The Loveless

Screening on Film
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
With Willem Dafoe, Robert Gordon, Marin Kanter.
US, 1982, 35mm, color, 85 min.
Print source: HFA

Bigelow’s first feature immediately reveals her canny talent for simultaneously fulfilling and deconstructing popular film genres, here by using the biker film to deliver a meditative critique of machismo and small town America. Set in the 1950s and starring a young, pomaded Willem Dafoe in his screen debut as the charismatic leader of a leather clad and immoral bike gang, The Loveless deliberately uproots the genre’s traditional embrace of youthful rebellion—embodied by touchstone films such as The Wild One (1950)—by introducing a notably noir shading and sharp feminist perspective into its story of generational and gender conflict. Bigelow’s training in painting and experimental cinema informs the film’s (relatively) slow pace, meticulous framing and sparse, deliberately iconic dialogue–not to mention the evocation of Scorpio Rising (1963) in the camera’s close attention to the bikers’ gleaming chrome and leather.

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Kathryn Bigelow –
Filmmaking at the Dark Edge of Exhilaration

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