Kathryn Bigelow is out there hitting the PR circuit for “Zero Dark Thirty” at a bit of an awkward time: she was passed over for a Best Director nomination two weeks ago after being considered one of the best bets in the category for a film that is very much driven by her artistic vision. She was on CBS This Morning recently offering a point of view on that, in fact. “To be honest, it was just a couple of years ago that I was standing on that stage with ‘The Hurt Locker,'” she told host Gayle King, “and so that might have something to do with it as well.”
Meanwhile, she gets a big cover story in Time Magazine this week that serves as part profile, part timeline of the criticism that has been leveled toward “Zero Dark Thirty” for its conflation of circumstances and, some would say, “dangerous” depiction of torture and enhanced interrogation’s role in finding Osama bin Laden.
It’s the profile stuff, though, that’s more interesting and offers something that we haven’t chewed on at multiple outlets for the last two months. Jessica Winter’s story gets into Bigelow’s modern art background and her formative years in New York surrounded by artists and mentors. And one quote, from early mentor Lawrence Weiner, makes an interesting note on what has so many up in arms on the new film: it’s passive distance from a point of view on its depictions:
“Part of Kathryn’s brilliance has always been that she doesn’t let you get involved in trying to know what the person onscreen is thinking. She takes the trouble to show you what they are doing, and then she steps back.”
Winter adds to that notion that, “It’s that space between the action and the stepping back that helps define Bigelow as a filmmaker. It’s that space, perhaps, that has allowed so much controversy into the frame.”
Meanwhile, there are some great thoughts from collaborators over the years, like actor Willem Dafoe and actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis, who starred in Bigelow’s “Blue Steel,” mentions the director’s “quiet strength” and her “machinelike execution,” which of course conjures the image of “Zero Dark Thirty”‘s protagonist, Maya. But Dafoe offers the following profound thought:
“She’s attracted to something instinctively, and then she researches it, and her research becomes an adventure. In the late ’70s there was a lot of interest in rockabilly and appreciation of ’50s outlaw culture, so she would go to clubs to scout people for their look and style, and worry about coaxing a performance out of them later. She was so interested in the slang and the idiom and the ritual of that world, which wasn’t really of her own experience. And she’s still interested in learning the language and rituals of hidden worlds. Just look at her titles–‘Hurt Locker,’ ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ It’s like coded language and she’s cracking the code.”
It’s a lengthy piece worth the read, so check it out at Time. Also, watch that brief CBS This Morning piece below.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is now playing in a theater near you.