Sunday, January 1, 2017

THE CINEMA OF KATHRYN BIGELOW TOLD THROUGH IMAGES & STILLS




Kathryn Bigelow has dabbled in almost every cinematic genre & sub-genre there is. She's been considered a cult movie director at one point in her career only to transform in to one of the most critically acclaimed/mainstream award-winning filmmakers working today. The transition from her on-going association with her ex-husband James Cameron to etching out her own place in film is pretty remarkable and cinematic in itself (she would go on to beat Cameron out for best director in 2009).
Like a few other directors we've explored in this series (Andrea Arnold, Xavier Dolan, etc), Kathryn Bigelow isn't a personal favorite of mine but her work is so unique (and sometimes overlooked) that it deserves a PINNLAND EMPIRE-style retrospective. There are plenty of over-thought pieces/essays/reviews on Point Break concerning gender & sexuality (we get it - Keanu & Swayze had some homoerotic tension. Say something new please). But beyond Point Break, Hurt Locker & Zero Dark Thirty, you'd be hard-pressed to find folks who have the same appreciation for The Loveless, Near Dark, Strange Days or her more head-scratching directing choices like K-19 The Widowmaker or The Weight Of Water (say what you want about those last two films but as you scroll through this piece you'll see those films tie in with all the other films in Bigelow's cinematic universe no matter how forgotten/ignored they are).
I'm willing to bet that at some point while reading this piece a good chunk of you are bound to go; "oh yeah- She did direct that."


Enjoy...


COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIPS
The characters in Kathryn Bigelow's films are often at odds with each other but they still have some kind of warped mutual love and/or respect for one another. The minute Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) meets Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) in Point Break they have an immediate magnetic bromantic connection. Even after discovering Utah is an undercover FBI agent they still maintain a cordial cat & mouse relationship (highlighted in the chase sequence where Johnny has a clear shot at Bodhi but doesn't take it, along with the very ending where Johnny lets Bodhi go in order to chase his ultimate wave).
Mae (Near Dark) knows she can't get involved romantically with someone who isn't a vampire yet she still falls for Caleb.
For the majority of Blue Steel, Megan is unaware that she's fallen for the serial killer that murdered her best friend. Even when they're trying to kill each other Eugene still has a childlike fascination/attraction to her.
Near Dark
Point Break
Blue Steel
Strange Days




AN APPRECIATION FOR SHORT HAIRED WOMEN
I'm sorry but even when you put my own super-strong personal preference for short-haired women aside, I don't think it can be denied that when short hair is worn/styled correctly it trumps any & all feminine hairstyles (sorry if I've offended anyone that this doesn't apply to or is offended by my use of the word feminine). There's a reason why everyone from Louise Brooks to Amber Rose & Halle Berri have been considered to be some of the sexiest women ever. Even Scarlett Johansson often keeps her hair on the short side.
Any time men claim to find short hair unattractive on women they're either lying (they're scared to admit something other than long hair is sexy because long hair is the standard quality associated with female beauty in their minds), or they just haven't been exposed to the right short haircut. Kathryn Bigelow knows this because most of the leading ladies and romantic interests in the first half of her career have all had short hair. What's one of the most memorable characteristics we will all remember about Lori Petty in Point Break? Short hair. Why is Mae slightly more exotic-looking in Near Dark? Her short haircut.

When hair is short it covers the face less (something men want to see) and doesn't drape over/cover the sexy parts of the upper body (shoulders, breasts & nipples).
The Loveless
Strange Days

Near Dark
Blue Steel
Point Break

Seriously tho - what made Jamie Lee Curtis stand out from all the other long-haired mostly blonde leading ladies of the 80's & 90's? Her short hair. Sure she was slightly goofy and had a talent for comedy (something a lot of her peers didn't have), but it was her short hair in the era of Daryl Hannah & Daryl Hannah knock-offs that made Curtis stand out from the pack...

Blue Steel-era Jamie Lee Curtis



but I don't want to sum up the women in Kathryn Bigelow's films to just short-haired sexual objects... 



