In yesterday's Salon Martha P. Nochimson takes Kathryn Bigelow to task for not being femme enough: "It's that I'm still coming to grips with how a woman could possibly have dreamed up this spartan American soldier in Iraq, who, while obsessively romancing death as a bomb-squad ace, outdoes the most extreme images of machismo ever produced by mainstream America."
Uh, because she is an artist and artists are keen observers of human nature? Just a shot in the dark.
(With feminists like this, who needs mysogyny!)
...Bigelow is a visual artist, not simply a "female director" (whatever that may mean.)
And her film centers on a character who is addicted to a nearly wordless, intense, visual pursuit -- as is any visual artist worth their salt, no matter their gender. Bigelow chose the palette of war, and did show something about the addiction our culture has to war making, but what I found compelling was watching the main character work, watching him engaged in a life and death situation that depended for a positive outcome on his visual acuity, totally mesmerizing. The life and death part of his job seemed secondary to him; the time-stopping focus he was capable of achieving when looking at a bomb and figuring out how to defuse it was what seemed to bring him intense pleasure and release. Anyone who thinks images can relate to that. And anyone who makes war knows that James' character was doing, on a micro-scale, what war-makers do, too; they focus exclusively on the necessary. And women are obviously as capable of engaging in that kind of focus. Just ask Bigelow.
In the film, the main character keeps a box of defused bomb parts as souvenirs. A fellow soldier says "it's just junk from Radio Shack." Reading MHC's letter made me think about the artist connection: the box suggests an after-the-fact version of the found object/collage materials artists collect, which have no value until they are assembled.