When Ana Lily Amirpour recently released her lushly sensualist horror film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, her cinematic passion was matched in its cathartic potency only by its free-wheeling desire to devour all influences. Obviously, Jim Jarmusch was the cipher through which her film’s identity was largely cracked, but in her sun-deprived cinematic wasteland, another female filmmaker was a key stepping stone: Kathryn Bigelow, a women who has since made a pit-stop in can’t-be-this-good action cinema before taking a well-deserved break to produce two of the finest naturalist war thrillers ever made. She went on to make more composed films, in other words, and probably better ones too, but her underdog outlaw passion in the world of film never burned as brightly as it did in her first big break: the 1987 film Near Dark, nothing less than a full-on vampire-western-romance-horror (a mouthful, but it should sound familiar to fans of Amirpour’s debut). It takes a lot for a film to invent a genre. That it comes within an inch of perfecting it on its first try is not only testament to Bigelow’s fully-formed craft, but of her restless, travelling spirit. Continue reading
Edited July 2016:
In a sane world, Point Break would have been released, forgotten, and then rediscovered and mocked for years on end as an early ’90s curio of archly-’80s action film types hyperbolically peacocking in a most philharmonic register, pushed to near-aneurysm limits of male moodiness no ’80s film ever dared to threaten. It should be terrible, simply put. Like, really really terrible. But then we do not live in a sane world. And Point Break is a pretty terrific barnstorming action monstrosity the likes of which the ’80s proper produced only a handful of times.
Even stranger: why it absolutely should have been horrible and why it is undoubtedly successful are inextricably and forever bound together in a Frankensteinian brew of knuckle-dusting, live-wire, allegro kinesis and full-tilt, pulpy bafflement. Director Kathryn Bigelow was infamously labeled a sell-out, a woman playing in a man’s world and joining the testosterone rat race to achieve success at the cost of her own soul. In reality, she turns the mirror on the rats and lets them bask in their roided-out bodies until they drown in the pungent masculine sweat. This inferno of action is actually a purgatory of caricature, a self-conscious orchestration of action movie types maddened and stirred to the realm of outright nonsensical hysteria. Parody not by distancing itself from the genre’s adolescence but by fulfilling the genre’s wildest, most adolescent fantasies until they puncture themselves with their own self-importance, Point Break is murder by flattery. Continue reading
Much has been written about Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden through the eyes of fictional CIA officer Maya Lambert (Jessica Chastain). By a wide-margin, it’s the best reviewed film of a year generally considered a pretty sturdy, upright twelve months for films. It’s been praised as a more-than-worthy follow-up to director Bigelow’s and screenwriter Mark Boal’s Oscar-winning previous release The Hurt Locker and at one point it was all but assured to win its year’s round of awards. Many consider it a seminal docu-drama on America’s role in the global sphere and its much-debated commitment to combating terrorism elsewhere in the world as well as what many would argue instituting its own form of US terrorism in its place. Whatever your opinion about that, it’s weighty material, and more than one person has claimed that Zero Dark Thirty will stand the test of history as a companion piece to the numerous books, documentaries, and journal articles written about America’s involvement in the Middle East during the past decade. Continue reading