a little east of reality

Sunday, July 31, 2005

bang bang, my baby shot me down

I've never had much affection for Tarantino, despite his reputation. Not that he isn't a mad genius...but his movies are just hard to watch if you're squeamish. I haven't seen Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, and until tonight, I'd never seen Kill Bill, volume 1 or 2. For some reason there was no squeam in me tonight and I knew this was the right moment to watch a bunch of people 'get brekkup' as my father would say.

Wow. And again. Wow.

Yeah, yeah...way too violent. So don't show it to your kids. I doubt they were ever the target audience anyway. I did spend many moments wondering what on Earth else they could think of to do to each other. Some of the characters were amazing. David Carradine was perfect in the role of Bill with his quiet, sandpapery voice and calm expression (ever notice that? the best murderous characters all speak softly). Darryl Hannah floored me - I didn't know she had it in her. Uma Thurman just plain rocked. I can't count the number of totally cool things she did in this movie.

Of course the movie had its flaws. I know this project was a good chance for Tarantino to give a nod of respect to any number of old films, actors and directors...and he did, but Gordon Liu was (in my opinion) totally overdone as Pai Mei, stroking his long, white, beard under his bushy, white and very stupid-looking eyebrows and laughing that fake, mocking kung-fu movie laugh until you wanted to drive the damn sword through him yourself. (Though having said that, the move where he jumps up in the air to avoid the Bride's thrusting move and ends up standing on her sword was totally cool.) I also found it disappointing when Uma Thurman, playing an American, spoke with a better Japanese accent than Lucy Liu, whose character had supposedly been raised in Japan and was the head of the Tokyo underworld. Blood spurting in fountains from every sword wound was picturesque, but seemed more theatrical than interesting after the third or so spurtfest.

That said, so much was good. The animated scene that chronicled O-ren Ishii's parents' death and her own beginning as a killer was perfect. The fight scene between Beatrice and Elle was phenomenal; brought a whole new meaning to the words 'kickass babe'. The ending was riveting. Not only was it mesmerising to finally hear the remaining pieces of the story, but also Bill's very unpredictable nature created a tension that had me on the edge of my own couch. And wisely so.

What did amaze me was how soothing her relentless revenge was. It might have had something to do with the soundtrack, several songs of which reminded me of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds-style death ballads. But there was also something delicate in the precision of the martial arts, especially the sword fighting, that caressed the mind...something quietly satisfying in her oneness of mind and willingness to suffer to bring justice to the situation. Most of all, what I found utterly compelling was the fact that the Bride's all-consuming rage ~ her unwillingness to give in, her ferocity ~ came in great part from her mother-child instinct. We tend to think of mothers merely as 'nuturing' and rarely see movies that show how fierce that protective instinct can be, and how much rage a mother can show, given the chance, for those who harm her child.

I can't recommend Tarantino except on a case-by-case basis. Some people just aren't ever going to be up for his specific brand of movie-making. (I was astounded to find out afterwards that my parents saw both movies in the cinema and enjoyed them...would never have guessed that!) But for those in the mood for something a little dark and direct: 5 stars. I leave you with the vocal stylings (really starting to wish I had audio...must investigate) of Nancy Sinatra from the Kill Bill (did I mention excellent?) soundtrack:

Bang bang you shot me down.
Bang bang I hit the ground.
Bang bang that awful sound.
Bang bang...my baby shot me down.