(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)
Last week, we kicked off our three-part series honoring female filmmakers with some of Hollywood’s biggest hitmakers. This week, we continue our Women’s History Month tribute with some of independent cinema’s brightest stars.
Be sure to join us Friday, March 29 for the final part of our series, “The International Cineastes.”
by Morgan Goldin
History was made in 2010 when Kathryn Bigelow won the Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker (2008), becoming the first woman to win this honor. For most of her career, Bigelow has worked in the arena of “masculine movies” and crafted some of the most impeccable action spectacles to hit the big screen. Despite some of her bigger action films, it was her success with breakout, low-budget film The Hurt Locker that places her on this list.
Her talent for crafting taut and lean imagery could be traced to her art school beginnings. She got her start in painting, and later studied film theory and criticism. “The Set-Up” (1978) was a 20-minute avant-garde deconstruction of cinematic violence that was Bigelow’s first short film. This piece lays down the themes that Bigelow returns to throughout her career. The aestheticization of violence is a mode in which Bigelow heavily operates. This style can be traced back to her first feature, The Loveless (1981), a biker-movie that showcased her taste for visual flourishes. Near Dark (1987), her sophomore film, is a neo-horror classic that successfully merges two distinct genres, the western and the vampire movie. A later success is Point Break (1991), about an FBI agent who goes undercover with a group of adrenaline junkie surfers who rob banks in ex-president masks.
Her most celebrated picture, The Hurt Locker, earned its accolades and rightly won Best Picture. An Iraqi war film that strips away the political subtext and focuses on the day-to-day struggles of a bomb diffuser, the film employs handheld camera work that expertly complements the fractured mental and physical states of its soldier protagonists. Her follow-up, Zero Dark Thirty (2012), is no less thrilling and chronicles the days leading up to the locating and killing of Osama bin Laden.
Kathryn Bigelow proves you don’t need a man’s touch when working on action films. Her muscular oeuvre speaks for itself. Future textbooks and scholars will recognize her as a female director succeeding in a typically male province.