Sunday, August 09, 2009

Jim Emerson: The Hurt Locker - Georges Bataille and the visceral cinema of Kathryn Bigelow

Hurt Locker: Georges Bataille and the visceral cinema of Kathryn Bigelow
by Jim Emerson


She had a tremendous fascination with how violence could be portrayed in the cinema, particularly as seen through the filter of a French writer and philosopher I had never heard of named George Bataille. I got the sense that Bataille was some kind of mélange of surrealism and eroticism and de Sade-like cruelty, but the precise way he blended them and what he put in of his own was vague to me then, and even more vague to me now. But what I did understand was that Kathy wasn't just looking back to the styles and techniques of Hitchcock, Peckinpah, Romero, Argento, etc.--she was attempting to build on a highly aestheticized foundation. She didn't want to ape anybody else, she wanted to make a kind of movie that hadn't been made before. This I understood well, as it was a commonplace in European cinema for filmmakers like Godard and Resnais to use literary ideas as a means to "reinvent" cinema. The difference, and it was a huge one, is that Kathy was reading different books. What she wanted to create was more visceral and stomach-churning--more of a punch to the stomach and a battering of the subconscious than a detached and modish Brechtian challenge for the mind. [...]

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