Kathryn Bigelow


In Hollywood, more than ever, reputation is everything. You are what you seem, or what you are perceived, to be – by the media, the public and the studios. You are your image. 

Director Kathryn Bigelow’s image, seems to be being an enigma, a contradiction, which doesn’t get us very far. 

She has her more simplistic, more marketable, side, as “The Female Director Who Likes Violence”, which the press can’t get enough of. (They call her “Dirty Harriet’’: a sort of female version of Clint Eastwood’s magnum-wielding macho man.)

But this doesn’t tell us much about her – just how conservative or naive the media can be. Why shouldn’t a female film director make movies which relish an element of violence ? Even if she is virtually the only one who does. The implication is that female directors should stick to making pretty parlour pieces about women in love or women running a farm, or a family, or village school, instead.

If her public image/press image is a bluff, a front, it only enhances her image as enigma; as an outsider. 

She certainly doesn’t give much away or permit much personal scrutiny. She’s invariably photographed wearing black,  mysteriously hides her striking good looks behind dark glasses and she seems happy to let the debates about the “controversy” or “violence” in her work neatly deflect attention away from her, her enigma. Of her private life, all that is usually reported is that she lives alone with her two German shephards in a stylishly minimal home in the Hollywood hills. 

Bigelow’s films (‘The Loveless’, ‘Near Dark’, ‘Blue Steel’, ‘Point Break’ and next month’s release, ‘Strange Days’) are also interesting and intelligent enough to make her seem like someone who not only has her own agenda but has a ploy. You wonder about her. What is she really up to ? 

The rest of her image is so full of contradictions, she begins to look slightly schizophrenic. 

For instance :

–  she is regarded as a feminist, or at least a feminist icon, and yet her films have consistently featured hard-hitting, high-octane, violence against women; violence that is presented as voyeuristically as possible. And in all of her films, there is an intriguing implication that at least one female character is too fickle with her affections; promiscuous; dangerously so. 

– Bigelow has always been portrayed as an art-house intellectual – loved by film theorists – who makes dark, perverse, cult movies about the ‘fringe’ characters of society, or tribes of ‘outsiders’. But she has thrived in Hollywood on her reputation as someone who makes ‘action movies’. (This is actually also a red herring. What her films have most in common is that all they are unbelievably sentimental romances in which Love invariably saves the day.)

– Bigelow is always portrayed as something of a mis-fit, a renegade or Radical, in Hollywood. And yet ‘Strange Days’, a big budget blockbuster/star vehicle for hot properties, Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett, was written by one of Hollywood’s biggest players – ‘Terminator’ and ‘Aliens’ writer-director, James Cameron. Her ex-husband. 

It all adds to her enigma. What is she trying to do ? How has she become the only really innovative, significant, female director to escape the genre of ‘women film-makers’, and made five

films, spanning predominatly male genres, including two highly original, wildly successful, acclaimed, thrillers for stars like Keanu Reeves and Jamie Lee Curtis ?

Could it be that Kathryn Bigelow realised that the only way to get ahead in the movies was to take the boys on at their own game, and that she has made her film career into a mission: to subvert Hollywood ?  


INEVITABLY Kathryn Bigelow rides into town fielding questions and complaints about violence – specifically a disturbingly brutal rape scene in ‘Strange Days’, in which the audience is forced to participate in the attack by viewing it through the eyes of the perpetrator, with the victim’s ordeal reduced to the level of ‘entertainment’ (by being recorded). 

Bigelow may not have courted it but the controversy gives the film an edge, the sort of edge she’s looking for.

A reputation for being of being ‘difficult’ or intimidating doesn’t hurt either. As Sharron Stone said recently, “the longer they (men/men in Hollywood) stay scared, the longer I keep my job.” 

The word most often used to describe Bigelow is “tough”. People who’ve worked with here speak of her as being “amazingly disciplined”, “totally focused” and “a perfectionist” on the set.

Several journalists who have written about her refer to the “cold” or “remote” nature of her personality. 

“So business-like, I almost froze,” wrote one, while another described her as “very, very bright” but with “practically no sense of humour.” 

Maybe she’s changed, or just in good spirits, but not for the first time, Bigelow’s rep doesn’t pan out. Slim and stylish in blue-black jeans and black turtle-neck, at nearly 6ft tall, she certainly makes an impression. (Jamie Lee Curtis said that standing next to Bigelow made her feel like “a fat dwarf”. While ‘Vogue’ went so far as to describe her as looking like “the world’s highest-paid dominatrix”.) 

