Advertisement

Hopkins' Kathryn Bigelow series ends on high note

When Kathryn Bigelow received overdue honors for "The Hurt Locker" this year, the media formed the narrative that she was a "man's director" because she often took on masculine subjects and worked well with male ensembles. (That's her above at the Charles, at the closing night screening of "The Hurt Locker" at the 2009 Maryland Film Festival.) But next to "The Hurt Locker" and her killer vampire Western, "Near Dark," my favorite Bigelow film is "The Weight of Water," because of its roster of amazing female characters and performances. (It plays tonight at 7:15 at Johns Hopkins' Mountcastle Auditorium, 725 N. Wolfe Street).

This sensual, brooding movie stars Catherine McCormack as an intense contemporary photographer investigating an 1870s axe murder that took place in a Norwegian-immigrant enclave on a small Maine island. As Bigelow deftly inter-cuts the past and present stories, the bloody historical tragedy resonates with the  photographer, who is trying to repair her broken bond with her poet husband (Sean Penn).

Advertisement

Elizabeth Hurley plays the defiantly flirty girlfriend of the poet's brother (Josh Lucas) -- he owns the boat the photographer needs to reach the island -- and Sarah Polley, in the 19th century story, plays a workhorse wife in a love-free marriage. McCormack exudes a real aesthetic magnetism as the photographer, and Hurley, for once, gets to be smart as well as sexy as a brunette bombshell. But Polley is extraordinary -- as Stephanie Zacharek wrote in Salon, her face is "expressive in very subtle gradations -- even when she's playing a closed-off character like the one here, she's always clueing us in to some submerged motivation or fear or desire."

"The Weight of Water" closes the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions' summer series, "The Films of Kathryn Bigelow." But it suggests the many possibilities open to this director's future. What kind of film would you like to see Bigelow do next?

Advertisement

Photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor


Advertisement