“Love Lies Bleeding”: Rose Glass’ lesbian neonoir

In a small dusty town lost on the edge of the Nevada desert, Lou manages the dilapidated training center of his father, an arms dealer and local godfather of his state. One day a mysterious hitchhiker shows up: Jackie. A weightlifter, Jackie plans to train for a few days there, then continue on to Las Vegas, where she hopes to win a competition. Between Lou and her, it’s love at first sight. However, as if fate were conspiring against the two young women, the dead begin to pile up around them. With the violent, erotic and grinding Love Lies Bleeding (Of love and blood), Rose Glass offers a stripping neoblack.

On screen, Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian form a sulphurous couple with nothing to envy of the one that formerly formed Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon in Boundby the Wachowski sisters, the “other” sapphic neo-noir (there aren’t tons of them).

“I came across this old photo one day, dating from the 1940s and 1950s and representing a weightlifter,” explains the English director, who has been showered with praise since the Sundance and Berlin festivals.

“I became obsessed with this image of a “muscle lady”: I found that there was something transgressive, almost anarchist, and very beautiful in this vision of an incredibly muscular woman. I think it still shocks a lot of people, the sight of such a woman. And I said to myself that this was an interesting territory to explore, both visually and psychologically. »

In this regard, it is intriguing that the photo at the origin of the project dates from this period, which corresponds precisely to the golden age of film noir.

“This influence manifested itself more… unconsciously than premeditated, but it is there, it is obvious,” agrees Rose Glass. Currently writing, Weronika [Tofilska, qui coscénarise] and I clearly saw these archetypes emerging from film noir emerge. »

The antihero prisoner of a dull existence led to commit the irreparable by wrongly believing to improve his lot, the tempting “vagabond” through whom misfortune arrives (at the Tea Postman Always Rings Twice/The postman always rings twice), the local gangster, the unexpected embarrassing witness… Except that with its lesbian angle, Love Lies Bleeding subverts these known figures. Moreover, that of criminal lovers, here criminal lovers, constitutes another essential of film noir.

The fierce humor – and black, what else – also contributes to the ambient distancing, which allows Love Lies Bleeding to transcend the simple exercise of style.

“Weronika and I had fun having fun with all these archetypes. It also allowed us to venture into areas of moral ambiguity. No one is good or bad… I’m always fascinated to see, in cinema, that certain characters seem to have permission to commit terrible acts, while others do not. For what ? Where do we draw the line, the moral line? »

In Love Lies Bleeding, Lou and Jackie are thus guilty of “terrible acts”, but behind the camera, Rose Glass does not judge them. Throughout an escalation of love and murder, the filmmaker leaves it to us to draw the line.

Female duets

The director has mastered the concept of a female duo that gets out of hand. For the record, we owe Rose Glass the formidable psychological horror drama Saint Maud. We follow a pious but unstable nurse, who believes her boss, a former prima ballerina confined to a wheelchair, is possessed.

Before that, there was the award-winning short film Room 55in which the rigid daily life of a married woman in the 1950s is turned upside down by contact with a stranger she meets in a motel.

“There is an intimacy inherent to this dynamic that I like,” notes the filmmaker.

Brief, Love Lies Bleeding is part of the continuity of these tête-à-têtes between two dissimilar female characters whose meeting has unpredictable, often disastrous consequences.

“It’s funny, because since the premiere at Sundance, I’ve heard a lot of people say how far this movie is from Saint Maud, when indeed, the kinship is there. I would even say that Jackie and Maud are a bit like spiritual sisters: both are isolated, have a conflicting relationship with their bodies and try to reinvent themselves, to make themselves feel bigger, in order to be seen… It’s the way they go about it that’s the problem. They lose touch with reality. »

In fact, Jackie, like Maud before her, will sink into psychosis, with the difference that, this time, Rose Glass opts for a much brighter outcome… although “morally ambiguous”, noir obliges.

Coordinate intimacy

Desire combined with the plural feminine is another recurring element for the director. In Saint Maudthe protagonist was unable to accept said desire, while in Love Lies BleedingLou and Jackie live their passion to the fullest.

“The sexual element in Saint Maud was like Maud: shy. When I got the green light for this film, I felt encouraged, emboldened, and I wanted it to translate into a fearless, frank approach. »

The result is a visceral treatment of violence and an uninhibited treatment of sexuality. In this regard, Rose Glass says she is delighted to have been able to count on the presence of an intimacy coordinator.

“Everything is choreographed in a film, but this is particularly true of action sequences… and intimacy. For the latter, the presence of an intimacy coordinator simplified everything. It allowed everyone to know exactly what we were going to shoot and how we were going to shoot it, to ask the relevant questions beforehand, to express doubts and anxieties, to name their limits… In short, to be on the same page wave. »

This ensured that potentially delicate filming moments did not generate the slightest problem.

A good engine

This did not displease Rose Glass, who was filming in the United States for the first time and who was keen to adequately convey the desired “Americana” atmosphere.

“Initially, I didn’t intend to set the film in the United States: I was considering England or Scotland. It was during the writing process, with all these influences from film noir, that this choice became obvious. And then, once you start talking about muscles and guns… Your thoughts turn to the United States. However, I struggled with it at first, because I wasn’t familiar with the country and the idea of ​​going to film there… I didn’t feel qualified. »

Doubt must have been a good driving force. Indeed, with Love Lies BleedingRose Glass does not just visit a certain America: she deconstructs with panache and passion one of its most emblematic cinematographic genres.

The film Love Lies Bleeding hits theaters on March 15.

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