Ah, the great Tarantino debate… It doesn’t make much sense for me to be wading into this, because I haven’t seen either of the KB‘s, and I’m not planning to any time soon either–however…
Look, Sean Collins has pulled so many of my terminally overstated opinions re: the metatextual grandeur of Marvel/DC comics back from the brink of incoherence that I wish I could return the favour here, but there’s really no way to defend this manifesto:
It’s really for the best if you ignore the people who didn’t like Kill Bill Volumes One and Two, which taken together comprise one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
I do, however, wish I knew how people can watch a movie in which bad behavior occurs and, because they find the film amusing on some level, deduce that that bad behavior is being endorsed–particularly in an oeuvre like Tarantino’s, in which characters who refuse to renounce violence and deceit are inevitably punished for that refusal. (You want to see a movie in which gratuitous violence is immorally played for laughs? Rent any of St. Mel’s Lethal Weapon flicks.)
Personally, I’m sure I’ve enjoyed reading about KB2 far more than I would enjoy actually seeing the thing. I find Rose’s western theory really interesting, and Aaron Haspel’s description of Tarantino as a “prison thug with a MOM tatoo” is just great–in fact, I would describe the director as filiopietistic in more ways than one (film history is the madonna–he’s the whore). J.W. Hastings also takes a few good “emperor has no clothes” shots at QT.
Here’s my take, based upon the man’s oeuvre, pre-KB: I loved the Pam Grier/Robert Forster aspects of Jackie Brown, I like the Bruce Willis/Maria de Medeiros scenes in Pulp Fiction, and I pretty much despise the rest of it. But not because I find his work confused, or too slick for its own good, or anything like that. I think there’s a very clear message behind the films–I just hate it, that’s all!
I would never describe QT as a “nihilist”. He’s a gnostic. I agree with Sean that there’s a purpose behind all of the gore, but I don’t agree at all that these are morality plays, meting out comeuppances to “people behaving badly”. No way. QT thinks this world is a hell, and the films cook up situations that are meant to make the kitchen too hot for even the devil to stand. This is the “act out your baseness” school of exorcism. Forget about pandering to the worst in other people. Pander to the worst in yourself. That way lies salvation.
I think the Hopper-Walken scene in True Romance sums up QT’s philosophy perfectly. State “the facts” in as confrontational a manner as you can–make your enemies laugh before they crucify you, and set those kiddies’ ids free! You can’t say Tarantino doesn’t “think of the children”, can you?
Dave Intermittent wonders how we are supposed to take such cartoonish violence seriously–but that’s gnosticism in a nutshell. It’s everything horrible taken to its absurd extreme. This is seriousness masquerading as play. So, no, the violence doesn’t have a point, but I’m not making a “style over substance” argument here–the violence is the point. And I say: “fuck that”. I believe in the seriousness of playfulness. And I don’t like suicide bombers. You don’t make the world a better place by adding to the body count.