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4.5.04

Kill Bill

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Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003), directed by Quentin Tarantino
So now I've seen both volumes of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. It's a somewhat interesting story that was much helped by an orgy of balletic violence in Vol. 1, something that was definitely missed in Vol. 2 (although seeing Daryl Hannah and Uma Thurman kick the shit out of one another, with a conclusion you will not soon forget, is probably worth the price of admission). What made Vol. 1 so much fun to watch was the simplicity of its plot. Bill, seen only as David Carradine's beringed hand fondling a sword, killed a chapel full of people and left the Bride (Uma Thurman), one of the assassins for hire in Bill's gang, for dead. Somehow revived from a coma, she is understandably pissed off and goes on a vengeful rampage to murder all the people who did this to her, leading up to the action described in the film's title. I did not need to know much more than this to enjoy watching Vol. 1, which I did. Part of the problem with Vol. 2 is that we have to learn more about the history of the characters, which I didn't really need or want to know. I would have been content to watch the Bride do in her various nemeses in ever new and creative ways. Some of this character development is entertaining to watch, and at other parts I was checking my watch.

Let me say first that they are beautiful movies, at least partially because they feature Uma Thurman so prominently, and she is shot lovingly, even lustingly as some critics would have it, by Tarantino. There is something mythological or psychological going on with Tarantino in these films, but I don't know if I would carry it quite as far as Prof. Mark T. Conard (Kill Bill, Vol. 1: Violence as Therapy, or: How To Be a Dick, November 12, 2003, and Kill Bill, Vol. 2: Mommy Kills Daddy, April 26, 2004, at the excellent Metaphilm; thanks to Cinetrix at Pullquote for directing me to it). Whatever deep philosophical statement Tarantino may or may not be trying to make, it did not burden Vol. 1, which made it more enjoyable, at least for me, than Vol. 2.

What I want to know is where are the critics who were so upset by the over-the-top violence of Mel Gibson's The Passion (see Ionarts review on April 13) to complain about these movies, especially Vol. 1 with its bloody mass of Japanese bodies and severed limbs, that truly do fetishize violence and render it like a comic book? (One exception is Jeffrey Overstreet's Kill Bill review, with thanks to Thunderstruck for the link.) Indeed, if you want to see a character being used as a "punching bag" (as the character of Gibson's Jesus was described by one critic), you should check out Tarantino's movies. Uma Thurman is humiliated, punched, kicked, slashed, crushed, shot, and buried alive, and most of this punishment goes far beyond what the human body could realistically be expected to survive. Survive she does, of course, and even rises from the grave. We can hardly be surprised to hear that Tarantino admires Gibson's The Passion, as he stated in an interview with John Powers in LA Weekly (thanks again to Metaphilm for the link):
I loved it. I'll tell you why. I think it actually is one of the most brilliant visual storytelling movies I've seen since the talkies—as far as telling a story via pictures. So much so that when I was watching this movie, I turned to a friend and said, "This is such a Herculean leap of Mel Gibson's talent. I think divine intervention might be part of it."
I am secretly hoping that a language-sensitive French person (I think that's what's called a tautology) at the Festival in Cannes next week, who has seen the movie in v.o. (version originale), will bring up this minor point to Jury President Quentin Tarantino (see post on February 17, Tarantino at Cannes). Twice in Vol. 2 characters use the phrase "coup de grâce" but pronounce it without the final S sound ("coup de gra"): in French, that would give you the phrase "coup de gras" (S not pronounced), which I guess is the heart attack one would get from eating too much triple-cream St. André (a "blow of fat"). Perhaps Emmanuelle Beart, who is on the jury with Tarantino, will know how to say something about it.

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