She seems like perfectly pleasant company, acutely intelligent, with definite traces of dry humour, and surprisingly relaxed considering that, after 4 years’ labour, ‘Strange Days’ has been greeted with mixed reviews and fared poorly at the US box office.

“The film’s really designed as something of a wake-up call,” she  laughs, suggesting that this time, America stayed sleeping.

Set in L.A. on New Year’s Eve,1999, ‘Strange Days’ (released here in January) is a futuristic, fetishistic, thriller about murder, voyeurism, police racism and millennium paranoia. In other words, Happy Fucking New Year from Los Angeles. 

State storm-troopers comb the streets. There are burning cars and looting on every corner. Even Santa Claus gets beaten up – by two L.A. punk chicks. The film certainly convinces you that, come December 31st, 1999, L.A. is probably not the place to be. 

“Hah !” Bigelow smiles. “I maybe shooting a movie somewhere in 1999, but if I’m not, I’ll be in LA. I still like it there. It obviously has some social issues and tensions that need desperately to be addressed but in spite of that – or in some ways because of it – I think it’s a very interesting place.” 

For most of ‘Strange Days’, the future looks a choice – a police state or absolute anarchy. In either case, Bigelow’s message seems to be: the future is fucked. As far as the new millennium’s concerned, you can never be paranoid enough. 

“When I first became involved in the film, I saw a way to draw one possible future and then maybe de-rail it: is this the end of the world or the beginning of a new one ? Personally I don’t think civilisation will end in 1999…. Globally though, no matter how cynical a person is, it is inescapable that the night of New Year’s Eve in1999 is going to be a turning point in all of our lives. It only happens every thousand years. It’s not like we’re ever going to see a moment like it again. So I think, even in denial, it’s going to be inescapable. You’re going to have to deal with it somehow.”


TYPICALLY of Bigelow, ‘Strange Days’ expodes on to the screen with a brilliantly thrilling, hi-tech heist and chase scene captured on a ‘playback clip’ – an illegal disk that reproduces the sensations of another person’s experience (anything from sex to a stroll on the beach) and can then be re-experienced when played back on a special headset. (An idea lifted straight from Natalie Wood’s last film, ‘Brainstorm’.) 

The film’s hero is Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) – a ‘hustler with a conscience’ who spends his life dealing ‘clips’ and re-living memories of his affair with Faith (Juliet Lewis) by playing back ‘clips’ of when they were together. He is intent on winning her back; on saving her from her new boyfriend. (From herself.)

As L.A. warms up for the arrival of ‘‘2K’’, and the most massive New Year’s Eve party of all time (shot with 20,000 extras and 12 cameras, in New York, Rio, and London), Lenny and Faith become embroiled in the rape and murder of their friend, Iris (Brigitte Bako), and a conspiracy plot around up the death of L.A. rapper/activist, Jeriko One. (According to ‘Strange Days’, it looks as if the future is going to be bedevilled by rap-stars who sound like Eddy Grant.) 

So the set up for ‘Strange Days’ gives Bigelow all her favourite themes: fetishistic sex and violence; an atmosphere of noirish nihilism; a set of maverick outsiders drifting around an increasingly repressive straight society, operating in gangs or tribes, whose codes of behaviour are becomingly increasingly violent and aberrant.

It seems like her most nihilistic vision of society yet. 

“Well I do think we’re going to reach some kind of crisis, if certain issues are not reversed. We lived through Rodney King and the riots and I think that was a tragedy that should never be forgotten. I was personally involved in the clean-up after the riots and found it a very moving experience. Right now in L.A, there’s the illusion of order or civilisation and a sense of helplessness about trying to change anything.”

One character in the film says, “you know how I know it’s the end of the world ? Cos everything’s been done”. As in her previous films, the outcasts of society are left with no choice but to become more depraved, seek more and more instant gratification and resort to more and more violence. 

Lenny is (also typically) trying to hang on to what’s left of his conscience, but also survive what is increasingly becoming a spiritual void, with the choice between pure love or sick thrills. 

His only allies are his two buddies – Max (Tom Sizemore), his ex-partner in the Vice squad, who is helping him in his quest to get back with Faith. And Mace (Angela Bassett), a decent, hard-working single mother who is in love with Lenny and wants to stop him from ‘‘selling porno to wireheads’’. (By a happy coincidence, Mace also happens to be a trained bodyguard who drives a bullet-proof car with a pump-action shotgun in her boot. Pretty handy, as it turns out.) 

