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The Loveless 1981
Description: Problem ensues when a motorcycle gang stops in a tiny southern city while heading to the races at Daytona.
Released: 25 May 1984 Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Monty Montgomery Writers: Kathryn Bigelow, Monty Montgomery Actors: Willem Dafoe, Robert Gordon, Marin Kanter, J. Don Ferguson Genres: Drama
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The Loveless Reviews:

Actually that this beautifully sculpted, wildly atmospheric, true-to-the-era in which it is set film is on DVD, I've watched and re-watched it many times. This is more of a review of the DVD than of the entire film, and the spoilers are more DVD commentary-related than plot-related, so read on if you wish.This is, by far, one of the finest movies paying homage to the motorcycle enthusiasts (or outlaws, as it may be), settings, and characters of the 1950's that I've ever seen, and I own many, so any rockabilly guys or gals out there reading this review - this film is for you! It's moody, sexy, violent, and slick - nice eye-candy with an outstanding cast of characters.The DVD has one of the better commentaries, featuring conversations with the film's co-writer/co-directors Kathryn Bigelow & Monty Montgomery, as well as the film's star, Willem Dafoe. Dafoe credits the movie's directors for starting his career with this movie, a fact which Monty Montgomery humbly shrugs off. They receive into the films they watched that directly influenced how "The Loveless" was shot, trivia notes, like how Robert Gordon, who was paid to score the flick blew all of the budget on on single calypso tune that is featured for a several mins of the film. It would also seem that Gordon, who is most noted for being a rockabilly musician (and an perfect one at that!) was inadvertently cast while meeting with the film's directors. Gordon created some on-set tension that flickered mainly between himself and Dafoe, as Gordon felt that he was the only one on set who truly understood the entire biker/greaser world.It is interesting to note that the film was Bigelow's thesis for movie school, as well as her directorial debut, and it must've earned her some high marks, as she's gone on to work with folks like David Lynch! Montgomery, too, has worked extensively with Lynch, producing "Wild At Heart", working on "Twin Peaks", and acting in "Mulholland Dr." For those who expect this to be a biker exploitation flick (like "The Wild One" and all of its followers thereafter), you're in for a surprise. The directors intended for the audience to feel as if that is what they were in for while the initial scenes unfold, but as the storyline moves forward, we realize that it isn't so much a biker movie but more of a type of a wild-west movie. Monty Montgomery credits Edgar G. Ulmer's short, noir movie "Detour" as being the major influence as far as the style, the framing, and the shots of "The Loveless" go. He also credits Kenneth Anger's film "Scorpio Rising" as the film that inspired the entire homo-eroticism of the biker globe as presented in this, Montgomery's earliest film.For those interested in some trivia, here ya be - Originally titled "U.S. 17", which used to be a U.S. superhighway up until the 1960's when the I 95 highway replaced it as the major thruway from Georgia to Florida and up to Fresh York, the whole movie is shot on zone along this actually abandoned stretch of blacktop. Monty Montgomery, the movie's co-director, grew up in and around the Georgia zone where the movie was shot, and at the time of filming, the stretch of street was like a time capsule, with abandoned motels, diners, and gas stations along the method which had not changed since the 40's and the 50's. This made the reality of the film much easier to capture, and slash down massively on the cost of what would have meant sound scene creations of all of these types of locations. I wonder if any of these territories exist now, as the film was done at the beginning of the 80's? I can only hope...There is no disguising that this movie focuses more on atmosphere than on plot, and there is no pretense to recommend that the directors intended anything else. Montgomery even refers to it as "eye-candy", and why not? Sometimes my eyes crave the cavities offered up by such sweet treats as "The Loveless"! There are many a long, lingering shot of pretty vintage 'cycles being worked on, close ups on tattoos (one of the actors, Larry Matarese, who plays "La Ville", opted for an current old-school pinup gal tattoo on his forearm before filming began), tension-creating pauses while characters look on sipping coffee in a diner or lean on a 50's Coke machine clad in leather and denim, and all of this works for the piece that this film was meant to be.It is somewhat of homage to "The Wild One", but only in that it deals with motorcycle enthusiast-rebels in the 50's - all another plot comparisons and similarities fall by the wayside.Though they wished for a score that was more like Sergio Leone's large, sweeping, and melodramatic western film's scores, and they were held back by budgetary constraints, I felt what they did have to work with offered the movie the nostalgic atmosphere perfectly. The score as it stands on the DVD (which, unfortunately is not on CD, record, or tape, darn it!) largely done by John Lurie (of "The Lounge Lizards" fame, and also a regular in many Jim Jarmusch films), along with a minimal amount of tracks supplied by Robert Gordon, can be credited for being the cherry on top of this 50's diner served, tasty milkshake of a flick!~T.Paul www.t-paul.com


