Directors on Directors: Broadway Helmers Salute Their Movie Brethren

Variety, December 20-January 3, 2012 | Go to article overview

Directors on Directors: Broadway Helmers Salute Their Movie Brethren


KATHRYN BIGELOW BY BARRETT SHER

"Zero Dark Thirty"

Kathryn Bigelow is a badass of a director an artist capable of superhuman narrative skill, with the ability to handle thrills, violence, politics and sweeping gestures with enviable ease. "Zero Dark Thirty" begins in darkness with just the voices of victims and responders on 9/11, and irises out to a room containing a detainee being viciously tortured, and from there peels open to a government agency and nation mobilized to strike a single target. From here it irises back to the face of its protagonist, alone and struggling to make sense of her obsession with something well beyond her grasp.

The deepest pleasures in the funi are in the weird edges and sub-textual battles that Bigelow deftly navigates. The first Is between the West and the world of Islam. If anything, the failure of 9/11 was one of imagination. Every single Westerner, whether torturer, CIA chief or Navy Seal, struggles to make sense of a world they dimly understand culminating in the immense weirdness of soldiers so technologically equipped with scopes, armor and guns that their arrival in Osama Bin Laden's almost medieval fortress with goats in the yard, is a perfect metaphor for our entire relationship to Islam.

And perhaps more personally for Bigelow is the boundary explored between men and women, especially the central character played with saintly patience by Jessica Chastain, who negotiates the endless condescension and disrespect men quietly heap on women.

"Zero Dark Thirty" is a rich work, highly pleasurable as a thriller, and expressive of a 12-year dilemma faced by our country. Artists at their best, help navigate the personal and the political, and none better than Bigelow. Badass, indeed.

Bartlett Sher, a Toni/ winner for the 2008 "South Pacific" revival, helmed the current Broadway revival of "Golden Boy."

PIC HELMERS VENTURE INTO NEW FRONTIERS

Some return to familiar turf; others enter risky new places. All of them push personal artistic boundaries.

As Christopher Nolan wrapped up his Gotham City trilogy with "The Dark Knight Rises," Peter Jackson kicked off another Middle Earth trio in "The Hobbit." Steven Spielberg returned to the 19th century of "Amistad" with "Lincoln," Kathryn Bigelow re-upped for Mideast duty in "Zero Dark Thirty" and Quentin Tarantino took on another grindhouse genre with "Django Unchained."

After "Flirting With Disaster," David O. Russell upped the stakes in family chaos for "Silver Linings Playbook." Ben Affleck marshaled a band of brothers to extract not money (basely) as in "The Town," but people (nobly) in "Argo." Michael Haneke's merciless lens switched from human cruelty to nature's cruelty in "Amour," just as Robert Zemeckis left motion capture to probe addiction's capture in "Flight" and the Wachowskis pressed Tom Tykwer into another metaphysical "Matrix" to help map their "Cloud Atlas."

A few hardy mariners ventured into uncharted seas: Ang Lee wrangled a kid, tiger and 3D camera into the lifeboat of "Life of Pi." Tom Hooper navigated Parisian sewers (in song!) for "Les Miserables." Paul Thomas Anderson captained the good ship Cult Hero on "The Master." J. A. Bayona rode the tsunami of "The Impossible." And on a leaky bayou raft, Benh Zeitlin battled "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Sam Mendes Bonded with "Skyfall," while kidlit author Stephen Chbosky kept a firm hand on the tiller of his "Perks of Being a Wallflower."

Ben Lewin pushed a stretcher around San Francisco for "The Sessions," while Dustin Hoffman roamed a retirement home in "Quartet" and Joe Wright placed Moscow onstage for "Anna Karenina."

After a somewhat becalmed start, 2012 surely ended with an armada of memorable voyages.

- Bob Verini

ANG LEE BY BILL T. JONES

"Life of Pi"

Loe liad his full box of tricks with "Life of Pi." It's a bigscreen movie, and yet it's all in service of something quite personal. …

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