Introduction to Kathryn Bigelow - Twisting the Gaze - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Introduction to Kathryn Bigelow – Twisting the Gaze

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Gazing backAndrewCommentaryBannerShortA lot of our technology is designed by people who grew up inspired by science fiction of the past.  So, when a new gadget comes out and it seems like an extension of something we'd see on Star Trek, I'm not surprised.  But when I first saw the designs and implemented use of Google Glass, I wasn't thinking about the progressive leaps of Gene Roddenberry's flagship series, but the punk science fiction of Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days.

I caught a screening of Strange Days on TNT when I was thirteen.  I only watched one scene and then I had to turn it off.  There was a man with a strange device on his head, and the perspective kept changing to a figure wearing gloves chasing after an undressed woman.  The figure catches up to her, puts a device on her head, and there's a shared moment of brutal understanding on the face of the electronic witness and the woman.  Then the hands come, strangle the woman to death, and the witness rips the device off of his head.  She watched her death, but died with the knowledge that her assailant wanted her to see everything that he was doing.  Then the witness, who found the recording, rips it off and is breathless, because this is the knowledge that the killer wanted to share - that he can make his victims experience their demise, and then share it with others.

So, you'll have to forgive me if I look at the technological leaps of Google Glass and feel a little wary, and I have Kathryn Bigelow to thank for that.

I grew up with that experience of the gaze.  The way that men look at women, and especially the way that cameras capture their form, as a means of dominance and pleasure.  Every movie with a shot that lingered on a beautiful figure for just a second too long, or if it started angling around to try and get a better look, made me think back to that one moment where someone wanted us to know that he can control the conditions of how women view their own murder.

Then a photo of Megan Fox bent over a car gets released on the internet and people wonder why I feel extremely uneasy and the gender politics of Transformers.Through the desertKathryn Bigelow has been making eerie, prescient films, that are still overlooked in spite of her amazing success with The Hurt Locker.  I was a bit surprised when everyone was treating Bigelow's win like it was a surprise play out of an old studio warhorse.  From the beginning, Bigelow has been making transgressive films that look at the limitations of their genre and find ways to completely spin them around, usually about the power of control, who has it, and what release from that control really means.

For The Hurt Locker's William James, it's not the power of a satisfied married life, but the seductive pull of a bomb waiting to go off.  Near Dark's Mae gets to set the terms of her morality and consumption.  In every one of her films there's a desire, healthy or not, that twists the genre around to shed new light on itself.  Action movies, thrillers, horror, war films - all genres that have had their bearings twisted into new forms by Bigelow.

That's why Kyle and I will go through the films of Kathryn Bigelow for the next few weeks - to think about the ways that Bigelow has transformed so many genres to make a point about modern American life.  Through technology, gender, violence - all the things that make us "great".

So join us as we start next Friday with Bigelow's first film, The Loveless, with Willem Dafoe.

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Bigelow with text

Posted by Andrew

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