Besides highlighting relations between police and the black community in L.A, Bigelow’s main fascination in ‘Strange Days’ seems to be the delicate dividing line between fetishism and exploitation, or voyeurism and violence (socially and individually) – which is in itself a pretty delicate tightrope to walk in what is essentially a sci-fi action thriller. 

As in her cop movie, ‘Blue Steel’, where both Ron Silver and Jamie Lee Curtis were turned on by the eroticism and danger of guns, here the glamour and excitement of the playback technology is a turn-on until it gets into the wrong hands. 

Skillfully, powerfully violent at times, the turning point of the film is the rape scene, a scene more brutal and disturbing than other (heavily-criticised) rape scenes by male directors such as Sergio Leone (‘Once Upon A Time In The West’) or Martin Scorsese (‘Cape Fear’).  

With Bigelow (very effectively) evoking the terror of films like ‘Halloween’ or, specifically, ‘Peeping Tom’, the audience experiences the rape through the eyes and excitement of the rapist as he stalks Iris in an LA hotel. 

He breaks in, punches her, strikes her with an electric stun gun, handcuffs her to a towel rail, blindfolds her, cuts away her clothes with a Stanley knife, rapes her, and then slowly strangles her with her t-shirt, recording the whole experience from both viewpoints on two ‘playback’ headsets. 

Her final ignominy/irony comes when the perpetrator frames the victim’s dead body with his fingers, in a square – the way a film director would when he (or in this case, she) frames the next shot. 

When I mention that, to me, it’s a scene no male director could ever get away with without being branded a misogynist, Bigelow muses “well, that’s a very curious concept,” as if it’s one she’s not about to even consider. 

“I really don’t feel it’s like somebody can do it and somebody can’t do it. The scene is the fulcrum around which this whole story evolves. It’s necessary to have a certain level of intensity for the fall-out that occurs between the characters.” 

Violence against women – specifically the threat of rape – features in all Bigelow’s films but when I try to push her on why, her arguments become more intellectual or theoretical and less and less personal. She starts arguing against accusations I am not making (presumably out of habit).

“My feeling is that films don’t cause violence, people do. Violence defines our existence. To shield oneself is more dangerous than trying to reflect it. It was very important to me that there were cut-aways in the scene. Lenny (who is replaying the rape on a clip) and his reaction, represent both the attitude of the audience and the position of the film. The point is… it’s meant to be awful. It’s a horrific, repulsive experience.”

Of course, seeing it through Lenny’s eyes – who is already viewing the scene through th perpetrator’s eyes – only adds to the (highly disturbing) element of voyeurism the audience feels. Throughout the whole film, Juliet Lewis’s character taunts the others for the way they’re watching her. (In fact, she gets off on it.) Later, when she knowingly rubs moisturiser over her naked body, Bigelow again turns the audience into voyeurs.

“It calls into question – or reminds us – that while this movie is about being watched, you’re also watching it,” she agrees. “If the technology is satisfying for this clientele, doesn’t it satisfy a pretty similar attitude or set of tendencies that we all have – which is a need to step outside ourselves ? And voyeurism is meant to be safe sex, exactly.” 

So the playback clips/disks become a metaphor for how we all live through movies – “an extrapolation of the cinematic experience.” 

“It calibrates the fragile balance between viewer and viewed, screen and audience. It is spectacle as medium AND subject.”

In ‘Blue Steel’, not only is Jamie Lee Curtis nearly raped, her father batters her mother so regularly that in the end Curtis arrests him herself. 

And even in ‘Point Break’, there is an unexpectedly disturbing scene where Lori Petty is bound and gagged and tortured at knifepoint – a scene replayed to Keanu Reeves (interestingly enough) on video. But Bigelow chooses not to discuss this as specific to her, let alone offer any personal elucidation, prefering to explain it in purely social or cinematic terms. 

“There are thousands of examples of such scenes in other movies. An infinite number,” she demurs, citing ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and “the shower scene from ‘Psycho’.”

“If anything, you have in my films, consistently strong female characters. I think that that mitigates the effect of the violence.” 

Or makes it more disturbing ? 


WHAT’S probably most surprising about the image we have of Bigelow as producing scenes such as these, is that prior to her  first film, she was painting and quietly working as “a conceptual artist and post-structuralist theoretician.” 

“I always felt that “painting would be what I would end up doing,” she smiles almost apologetically.

Now 43, the daughter of a paint store manager and a librarian, Bigelow had a safe, middle-class upbringing in rural Northern California. She studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, progressed to a scholarship at the Whitney in New York, and first took to film for its use “as a social tool” when she joined the radical art collective, Art & Language – a group dedicated to the “exploration of theoretical, literary and political topics through writing and painting”.

