>The thrill of transcendence: Kathryn Bigelow Studies

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Updated with video and new links on April 12, 2010
Jamie Lee Curtis as Megan Turner in Blue Steel (Kathryn Bigelow, 1990)

[Kathryn] Bigelow’s earliest works are often radical experiments with genres—combinatory, subtractive, subversive, offering a tool for crafting a mode of vital self-reflexive cinema in which the spectator becomes a thrill junkie, like the restless characters in Bigelow’s films. Ultimately, however, the raw exhilaration experienced by Bigelow’s characters must end so they can come to terms with reality and the laws—be they legal or gravitational—that anchor them to society. The later films show an interest in group dynamics as a form of politics or, perhaps, as an ideal of social living contained but not determined by politics. The turning point between these two parts of Bigelow’s career is Strange Days, whose protagonist attempts to wean himself off his addiction to spectacle in order to face the violence of his urban surroundings.
     This is the double bind Bigelow investigates: while thrill is ultimately an alienating form of individualism, the “real world” tends to be a trap, whether confining or merely banal. While Bigelow’s films reveal genre cinema’s promise of glossy escapism to be a dead end, they also pointedly argue that re-engagement with community is tantamount to conformity. One possible escape is offered to Bigelow’s protagonists by seeking out those extreme situations on the bohemian, criminal and physically fraught margins of society, where the rules can be broken and the self fleetingly transcended. Kathryn Bigelow, ‘Filmmaking at the Dark Edge of Exhilaration’, Harvard Film Archive, 2009

A little while back, Film Studies For Free promised a list of links to openly accessible scholarly essays on the work of filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, recent recipient of the Academy Award for Best Director for Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker (2009; see that film’s Press Kit/Production Notes). And now FSFF‘s Bigelow Study Day has finally arrived – maybe not its longest links list ever, but one full of highest quality material nonetheless. The links follow the wonderful embedded video ‘Outlaw Vision: Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker’ created for The L Magazine by

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