Films & Schedules

  • In Conversation with Kathryn Bigelow


Tuesday September 0907:45PM ISABEL BADER THEATRE Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Kathryn Bigelow occupies an unusual position in global film culture. Her films, while not generally box-office champions, attract enormous, cult-like followings and thoughtful critical response. In The Village Voice, Amy Taubin referred to her first feature, The Loveless, as a “tour de force.” Roger Ebert, in the context of Point Break, called her a “gifted filmmaker.” Reviewing Strange Days in The New York Times, Janet Maslin dubbed her “furiously talented.”

Bigelow is a woman in a man’s world. One of the few of her gender to make more than a few films with big movie stars (Harrison Ford, Keanu Reeves, Angela Bassett, Liam Neeson, etc.), she has done so on traditionally male turf – violent, action-based, full-throttle thri- llers, for the most part. A brief scan of her press clippings reveals ever-perplexed journalists earnestly trying to unpack this ersatz contradiction.

Bigelow almost certainly operates from an intensely auteurist position. There is a remarkably consistent approach to character, visual style and narrative tone in her body of work. And yet, paradoxically, her films are generally marketed as genre flicks, without much reference to the director herself. (In that respect her career resembles Sam Fuller’s, at least the early bit, as does her involvement with smaller production and distribution outfits, many of which are no longer in existence.)

Bigelow began her career as a visual artist – she worked closely with Vito Acconci, and John Baldessari gave her a teaching post – but rarely uses static tableaux. Quite the opposite, in fact; her films move fast, delighting in a hyperkinetic jangle that elicits mild disorientation from the audience. They also frequently operate on two or three levels simultaneously, one visceral and gut-churning, another rich in symbolism and philosophical contemplation and, often most discomfiting, an underlying layer of sexual play and predation. Her most recent film, The Hurt Locker, is not only among her most accomplished works, but perfectly illustrates this multi-tiered approach to filmmaking. It’s a high-machismo war movie, a complex meditation on existential puzzle-solving and a psycho-sexual mind trip through male masochism.

This fascinating weave of unusual juxtapositions and provocative filmmaking makes Bigelow the perfect subject for In Conversation With… – a programme inspired and funded by late media personality Brian Linehan, who would have delighted in exploring her extraordinary career.

Noah Cowan

Cadillac People's Choice Award