A fringe figure in the New York art scene, she was photographed by Mapplethorpe, had her work critiqued by the likes of Susan Sontag, and experimented in installation, performance art and

16mm film “ – all in the context of the art world. No narrative at all”.

Her first short was ‘The Set-Up’, a 20 minute film in which “two men in an alley do nothing but beat each other up to the drone of a lecture about violence.” 

Having completed a graduate course under Milos Forman at New York’s Columbia University, when it came to her first feature film, she says that, because of her artistic background, she was “always acutely conscious of the issue of accessibility”. 

Hence her decision to make Genre movies. 

“I came to think of genre as a great construct,” she explains. “A way in for the audience. Once you’ve laid the groundwork, created this familiar trap in a way, you can subvert it – create a hybrid, or try and redefine it, rather than just be slavish to a genre that exists. Update it or re-appropriate it.”

This became her plan, her ploy – corrupting Hollywood’s great genre with dark, subversive story-lines, and, wherever possible, reversing conventional roles by casting unusually androgynous stars or strong female leads. 

According to ‘Film Comment’, her films became “dependably visceral, compelling genre exercises, visualised with a high-art sense of complex form and acute design… meta-cinema of the first rank.”

The first genre she took on was the motorbike movie (a real boys’ genre), except Bigelow’s was a road movie that didn’t go anywhere.

Co-written and co-directed with her friend Monty Montgomery, and shot (“miraculously”) for $ 800,000, ‘The Loveless’ was a biker-movie/b-movie, re-invented as a wildly over-stylised homage to the iconography of ‘The Wild One’ and Edward Hopper, with a bunch of pouting leather boys like Willem Dafoe muttering cod philosophies like “we’re nomads – the only place we’re going is forward.” 

Although she says she “had embraced narrative by now”, almost nothing happens in ‘The Loveless’. The only significant event is the strangely affecting, vividly ultra-violent, climax. 

Where some critics saw it as “pretentious and practically plotless”, Bigelow saw it as “almost like a tone poem”. 

Dafoe smokes a lot of cigarettes and looks gorgeous. The girls in the gang let their hair down and fool around. And the ballsy heroine is forced to choose between hanging out with the gang and running wild, or going back to suburbia with her wife-beating, abusive, father.

A line from one of the town’s old-timer, presumably reflects Bigelow’s own view when he says of the biker gang, “they’re animals…. Heck, I’d love to be them for a day or two.”In the 5 years before her next film, Bigelow lectured on film-makers of the 30s and 40s, moved to L.A. (“into the belly of the beast”) and ended up “in development hell” (developing scripts that never got made).

Realising all she was ever going to be offered was a constant stream of cute High School comedies, she wrote ‘Near Dark’ (with Eric Red), characteristically refusing to sell the script unless she could direct it. 

Another cult classic (which has endured somewhat better than ‘The Loveless’), ‘Near Dark’ is another (male) genre given a typically characteristic twist – namely, a futuristic Western about a gang of white trash vampires/outlaws rolling round the American desert, succumbing to their (blood) lust to survive.

This time, the main female vampire (Jenny Wright) entices the male hero away from his respectable suburban family into joining the gang of morally corrupted outlaws. 

Brilliantly shot in outrageous blues (big blue sunrise, blue dust-roads, blue moons, a big Klein-blue kiss), ‘Near Dark’ is tender and sexy, funny and violent, culminating in a classic ten-minute bar-room scene, in which Bigelow takes the tension of impending violence to unbearable levels as the outlaws massacre bunch of rednecks to the sound of The Cramps on the jukebox. 

“Yeah, I’m pretty proud of that scene,” Bigelow laughs awkwardly. 

“It’s like you’re IN the bar with them !  It builds up like a metronome. Up until then, the audience definitely has a strange kind of sympathy for the vampires. Then, it just becomes the methodical destruction of every individual in the room.”

This is a big Bigelow theme: we warm towards the bad guys (the bikers, the vampires, the bank-robbers in ‘Point Break’, the charming killer in ‘Blue Steel’) just before they do their worst. 

In fact, in Kathryn Bigelow films – like a true outsider – it’s invariably the hero’s buddies who turn out to be the baddies, as if she just doesn’t trust anyone. 

The bar scene sealed her reputation both in Hollywood and the press. (‘Vogue’ summed up her impact as “not merely pushing the envelope of women’s film-making, she’s torched it”.)

