16 May 2012

Blue Steel ('89)

Kathryn Bigelow's ratio of attractive shots to perfunctory shots seems amazingly high on the attractive side.

A person can't open a door in one of her movies without a great looking shot.

No way is she showing off. These camera choices are perfect for their scenes, and Bigelow has a gift for not getting in the way of her characters. It's unusual to see such deliberate and effective style without the voice of the moviemaking interfering with the presentation.

Bigelow has a sweet little bio, something an interesting character in a Spanish novella might have: the only child of a paint factory manager and a librarian, studied panting at and graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute, accepted into the Independent Study program at Whitney Museum of American Art, graduate film studies at Columbia University, part of a collaboration of conceptual artists called Art and Language, apprenticeships under other major figures in the art world.

The determination and fortitude of Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis), a rookie cop struggling in a male-dominated work place, was my favorite aspect of Blue Steel. It's always captivating to witness a character stand against inequality and injustice. It's always interesting to experience a character's fight for personal beliefs, and her fight here is double -- there's also a serial killer who carves her name onto his bullets, and Turner knows who it is before anyone else does.

We the audience know who it is before she does. The who isn't a mystery, it's not a mystery movie. It's half character study, one-quarter police procedural, one-quarter game of cat and mouse. The two quarters that make the second half don't interest me.

So when bored I stared at the visuals. And the visuals were always interesting.

If you're going to stand in the street, simply stand in the middle of the street, Bigelow will gift you with background beauty.

Man in Front of Window, Bigelow '89.

The director of photography on Blue Steel was Amir Mokri. Bigelow hasn't worked with him again. He's twice worked with Michael Bay (Bad Boys II and Transformers: Dark of the Moon), twice with D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea and Taking Lives) and four times with Wayne Wang (Slam Dance, Eat a Bowl of Tea, Life Is Cheap ... But Toilet Paper is Expensive, The Joy Luck Club).

In conclusion: Bigelow Bigelow Bigelow.

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