Thursday, October 23, 2003

Bill Kills: So I saw "Kill Bill" last night with my brother. Having now heard some very disparate comments on the movie (Flyer being the most "anti") I was really interested to see what my reaction would be. First off, and as I alluded to in an earlier post, this is a genre film - actually it's an homage to a host of genre films and even some icons of the film world. From the "chop socky" films of the Shaw Brothers, to some Kurosawa, to spaghetti westerns, to blacksploitation, to John Huston (oh and some anime thrown in for good measure).

I will strongly agree with Flyer on one point: the plot is simplistic; the characters somewhat shallow. But, this film is chopped in half, and the film does not track on a straight chronology, so it's not fair to say at this point, that more exposition isn't on the way. In my opinion, however, even if there's not much more background, the film is a winner.

This is not only a film-buff's delight, it's a visual and aural masterpiece. Some may say that it's all flash, no fire, and fair enough. But when you view the film in the context of a genre, revenge film, then the gloss becomes the grit. It's not just the story being told, but the way in which it's told. The music is simply overwhelmingly brilliant (and let's face it, has long been a Tarantino mainstay). We get music from Nancy Sinatra to the Japanese neo-retro-punk trio the "5,6,7,8s". The RZA does the original score, and he blows the doors of the mutha. Some scenes get three, four, five tunes/scores to accompany them - and I couldn't wait for the next one each time. Half of them went over my head, but the ones that I did catch, all come from somewhere or allude to another film or genre - again, you can't disassociate the film from its post-modern self - everything is a reference to something else, and if you don't like that, or can't groove with it, then you won't like or much appreciate this film.

The violence is totally over-the-top, and is cartoonish, from the aterial blood sprays, to the flying limbs and distorted grimaces. Wire work, stunt-doubles, and screaming "hiii-yaas" all reflect this film's roots in the 70s Hong Kong flicks. At the same time, the choreography is amazing. While the action is fast and furious, there's no simple filler - each balletic battle shows something new - from the brutally realistic opening knife fight between The Bride (a/k/a "Black Mamba") and Vernita Green (a/k/a "Copperhead") to the serene long-anticipated battle between Uma and Lucy Liu in the snow-filled Zen garden (the setting of which was taken straight from Kurosawa).

Now, about Uma. She's everything to this film and either you buy her or you don't. I bought her in everything except some of the fight scenes. It's clear, she's not very athletically inclined - her stances and footwork don't inspire that awe you got from Bruce Lee or Jet Li, but guess what, she's an actress first, a fighter, a distant second. Many actors have played action heroes without any actual fighting ability, and I'd rather see a good actor fake the fights, than the other way around. She exudes bad-assness, yet shows real vulnerability, fear and pain. I'm not sure many other actresses could have done it all like she did.

Sonny Chiba is simply amazing and is the only rival for her in re: screen presence. He is magic; alternating between making you bust out and laugh, or sit in silence as you revere his gravity. This guy has been gone too long. There are so many other characters in this film that you can't possibly mention them all. But, two quick shout-outs to Darryl Hannah and David Carradine. Hannah isn't in it for long, but you'll never look at her the same way again after seeing her play a one-eyed psychotic assassin. Carradine you actually never see, but his deep, gravelly voice fills you with dread every time it comes into your ears.

Anyway, many will be disgusted by the violence and rightfully so - it's a bit much. But if you can again look at this film as the reference guide to the many films that came before, you will be able to contextualize it. It doesn't stir your brain like "Pulp Fiction" does. Rather, it jump-starts your heart, and makes your pulse run a few notches faster. It's a daring and fresh film, despite it going over old ground. Say what you will, but no one else would have even thought about doing this film, and you can see the love Q.T. has for his craft and for the hundreds of films that inspired him growing up. This is not a throw-away or cynical film - this was done with great love and passion - something you cannot simply dismiss with a wave of "it's too violent".

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