what you see in the
show is nothing particular --- not such


and such place. You cannot tell. But you
get the sense of, 'oh yeah, I get it' kind
of thing."
Titles like Two Moons over Canyon
and Calling the Flock of Birds in "The
Four Corners" exhibit are evidence of
the absence of prints recording exact
geographic location.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect
of Takahara's work is that he doesn't
travel with his printmaking material or
haul heavy equipment around to remote
locales as an Impressionist painter
would. Instead, he focuses on bottling
up his experience of a general area,
sorting out his feelings in his head. It
is not until he's back in the confines of
his Ann Arbor studio that he begins to
express on paper the sentiments he felt
hundreds of miles away.
A piece like Whispering Echo illus-
trates the high degree of success Taka-
hara has reached in his work. The time

of contemplation that Takahara sets
aside for himself to sort out ideas in his
head allows for a full realization of the
inherent forces in a region like the Four
The piece seems to capture the feel-
ing of a sound through a thick red-
orange backdrop and a series of random
shapes and sweeping lines. Provoking
a certain sentiment through noise that
can't be heard but, rather seen, feels
like a nearly impossible achievement in
visual art.
Intaglio printmaking can be viewed
as a strange alternative to painting
and drawing, and can also he seen as
a roundabout way to fulfill an artistic
endeavor. When done right, though,
intaglio can express fleeting emotions
and even the momentary sensation of
sound through random etchings and
poignant colors, no matter how long it
takes to complete a print.

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selld for
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