“I love shooting those scenes. I just really respond to visceral, cathartic film-making. I don’t know if it’s simply from a visual standpoint. I don’t think so, because I like the kineticism of it. It’s like Sam Peckinpah. I look at his work again and again and again. It’s perfection. I try to identify why, for me, it’s absolutely seamless – just great, gritty, hard-edged film-making. Film-makers like Peckinpah, like Walter Hill, Oliver Stone, Scorsese, just demand a response. They have an edge, a complexity.” 

Being female represents no kind of a contradiction. 

“When a woman goes to see ‘Lethal Weapon’, she’s not going to identify with the girlfriend or the victim. We’re riding Mel Gibson’s ride.”

In fact, Bigelow films violence far better than most male directors.

“I guess one difference is: I’m slavish to geography. I don’t respond to alot of ‘action’ films where it’s just all done by fast cuts and high-impact sound and you have no idea where anybody is or who they are.”

Still, her films are remarkable films for a woman to have made (even though shouldn’t be) – mainly because she’s still the only one doing it.

 “I know !” she laughs. “I’m always asked why there aren’t any others, in this accusatory fashion. Like, do I keep them away or something? But I talk at schools and work with fairly high-profile material – hoping to give the impression that it’s possible for a woman to make films like mine. But somehow I’m still out there by myself. I’m like an endangered species.”

Her next film, ‘Blue Steel’ (co-produced by Oliver Stone), was Bigelow’s first big step into commercial Hollywood and yet – paradoxically – is also arguably her most personal film, and the film where she plays with gender and genre to the greatest effect. 

(Writer/critic, Cora Kaplan, summed up its intentions as an “explicitly deconstructivist and analytic project embedded in a mass-market film”)

Treating it as “an interesting exercise in role reversal”, Bigelow subverts the typical cop thriller by establishing an unusually complex female lead – NYPD rookie, Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) who has the same fetishes (guns and uniforms – “the iconography of power”) as the killer (Ron Silver). 

The opening credits of the movie fetishise the contours of a Smith & Wesson superbly – in a way the American gun lobby would adore. 

Despite the way the way Jamie Lee Curtis is successfully wooed by Silver’s champagne-and-roses treatment in the film, both her character and her performance were hailed by feminist writers like Kaplan, who saw the film as “a running commentary on issues in feminism and feminist film theory” and “a film which rehearses through its story, and through a theoretical meta-commentary, the uneasy positioning of women and by implication, feminism, in post-feminist dystopia.”

Certainly the way Curtis out-wits and out-toughs her male contemporaries could clearly be a metaphor for Bigelow’s own career struggle and (as in the closing scenes of ‘Strange Days’), the enduring image of the film is of the male enemy portrayed as a violent blood-drenched pig figure, ready to be slaughtered by her female foe. 

Again Bigelow gleefully trashes the happy ending of most buddy films in to the bargain. (Curtis’s best friend snuffs it.)

“I really fought against the need to reward her at the end,” Bigelow recalls. “It was very important to me to keep her in that kind of atonement. Suggest that perhaps this woman would be wounded forever.”

She followed ‘Blue Steel’ with the thoroughly commercial, hugely enjoyable, moderately violent, buddy movie, ‘Point Break’, where the gang of sympathetic outlaws are a bunch of environmentally-friendly beach bums who rob banks dressed as ex-presidents of the United States to finance their surfing (“like some kind of tribe”). 

“I’m fascinated by these people,” Bigelow told ‘The Guardian’s Helen Oldfield at the time. “There’s something kind of optimistic about them, like pioneers, making a way for themselves in a hostile world. There’s something seductive about their lifestyle.” 

Besides a technically dazzling chase scene (in which the highlight is one of the robbers throwing a dog at his persuer), Bigelow’s main subversive contribution in ‘Point Break’ was a homo-erotic undertow to the friendship between her two male stars/pin-ups – Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayzee in a movie that went on to gross more than $ 100 million at the U.S. box office.


PERHAPS with the success of ‘Blue Steel’ and ‘Point Break’ Kathryn Bigelow got carried away. 

But ‘Strange Days’, which should have been her final breakthrough into the blockbusting big-time, back-fired. Maybe this time, she was just too smart, too ambitious, for her own good.

Admitting that “it would be a hard to distil a single clear message from this film – cos it’s about so much”, Bigelow clearly still can’t bring herself to acknowledge that she attempted to re-define and re-appropriate so many different genre in ‘Strange Days’ that most audiences couldn’t tell (or care) whether the film was a sleazy, sexy film noir, a prophetic commentary on the LA riots or simple sci-fi escapism. (It’s actually another romance.)

