Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2004 6:26 pm 
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The magpie deserves our respect

Now that both “volumes” of Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” are out, it’s clear that QT didn’t lose it during the long pause after “Jackie Brown” and that “Pulp Fiction” wasn't destined to be his last truly personal effort. Incidentally, “Kill Bill” is both his most derivative and his most unique work: it affirms his power to entertain and proves a movie rife with allusion can be completely original.

“Kill Bill 2” finishes off the revenge business Uma Thurman (The Bride/Black Mamba/Beatrix Kiddo, Tarantino’s muse) started in Volume 1. What happens? There’s too much to tell and to do so would spoil the surprise that’s an element of any action flick, but by the end of Volume 2 you know why Bill came in with the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad of which The Bride had been a member to wipe out her wedding party and beat her and shoot her in the head and leave her for dead. And when she’s got the other Squad members out of the way you see her track down Bill and you find out what happens then. Volume 1 had a lot of Japanese martial arts stuff; Volume 2 has Chinese stuff instead, and more western stuff that happens in El Paso and Mexico.

Westerns and Asian martial arts movies have always cross-fertilized. American actioners like the “Matrix” series are full of kung fu, but Kurosawa made samurai movies as homages to John Ford way back in the ‘40’s. This is a little different, though. Tarantino quotes a Terrytune clip in “Kill Bill 2”: “The magpie deserves your respect”: he’s a genius magpie, both volumes being the apotheosis of his videogeek obsessions, “a duck press,” as he’s put it, “of all the grindhouse cinema” his head is full of. You don’t have to know all the allusions but it’s good to have a general idea, to understand that this is a movie lover’s movie. The violence isn’t for a minute meant to be real. It’s always a reference to movies and it’s not about people being cruel but about the love of cinema. If you get that, you’ll love “Kill Bill” and if you refuse to or can’t, you’ll say this is sick and excessive and mean to women (missing its emphasis on “girl power”). You’ll miss the fun. It’s interesting how quick Americans are to complain that fake, fun violence is excessive and how indifferent they can be to the real, unfun violence done in their name abroad.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” the “Kill Bill” slogan is, but these two movies are best “warmed over” in the sense that they need to be watched over and over, the way movie geeks or kids do with a movie they like, till the what or the why aren’t even so much an issue any more and you can just savor the how.

Of course “Kill Bill” 1 & 2 are “about” something: revenge. That’s why both parts begin with the Massacre at Twin Pines, the huge wrong that was done to Beatrix and her wedding party by Bill and his assassination team. When The Bride finds Bill and gets a big surprise, she has to decide if she still has “unfinished business.” Bill shoots her full of truth serum and gets her to admit some things. Could she have been happy with a record dealer in El Paso raising a kid? Is she a killer or is she a mom?

Quentin Tarantino certainly isn’t one of the more retiring movie enfant terrible types and people like to accuse him of egomania, but that’s unfair. Like movie wunderkind P.T. Anderson, Tarantino’s a huge fan and great collaborator with frequently acknowledged debts to his idols and his team. Giant onscreen credits attribute the conception behind both parts of “Kill Bill” to “Q & U,” Quentin and Uma: he arrived at it with his muse. It’s also important to him to use Sonny Chiba, Gordon Liu and Daryl Hannah as before he had to use (and revive the careers of) Travolta and Pam Grier and many others. So he resuscitates ‘70’s “Kung Fu” star David Carradine, whose mastery of “longwinded bullshit and the bamboo pipe,” as one critic puts it, is on conspicuous display in “Kill Bill 2.” Those of us who were gasping for air at the end of the Tokyo House of Blue Leaves nightclub battle sequence in “Kill Bill 1” because we had had to go so long without any Tarantino dialogue, may be left choking for breath also by Bill’s longwinded bullshit and wish Beatrix would forget about the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique and just slice off his talkative head with her Hattori Hanzo sword.

But mostly, in Volume 2, the dialogue returns to delight us. Even in the middle of a lightning hot battle like the one between Kiddo and Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) in Budd’s (Michael Madsen’s) trailer, the two ladies take the time to stop in their tracks, look at the inscription on a sword, and exchange taunts. The hermetic grindhouse world is a well-ordered one. The aesthetic pleasure “Kill Bill” provides comes from the neat way things are spelled out. Back-stories define and magnify heroes and villains, and the fun of flashbacks that provide them -- like the history of the watch told by Chris Walken in “Pulp Fiction” – is that they clarify and motivate action but also entertain us as independent, wildly inventive riffs.

“Kill Bill” is a celebration of pop traditions and of how movies can spin out wild imaginings. It can be enjoyed served warmed over, and over and over. It gets better each time you watch it.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


Last edited by cknipp on Tue Jun 01, 2004 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2004 11:10 pm 
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Saw Vol. 2 again yesterday. The things you pick up the second time around!

First of all, like you Chris, I am someone who appreciates what Tarantino does. His films are to be celebrated- they deliver in ways you might not even realize.

Take my second screening: I find myself liking Carradine's voice more and more. His scene with Uma at the campfire where he tells her about the "exploding heart" martial arts move is beautifully absurd. The scene that stands out the most on view 2 is the one in Mexico with Uma asking "Where's Bill?". The acting/performance of the Mexican col. Sanders is something to behold. He chews on his cigarette holder in a way that will have you grinning. The close-ups QT uses are straight out of Leone.

Vol. 2 is a tornado whipping down the Santa Anas. Daryl Hannah (that whistling goddess from Vol.1) is camp par excellence. Her scenes at Budd's trailer (involving Budd and Beatrix, respectively) are incredible. Easily some of the best fights scenes this film buff has ever seen...

Shit, I was wrong about the kick-ass music. There were more scenes with great music ) especially the Morricone music. I guess I was concentrating more on the story as opposed to the soundtrack....C'est la vie.

Uma is overacting in some scenes. She is in great shape, tho. Oh, and I noticed a continuity error in Vol.2. Bona fide QT mistake: when Uma is in the coffin (pre Pai Mei training sequence) you see her shirt is UNTUCKED- you can see her midriff. Well, post Pai Mei training you see her crawl out of the grave with her shirt tucked completely in her jeans. Somebody explain...

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