This product was provided by Arrow Video for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.
Splintering off of the punk-rock movement of the late 1970s, music saw a rockabilly revival, starting a small but mighty trend of bands bringing back the classic ’50s rock ‘n’ roll style, sporting leather jackets, pompadour haircuts and infectiously fast dance tunes. Born out of New York City’s East Village, this became the inspiration for Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery’s feature debut, The Loveless.
Set in the ’50s in rural Georgia and featuring some prominent figures from New York’s rockabilly scene, including Robert Gordon (one of the originators of the revival), the film tells a quiet, brooding tale of a group of bikers attempting to make their way to a race in Daytona, only to get stuck in Georgia after one of their motorcycles breaks down.
Leading the group is Willem Dafoe as Vance in his first major film role after being plucked from the New York avant-garde theater scene. His performance commands such a presence even in this early stage in his career that it’s no wonder he would go on to achieve a massively successful career.
Vance isn’t an outwardly violent man, but there’s an ever-present unease around him, as if he could snap at a moment’s notice. The small-town country folks are none too pleased with the presence of these perceived neardowells in their town and quickly begin to lash out against them, which ultimately leads to a violent confrontation, although perhaps not the type of climax one might expect.
While the script is a bit on the sparse side, The Loveless additionally showcases some incredible talent behind the camera with Bigelow and Montgomery’s direction. For a low-budget indie, the film looks gorgeous, and the two are able to easily command the screen while utilizing an ensemble of largely non-actors. The editing by Nancy Kanter is expertly crafted, juggling multiple scenes at once and generating tension while creating symmetry between separate sequences.
The Loveless didn’t see a lot of success outside the midnight-movie crowd, but I think this is a film that could easily experience a revival with its new Blu-ray release from Arrow Video. It’s newly restored from the original camera negative and looks impeccable with nary a scratch or blemish to be seen.
The disc is packed with a bevy of bonus content, including a new making-of featurette with interviews from the bulk of the cast members, including Willem Dafoe; an audio commentary with director Monty Montgomery; and additional interviews with the crew. Sadly, Kathryn Bigelow is missing from all the bonus content, which is a shame considering this is her debut feature before she would go on to become one of the highest profile female directors in the business.
Though the film itself is light on plot and some of the performances reveal the inexperience of the non-professional actors, everything else in The Loveless is stellar, from the costuming to the cinematography to the location choices. Arrow’s new Blu-ray release completes the package for this underrated film and is definitely one that’s worth a look.