Five Favorite Films with Kathryn Bigelow

The director of Point Break, Near Dark, and K-19: The Widowmaker discusses her latest film, The Hurt Locker.

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Kathryn Bigelow

With her latest film, the critically acclaimed war film The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow has earned the best reviews of her career to date. (At 95 percent, The Hurt Locker is also one of the best-reviewed films of the year.) The intimate account of three bomb squad technicians (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty) relates the experiences of the U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, specialists charged with disarming and disposing of the homemade bombs credited with nearly half of all casualties of the current Iraq war. As such, Bigelow's film is less an all-out action spectacle, more a character study of the kinds of soldiers it takes to perform such extremely stressful tasks -- punctuated, ominously, by Bigelow's flair for stunning, weighty action.

Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Bigelow (who helmed such genre favorites as Near Dark, Point Break, and Strange Days) in Los Angeles to learn more about the action-genre specialist's background, why she chose to make The Hurt Locker based on embedded journalist Mark Boal's observations, and what films and filmmakers she looks to most for inspiration.



The Wild Bunch (1969, 97% Tomatometer)
The Wild BunchI saw The Wild Bunch on a double bill with Mean Streets, midnight at the Waverly Place Cinema on Bleecker Street in New York [in the 1970s]. Those two played on a double bill; I was in New York, I had a studio and I was basically a practicing artist, working with various art groups -- Art & Language, kind of conceptual arts, political arts. We were doing environments, we were doing installations, performance pieces...and I stumbled into this incredible double bill. And it was a life-changing experience. I thought they were just extraordinary. [Sam] Peckinpah for his muscularity, his immediacy, his sheer genius in his storytelling and characters. I was knocked out.




Mean Streets (1973, 98% Tomatometer)
Mean Streets...and then [in Mean Streets], Robert De Niro; his kind of twitchy reverence to this wonderfully insane underworld. Somehow, the two [films] will always be forever linked in my mind. Whoever programmed those two movies together... it was at a moment when, in an art context, I was beginning to make short films. So film was definitely becoming a medium that was intriguing to me, and I hadn't quite made a complete transition yet, but I found those two films just extraordinary, and they opened up a kind of unimaginable landscape for me. That kind of great irreverence, and intensity, and strength of purpose in those characters.




Lawrence of Arabia (1962, 98% Tomatometer)
Lawrence of ArabiaNo list would be complete without Lawrence of Arabia. Again, I'm constantly looking at that film for its sheer bravado, magnificence, scale, scope, and having just shot [The Hurt Locker] in Jordan in the summer of 2007, I visited Wadi Rum, which is the desert in which they shot Lawrence of Arabia, just about two hours outside of Amman. And it's in the middle of the desert, to which David Lean brought -- and this is in the '60s -- arc lights, and a whole production. If you see this desert, first of all, it's gorgeous, it's beautiful. But it's a very forbidding landscape, not one you would imagine would be very film friendly; these beautiful, magnificent, extraordinary kind of red rock buttes that rise out of this red sand... I think Lawrence of Arabia brought us to Jordan and made that the location of choice for The Hurt Locker.




Alfred HitchcockAll of Hitchcock --- I don't think I can even identify a particular film. After I transitioned out of the art world into film, I was doing a graduate degree at Columbia University and I took a class with Andrew Sarris, who I think is one of the treasures of the film world. We looked at an overview of Hitchcock during the two-year course, starting with his silents. And there are some extraordinary silent movies of his; I'm not sure how readily available they are, but there's a phenomenal film -- I think it's called Murder! -- and it's silent, but it's as tense as Psycho or The Birds or Notorious or Rear Window. [Editor's note: Hitchcock's 1930 film Murder! was one of his first talkies, but his 1927 silent, The Lodger, is one of his most celebrated. Both were released jointly to home video in 2002.]

It's a silent film, but it's Hitchcock. All of his signatures, all the signifiers, everything we've come to know and love about Hitchcock, they're all in play.




The Terminator (1984, 100% Tomatometer)
TerminatorTerminator was a real seminal piece. In fact, I read the script before [James Cameron] shot the movie. I was asking around, "Anybody read any great scripts?" I read the script -- it's a game changer. All of these films, I feel like they're real game changers; there are films prior to these movies, and there are films after. It's like you've opened up a Pandora's Box, and the filmmaking world can never be the same -- the language is different, the grammar is different. I think Jim did that in Terminator. I think he really changed the playing field. And so I read the script, and I was like, "I can't wait to see it!" I didn't know him, so I didn't go and watch the shooting, but of course when it came out...the only way you can describe it is as a game changer.

You have to change your rules! Again, not in any particular order, but Kurosawa has to be in there [among my favorite films and filmmakers]. Ran, Kagemusha, Dersu Uzala... and then Fassbinder's In a Year of 13 Moons, one of the most magnificent love stories ever made. Ozu. Pabst, who gave us the opportunity to move from one location to another and fuse it together. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.



Next: Kathryn Bigelow on Andrew Sarris, why she made The Hurt Locker, and why "there's no politics in the trenches."

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