(1982)2Josh RalskeKathryn Bigelow's debut feature, The Loveless, which she co-wrote and co-directed with Monty Montgomery, is a strange, but compelling amalgam of art film and homage to the American International Pictures biker flicks of the 1960s. The film's dialogue consists almost entirely of attitudinal epigrams, in the style of Marlon Brando's famous line from The Wild One. When asked, "What are you rebelling against?" Brando's character responds, "What d'ya got?" The dialogue in The Loveless isn't quite so memorable, and its reliance on such existentialist biker repartee occasionally borders on self-parody. "Every one of us die like chips in some big floatin' crap game," opines Vance (Willem Dafoe) in the film's sparsely used, but overblown narration. Still, Dafoe's performance is memorable. It's clear right from the start of his career that the camera loves him, as the filmmakers memorialize his leather outfit and the gears of his bike with frequent fetishistic close-ups. The other performances are uneven, though Marin Kanter makes a strong impression as Telena, the troubled local girl who scratches what Vance refers to in the narration as "an itch between my legs." The films takes its sweet time studying these characters, as they sit around and talk about nothing in particular, or stare silently into space, waiting for something to happen, for much of the early going. Dafoe and Kanter's performances bring surprising emotional impact to the somewhat predictable ending of the film. There's a nice scene in a black liquor store in the segregated town, in which New Yorker Vance tells the quietly hostile proprietor, "I'm not as white as I look." The film also slightly amps up the homoeroticism of the earlier biker flicks. The great soundtrack and the sure-handed visuals enhance the atmosphere and help the talented filmmakers overcome the plodding pace.