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Kathryn Bigelow discusses role of "seductive violence" in her films



An interview with the star and writer-director of Blue Steel.


Kathryn, how tough is it today for women directors?

If there's specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can't change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies. It's irrelevant who or what directed a movie, the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don't. There should be more women directing; I think there's just not the awareness that it's really possible. It is.

Why does violence play such an important role in your movies?

I always wish I had a good answer for that, like I was traumatized in childhood. I think that film has the potential to be very cathartic. I respond to movies that get in your face, that have the ability to be provocative or challenge you, that take some risks. I like high impact movies. That's what I respond to as a viewer, so naturally I respond to that when writing. I don't want to be made pacified or made comfortable. I like stuff that gets your adrenaline going.

You are quoted as saying that you are infatuated with the idea of "seductive violence." Would you elaborate?

That quote was taken out of context, but it's a beautiful phrase. I think violence in a cinematic context can be, if handled in a certain way, very seductive. I think that an audience can be titillated by violence in a cinematic context. It's wonderful in the safe confines of a theater to experience that aspect of your imagination or subconscious.

Do you think that the audience's response stays in the theater? What about the stories of people who get pumped up on watching violent films and then go on a shooting spree?

My feeling is that those are very disturbed individuals anyway, and are the exception rather than the rule. I don't believe in censorship in any form. One should make morals judgements for oneself. Someone who is disturbed could be sensitive to anything -- look at the violence in the evening news. Someone like that would have to live in a black box not to be exposed to violence.

Jamie, when you were preparing for [Blue Steel], did you take a look at Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow's third film) to get a sense of Kathryn's style?

Near Dark is not my kind of movie. Ever since I saw Oliver and my mother covered my eyes when Shaney Wallace got smacked on the head, I can't see anything which is on any level scary. I know it seems crazy and it's great copy, but it's absolutely the truth.

Was it incidental that Megan [the character played by Jamie Lee Curtis] was a woman cop or were you thinking of the ramifications of that when you chose to do the role?

The film is about a woman cop, so obviously there's a feminist statement in it simply by the nature of there being a woman cop. I never make a decision about a role with feminism as a criterion. I read the story and thought it was very exciting. The fact that [the main character] was a woman cop was interesting -- I don't look for feminist messages.

Did you do any training with the police for this role?

I did a minor amount of training. So much of the film is done in reaction that to overtrain would be something that I would have to unlearn, because I had to remain very clear and very pure in my response. I wanted to be convincing in the areas of technical agility and technical knowledge, so I spent time in a shooting range trying to learn the proper techniques of combat shooting and regular standing shooting and marksmanship. I found that the sport is quite interesting to learn once the moral issue is out of the way. You sort of deal with your personal catharsis of how you feel about a gun and gun control. It is a jolting experience to fire a live round, but once you get past it, it just becomes a technical game that you try to learn.

How do you feel towards gun control?

This is my personal opinion, but obviously since we're in America, if you want to own a gun you should be able to own a gun. I think that there should be much more stringent restrictions for applying for a license -- it should be like applying for a license for an automobile. You should be certified by the state, go to gun class, and sit there and learn. You shouldn't be able to buy a gun over the counter quickly -- it should take two to three months to be certified.

How did you work Blue Steel around your schedule for Anything But Love?

I did a pilot for Anything But Love in 1988 that didn't sell. It didn't sell in March, it didn't sell in May, so I needed to get a job. I started on Blue Steel, and while we were shooting, A Fish Called Wanda came out, and then they picked up my series. My criteria for doing a television series never changed. I wanted more stability, I wanted more of a sense of family, I wanted to do light comedy. To me it's pleasant that these movies are successful and good, but I very much like doing my television show and hope that it continues to be successful.