The TIFF Cinematheque first retrospective on Kathryn Bigelow entitled KATHRYN BIGELOW: ON THE EDGE begins July 21.
Bigelow’s first film was the low-budget debut THE LOVELESS (an arty, hipster spin on ’50s biker movies, co-directed with Monty Montgomery and starring Willem Dafoe) Following that, she made her critical (but commercial unsuccessful) breakthrough with NEAR DARK, a grimy yet wickedly stylish tale of a pack of vampires traversing the American Southwest. This was followed by a slew of films including POINT BREAK, STRANGE DAYS and others culminating with her glorious Oscar winner THE HURT LOCKER. The retrospective arrives in time with the release of her new film DETROIT.
Bigelow was married to and divorced from director James Cameron. Their collaboration can be seen in his script of STRANGE DAYS which Bigelow directed.
Bigelow’s best films are NEAR DARK, BLUE STEEL and STRANGE DAYS, all three of which oddly enough, did not do well at the box-office.
In April 2010, Bigelow was named to the Time 100 list of most influential people of the year.
For the complete program of the retrospective with screening dates and times, please check the TIFF website at:
CAPSULE REVIEWS OF SELECTED FILMS:
BLUE STEEL (USA 1990) ****
Directed by Kathryn Boggle
BLUE STEEL is yet a another really awesome Bigelow film that flopped at the box-office. She wrote this film with Eric Red after their collaboration NEAR DARK and marks another very human emotional script with a female cop character. Just as Bigelow functions as a female action director BLUE STEEL is set in a man’s world. Jamie Lee Curtis plays a rookie cop who foils a grocery store hold-hp shooting the robber (Tom Sizemore) who pulls a gun on her. But she does not notice the robber’s gun stolen by a customer, who turns out to be a psychopath (Ron Silver) who uses the gun on a killing spree around NYC. Detective Turner (Curtis) engages in a cat-and-mouse game with the killer that consists of a series of actions set-pieces. The only problem is the sudden appearance of the killer shooting at Turner in a subway station for no reason except to provide the climax for the movie. Still, this is Bigelow at her exciting best, and BLUE STEEL is an absorbing watch from start to end. Ron Silver is the creepiest villain I have seen for a long time in a movie.
NEAR DARK (USA 1987) ***** Top 10
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
NEAR DARK is Kathryn Bigelow’s second and arguably BEST movie feature that mixes the western and vampire horror genres based on a script written by Bigelow and Eric Red. The story follows a young man, Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) in a small midwestern town who becomes involved with a family of nomadic American vampires. It all starts one night, when Caleb meets an attractive young drifter named Mae (Jenny Wright). Just before sunrise, she bites him on the neck and runs off. The rising sun causes Caleb’s flesh to smoke and burn. Mae arrives with a group of roaming vampires in an RV and takes him away. The film plays like a male victim basically in a female victim role which makes sense since Bigelow is a female action director. NEAR DARK is one action set piece after another, the top two being the bar segment where the vampires terrorize a local biker bar, killing everyone before burning it down followed by a police takedown at a motel. The only problem with the film is Bigelow’s Hollywood ending where Mae, the vampire becomes human again with the couple living happily ever after.
ZERO DARK THIRTY (USA 2012) ***1/2
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
ZERO DARK THIRTY (referring to the period of time 30 minutes past midnight) is the story of perhaps the greatest American manhunt in history – the search and capture of Osama Bin Laden. The story centres on the character of naïve CIA agent who goes by the name of Maya (Jessica Chastain) who supposedly masterminded the discovery of the whereabouts of OBL. The navy seals were called in to attack the fort with the result of him being killed. But not after Maya has given out all that she has got. The script has her undergo the typical coming-of-age growing up to maturity as she accomplishes her goal. Initially, shocked but accepting the torture by the American military, she gradually grows from soft to hardened in order to get the job done. Maya finally reaches her angry peak when she confidently says to the Navy Seals, “You go and kill Bin Laden for me,” as if it is her own private vendetta. The script and director keeps the film moving fast from start to finish keeping the audience’s attention. The climatic segment of the raid on the fort in the dark of night is brilliantly executed.