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Love Lies Bleeding (Rose Glass, 2024)

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Rose Glass’s second feature wallows in her genuine adoration of genre films and fashions a formidable collage of bodybuilder romcom (the director refers to the film as a “secret comedy”), road-revenge thriller, body horror and much more. The amplified anxiety of her characters (there’s a thick dollop of Aronofsky in the film’s surreal bodybuilding thread) and her transgressive paean to 80s and 90s culture feels akin to the (now directorially separated) Safdies and Refn. Showgirls, Cronenberg’s Crash, and Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s neglected masterpiece A Snake of June have been named as influences, though perhaps further comparisons would only hinder the incremental blossoming of Glass’s polychromatic aesthetic. 

It’s true that few honourable male characters inhabit the corridors of Glass’s two films, and that this film in particular features ‘empowered’ queer characters. However, to a journalistic gasp of communal deflation at the film’s Berlin press conference, Glass acknowledged that she didn’t consider the queer community at all while writing the script. She simply wanted to craft the most interesting story and by freeing herself of any “external expectations” was the best way to go about it. Unmistakable influence David Lynch has said, “if you want to send a message, go to Western Union. The first way you can kill (the screenplay) is to start worrying about what other people are going to think.”

Zero rehearsal time was allowed for the actors and the production was plagued with reshoots due to what Ed Harris described as the first cut simply “not happening”. Speaking of Harris, the actor puts a Panos Cosmatos-like spin on the term ‘bald eagle’ and reputedly cultivated his character’s menacingly repulsive mane himself, with Glass’s sole request that his look diverge from that of any past protagonist. Jena Malone imparts a heartrendingly vulnerable performance, echoing her scene-stealing role in Inherent Vice. The purest and most convincing portrayal, however, is given by Anna Baryshnikov, who is utterly mesmerising and someone not to underestimate.

Heavy themes such as drugs (roid rage), hyper-sexuality and some of the most inventive body horror in years are bolstered by a brilliant smattering of source music. Throbbing Gristle's Hamburger Lady mirrors the film’s viscous timbre and is miraculous for its subversive inclusion in a production this size. Suicide’s Martin Rev graces the end credit sequence with his gorgeous electro-doo-wop instrumental Whispers. The song predates Lynch’s Roadhouse, but would feel entirely at home there. They rarely make films like this anymore, at least successfully. 


IMAGE:  Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian find a moment of solace amid the beautiful chaos of Love Lies Bleeding.


Love Lies Bleeding (Rose Glass, 2024)

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