I think this film comes closest to what bikers experience while on the road. Boredom, waiting, mechanical problems, prejudice of the locals. I have done many transcontinental motorcycle rides alone, and this one captures it best. You're not going to come across Timothy Leary in the middle of nowhere (Roadside Prophets), or pick up Nicholson and receive blown away (Easy Rider). There are long stretches where absolutely nothing happens. There is a stage where Dafoe sits in the bar and it is filmed in true time, security-camera style. Unbearable mins go by and nothing happens at all, while a superb Brenda Lee song "I Wish To Be Wanted" plays in the background.The loneliness of riding alone and coming into city alone is what makes this film poignant and pretty in a quiet way.This film is also a rockabilly heaven. Eddy Dixon's magnificent opening song Relentless is possibly one of the most hard songs to search in print. NYC rockabilly singer Robert Gordon also serves up some over-the-top way acting here. DaFoe's narrative voice is already unbelievable here, as is Bigelow's filmmaking style. Sometimes I explain this film to folks as one where the tables are turned and boys receive objectified. It's an interesting dynamic to see what mainstream movies have done for so long to girls done to men.The plot is about a group of bikers who are en route to Florida to see some auto/bike racing. They are coming from various states and planning to converge at a meeting point. One of the biker's Harleys break down and there is a delay that holds them up in a tiny Georgia town. Dafoe runs into a daughter of a redneck at a gas station and hooks up there. Everything finally hits the fanatic at the local bar.Lots of great shots of vintage bikes. Harley shovelheads and knuckleheads are in result throughout the movie.


They ride quick and live dirty and cool, that should be a tagline for The Loveless. The characters in this biker gang, who are now relatively peaceful compared to the folks in The Wild One (they aren't that rebellious, but just enough to create an impression), and just wish to chill in a tiny not-quite city until they can go down to Daytona for a large race. But there isn't much to do in terms of hanging out. Sure, they can work on their rides in a local garage, and sure Willem Dafoe's Vance has a ladies-man charm that is uncanny (or just, you know, 'bad boy' style, as we see in an opening stage where he supports an older girl with a flat tire), and sure there's a night of revelry in a bar. But these guys aren't looking too much for trouble, relatively. It's more about how they just wish to drink some nice booze, listen to their rock and roll, and unfortunately receive harassed by rednecks who think their Commies. I can't really tell for Monty Montgomery, as he directed this as his first detail and then went off into producing (save maybe for the connection to Wild at Heart), but as Kathryn Bigelow's first movie as co- director it shows so much promise for the rest of her career. And intriguingly it's not quite like her another movies. It's inspired by some of the Wild One, some rock and roll, but in its look and melodramatic shades such as with the woman Vance hooks up with it's akin to Douglas Sirk. It's visual sheen is very 1950's, and it's got guys on bicycles who are looking for a nice time, and all the actors are cast spot on. Fun to watch as well is one of the bikers played by Robert Gordon, a Rockabilly legend. But it's Bigelow's vision that makes it unique, and perhaps Montgomery's affinity for 50's low-down street culture.It's difficult to pin-point what makes the film interesting since, frankly, not a entire lot happens. There's the romantic fling Vance has with the girl- a scenario shot with loving close-ups to the woman and a fine look to the motel bed scenes- and there's some doing with the sub-plot of the redneck dudes looking to beat some biker ass. But the tone is what counts here, and what may now turn off some viewers. There isn't a lot of 'plot' and in some ways, more than any another Bigelow film, resembles a European piece that concerns itself with how these guys move, react, listen to the melody (and there's a lot, a close second to American Graffiti in terms of amount of 50's rock tunes, this less recognizable but still as meaningful), and receive drunk in a bar with what looks like 100 bottles on a table. What it comes down to in The Loveless is you can either take the figurative ride with these guys just hanging out, or not. I did, and it was enjoyable once it got me in its grasp. It's never boring though; you everytime are a tiny on edge that something *could* happen, and when it does (i.e. the confrontation between the girl's father and Vance) that it reaches a dramatic peak, or of course with the violent climax that should be an homage to Peckinpah. It's just a various type of biker movie, less concerned with action and more about what it was like to be these guys, or be around them, in a sleepy nothing-town in the mid 50's. If Antonioni made a biker film and had to have a soundtrack of wall-to-wall rockabilly, it might be this.



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