[box cover]

The Loveless

There's a whole lotta posturin' goin' on in Kathryn Bigelow's 1982 directorial debut The Loveless (co-helmed with Monty Montgomery, probably best known as "The Cowboy" in David Lynch's Mulholland Dr.), but only Willem Dafoe (also making his big-screen debut) in the leading role of Vance is capable of imbuing his tough guy biker with genuine menace. Amazingly, his presence alone is enough to keep this slow burn of a motion picture watchable as it meanders toward its predestined violent conclusion, which at least earns points for tweaking genre convention. Devoid of much backstory, the film coasts on its evocation of greaser cool, as the recently paroled Vance and his crew assemble in a backwater north Florida town waiting to make the next move to Daytona, where it's uncertain what manner of criminality will occur. Obviously riffing on The Wild One (1953), Bigelow and Montgomery largely eschew incident for atmosphere. Yes, Vance seduces and ultimately sleeps with a prominent townsperson's comely teenage daughter, but the filmmakers seem uninterested in generating any real tension from the infraction. And while Vance's boys sniff around a local harlot named Augusta (Liz Gans), they mostly keep their distance, electing instead to hang out at the local garage playing mumblety-peg while one of their bikes is getting repaired. As the day drags on, it becomes clear that Bigelow and Montgomery are satirizing the small-town tendency to ascribe their moral erosion to leather-clad, chopper-riding outsiders when they've been sinning with relative impunity long before these strangers rolled into their lives. This is a worthwhile angle, but rather than flesh it out into something palpable, they fall back on empty biker posturing, for which co-star Robert Gordon has always been a notable poster boy. One of the earlier practitioners of rockabilly chic, Gordon's tough guy appearance always belied the studio-bound sterility of his music, exemplified by his spare, cleaned-up rendition of Marshall Crenshaw's lively retro classic "Someday Someway." His contributions to the score for The Loveless (he gets sole credit, but John Lurie was brought in later to add more texture) are similarly bereft of the raggedness so crucial to the genre pioneered by the likes of Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly. As for Bigelow, there's some of the moody, smoke-filled look she'd apply to her sophomore feature, Near Dark, but, otherwise, there's not much to savor visually. There's a reason this film has never acquired a fervent cult following; it's a very minor, oddly timid work. Blue Underground presents The Loveless in a nicely restored anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with decent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a moderated feature-length commentary with Dafoe, Bigelow, and Montgomery that's not bad (Montgomery, who was interviewed by himself, dominates), a theatrical trailer, and stills galleries. Keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks



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