TOUGH (YET VULNERBLE) FEMALE CHARACTERS
Her films feature quite a few tough (sometimes long haired) female characters like Angela Bassett in Strange Days or Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. Even some of the aforementioned short haired women are just as tough as they are cute and/or sexy (Lori Petty in Point Break & Telena in The Loveless)
Point Break
Strange Days
Near Dark
Blue Steel
Zero Dark Thirty





SENSUALITY/SEXUAL TENSION/EROTICISM
The first half Kathryn Bigelow's career is quietly drenched in sexual tension, innuendos and just overall sexual ambiguity. We're all aware of the (possibly accidental) homo-erotic undertones between Swayze & Keanu in Point Break but it goes a lot a deeper than that. Besides the aforementioned deep sexual tension between Vance & Telena in The Loveless, Blue Steel, The Weight Of Water and even Strange Days have some highly sexualized moments (a large majority of The Weight Of Water is Elizabeth Hurley openly flirting with Sean Penn).
The Weight Of Water
Blue Steel
Point Break
Strange Days
The Loveless




SURROGATE FAMILIES
Blood relatives aren't very common in Bigelow's work. Her characters are either strays who make their own families/packs (The Loveless & Near Dark), or they're in the military (K-19 The Widowmaker, Zero Dark Thirty & Hurt Locker) which brings about a bond/brotherhood unlike any other group of non-blood relatives.
The Loveless
Near Dark
Point Break
K-19 The Widowmaker
Zero Dark Thirty






(POSSIBLE) INFLUENCES ON BIGELOW...
Point Break
Strange Dyas

Strange Days

Blue Steel

Point Break
The Loveless/Scorpio Rising
Near Dark/Kagemusha
Blue Steel/Taxi Driver
Strange Days/Blade Runner





BIGELOW'S (POSSIBLE) INFLUENCE ON OTHERS
The Loveless/Cry Baby
Near Dark/Mulholland Drive (it should be noted that Monty Montgomery - the actor who plays "The Cowboy" - co-directed The Loveless with Bigelow)
Near Dark/Lost Highway
Point Break/Mad Max: Fury Road
Point Break/Mister Lonely
Point Break/Star Trek
Zero Dark Thirty/Sicario




RECURRING SHOTS
Blue Steel
Strange Days



The Weight Of Water
Near Dark
Blue Steel

Near Dark
The Hurt Locker






IDENTITY/SELF REFLECTION
From the characters in Point Break being masked bank robbers & undercover FBI agents, to the characters in Strange Days trying to escape reality through virtual reality, the people in Bigelow's films are sometimes dissatisfied with their real lives and need something more. This takes a darker turn in films like Blue Steel when we see a repressed yuppie take on the new identity of a serial killer when he comes across a gun.
Strange Days
Point Break
Point Break
Blue Steel
Zero Dark Thirty





"THIS IS A (WO)MAN'S WORLD"
It is my belief that the casual/non-director oriented movie fan would make the (unfortunate) assumption that a male director is responsible for half of the movies in Bigelow's filmography. Science-fiction, Horror, Action & Military-themed movies are mostly associated with men because those worlds are usually "boys clubs" (in front of and behind the camera). I remember feeling stupid in my very early teens for assuming that a man was responsible for Point Break & Near Dark (I wasn't the director-oriented guy that I am now in my 30's and I just assumed movies with car chases, shootouts & action sequences belonged to men. I never payed too much attention to credits and never took the time to read the credits on the back of the VHS boxes).
When you take a tally, more than half of her movies are action adventure (Point Break), violent (Blue Steel), military-based (K-19, Hurt Locker & Zero Dark Thirty) or sci-fi and/or horror (Strange Days & Near Dark).
There's also a lot of central male characters and a decent amount of bro/male-centric relationships in her films (Point Break, K-19 The Widowmaker, The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty)
The Loveless
Blue Steel
The Hurt Locker
Zero Dark Thirty
Point Break 
K-19 The Widowmaker



VIOLENCE & ACTION SEQUENCES
In the last decade, Bigelow's most memorable/acclaimed scenes have been action sequences (Hurt Locker & Zero Dark Thirty) which, unfortunately, is rare for female filmmakers these days...
Near Dark
Blue Steel 
Point Break
Strange Days
The Hurt Locker
Zero Dark Thirty


And a nice chunk of her films feature a very male-heavy police/authoritative presence (even Blue Steel, which is about a female cop, features mostly men)...

Point Break
Blue Steel
Strange Days
Near Dark




GENRE HOPPING
Not to repeat what I already said at the start of this piece but Kathryn Bigelow's work cant be categorized or summed up in to one or two genres. As we've seen throughout this piece, she's dabbled in almost every genre & sub-genre there is (psychological thriller, action-adventure, drama, cop drama, noir, neo-noir, science fiction, army/military-based, arthouse, horror, etc).
I usually like when filmmakers stay in their designated lanes but we need filmmakers like Bigelow to try new things from time to time.
Blue Steel (Noir)
Zero Dark Thirty (Military/War Drama)
Point Break (Action-Adventure)
The Weight Of Water (Thriller)
Near Dark (Horror/Western)
Strange Days (Science-Fiction)


LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...