This time, she establishes a weak, flawed male hero (Fiennes), with openly close bonds to his buddy, Max (Tom Sizemore), and two ballsy, powerful, female leads (Lewis and Bassett) who gradually take over the whole film. And in this movie, for once, the girl gets to rescue the guy. 

But like ‘Point Break’ and especially ‘Blue Steel’, the longer ‘Strange Days’ goes on, the more the constraints of the blockbuster/action-movie genre start to snowball over Bigelow’s ideas and intentions. It degenerates into a Whoopi Goldberg-style chase movie, Bigelow’s story overloads itself, and she ends up throwing ending after ending on to it.

The most disheartening aspect is that in her last three films, the morally and psychologically complex characters (Jamie Lee Curtis, Keanu and Ralph Fiennes) have all been jettisoned in favour of their one-dimensional, increasingly ludicrous, counter-parts (Ron Silver, Swayzee and both Bassett and Sizemore). 

Like the worst, most complacent of Hollywood’s product, she also insults the audience’s intelligence by casually changing her characters to suit the (increasingly preposterous) plot. 

So, in ‘Point Break’, the whole point of the bank-robbers’ ambivalent morality is that they never hurt anyone, and that, as

Swayzee says, “this was never about money. This was about us against the system – the system that kills the human spirit”. But by the end, he’s killing even his own partners with disparity. 

And, like the detective in ‘Blue Steel’, who is transformed from a tough-talking sexist into a knight in sensitive, shining armour, by the end of ‘Strange Days’ Lenny is no longer a seedy, street-smart, hustler, but a pathetically sentimental naif, virtually a child. 

(Bigelow could be saying that men are redeemable, but if she is, her examples are hopelessly unconvincing).

Like Stone’s ‘Natural Born Killers’, Bigelow’s claims to providing any kind of worthwhile “social commentary” are groundless because her characters become so unreal. But by the same token, the film is too complex and layered to work as a totally absurd blockbuster. 

Amazingly, by the end of ‘Strange Days’, despite the fact that Lenny has carried us through the whole story on the grounds of trying to resolve his unrequited obsession with Faith, in the final sceme, he resolves it by going off into the sunset with someone else altogether. And the deputy chief commissioner of police sorts out the race riots by making an arrest (!). 

So even the future is looking fine after all. 

“Well, what I would like from ‘Strange Days’ is an incendiary element that might shake things up,” Bigelow admits. “But it also has some hope and redemption. You can’t just leave the audience with the feeling that there are no choices left. You have to give them at least a glimpse of a way out.”

She has fiercely rejected any accusations of compromise, pointing out that, as in ‘Blue Steel’, the end of the film was in Cameron’s script all along. 

Still, the subsequent fate of ‘Strange Days’ at the box-office has added a certain twist to the rumour that when they separated, Bigelow (in a Hollywood version of a Faustian pact) had it written into the divorce settlement that Cameron had to produce three of her movies. In which case, ‘Strange Days’ certainly begins to look like something of a poisoned chalice. 

It’s hard to believe, this is the sort of film she really wants to make. Eventually, not without a hint of annoyance, she confesses “if I was being extremely candid, I would say that, sometimes, I would be concerned that maybe there was a kind of expectation or momentum to built – a third act climax that has to resolve itself within the conventions of that genre. I’m wondering how I can rail against that, work against that.”

No wonder she says that for her next project, she wants to make “something quiet and serene.” (Reputedly a version of ‘Joan of Arc’.) 

She seems to have accepted that the process of what she has set out to achieve is going to be a fairly thankless one. 

“I do feel like an outsider in Hollywood, yes, in a way. I always will – maybe just coming from the art-world. I feel ‘atypical’ perhaps. I have a kind of hyper-analytical response to the material and to the industry. I don’t feel like a movie-buff turned director. It all came from painting. I don’t feel it’s terribly different from what I’ve always done.”

Sadly, overall, ‘Strange Days’ looks like the work of one of Independent cinema’s most dynamic, visceral, challenging talents believing she was subverting some of Hollywood’s most closely-held and well-established conventions, when in fact, all along, it was the other way round. 

In the end, the reputation for imagination and originality that inspired her to try and change the nature of Hollywood has in fact simply succumbed to it. 

She tried to change the nature of Hollywood through the imagination and originality that made her reputation, but has, in the end, simply succumbed to it.