O.k., Quentin… We’re Even

April 18th, 2004  |  Published in Uncategorized

Alison’s visiting folks babysat while Al and I went to the

movies last night. We went to see Kill Bill Volume II after a

little debate, mainly centering on which of our many choices would be

best on the big screen. As much as I

hated

the first one, you’d think I wouldn’t bother. I think it comes down

to my feelings of being locked in a struggle to understand Quentin

Tarantino. To recap:

  • Reservoir Dogs got my attention.

  • Pulp Fiction was entertaining and good, but people seem muddled

about why it mattered ten years later

  • Jackie Brown gave me real hope that Tarantino could reveal a

flicker of human emotion beyond malice, fear, or “cool.”

Then came Kill Bill and I was really disappointed, because

there just wasn’t any humanity in that movie. Nothing in there at

all. Worse, for as much as it appeared to want to be an homage to

Hong Kong, it seemed stuck in the Sonny Chiba mode of goresploitation,

which seemed appropriate considering Sonny Chiba had a big role.

The second volume is so much better that it makes the first make its

own sense. There are a lot of arguments to be made for a little more

editing discipline in the combined effort, and the final reel managed

to really drag on when it could have been tightened down, but I got

some stuff I was really hoping for in the first:

  • People acting like humans with human emotions. Much more nuance all

around. Much more dramatic tension.

  • A “99 tortures of hell” sequence that came much closer to living up

to the tradition. The entire Pai Mei flashback was an awesome

tribute to the Shaw Bros. era of Hong Kong film, right down to the

hyper camera work.

  • A better stable of adversaries.

I feel like going to see that movie was like tempting Tarantino to

spoil the one movie night out we’ve had since December, but the

reviews from enough people were good enough, and the visual quality of

the first high enough, that it seemed worth the gamble. I think it

was. Tarantino managed to merge the pulp nihilism of his first two

films with the human warmth of Jackie Brown to come up with

something good. Too bad the first volume was so troubled on its own.

A hint of what we got in the second would have had me anticipating the

release of this one like few other movies I’ve seen in the last year.

One other unresolved detail: Having seen this two-parter to its

conclusion, I can now say Tarantino kicked the Wachowski Bros’ asses

from here to next Sunday. Different films, but drawing from similar

wells. Where the Wachowskis were eventually [consumed by their own

navels](http://www.puddingbowl.org/archives/long_form/001417.php) and

managed to [foul the very well they were drawing

from](http://www.puddingbowl.org/archives/movies/001218.php),

Tarantino managed to demonstrate a real affection for his inspirations

and a skill for reinvention. I still think that he’s a stylist first,

but he’s one of the kings of style.

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