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Kill Bill Vol 1

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Evidently there are degrees of violence. There is the sleep-wrecking, mind-numbing, stomach-churning, vomit-inducing violence of In Hell (Van Damme and other specimens) or Con Air. And there is the Tarantino brand of violence. Tarantino does extreme violence, but he does it with unparalleled élan and a singularity of beyond-the-box-office purpose. The result is magnificent: at one level, a beast under the hood with enormous raw power and wildly exaggerated style — a Bugatti. But there’s a whole lot more if you only care to look. The CCs (“carping critics”) who find the film ‘hollow’ and ‘shallow’ have of course totally missed the point. They also say much the same about Robert Rodriguez, and they’re wrong there too.

Perhaps the title of Rodriguez’ latest, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, should tell the CC’s something. Remember Sergio Leone? The guy behind Once Upon a Time in the West, now a cult classic, when released widely regarded as B-grade trash? He also made the lush, rivetting Once Upon a Time in America with that incredible performance by James Woods (incidentally a favourite — see him steal the show in the otherwise trashymcavity.com; Book, music and film reviews at Books, etc.Do drop by.

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About Gautam Patel

Mumbai-based lawyer and weekly columnist for a local newspaper.
  • Chris Kent

    Great blog!

    I’m not a big fan of GWTW or Sound of Music, and would argue Raintree Country and An American in Paris are superior. As for whether or not the Tarantino resume will be warmly enjoyed 100 years from now by rabid filmgoers, I say “Maybe.”

    Leone was a brilliant director and Once Upon a Time in the West will forever go down as his masterpiece. Once Upon a Time in America is seriously flawed and is not even Leone’s second-best film. Tarantino has not made a film as good as either one of those Leone epics. To compare Kill Bill to Once Upon a Time in the West is to compare Desperado with The Wild Bunch. It’s a hip, modern film, obviously inspired by (among other things) a classic, innovative western. But without the heart and soul.

    We all marvel at Tarantino’s virtuoso filmmaking muscle. But after his films (and Rodriguez’s films) we ask ourselves, “Wow, a lot of sound and fury. But did it REALLY signify anything?” Flexing one’s muscle and THEN actually doing manual labor are two entirely different things.

    You’re asking us to be in on the joke. I’m saying such behavior is juvenile.

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks G, great review!

  • Hm. Chris, you may have a point there. Certainly Once Upon A Time in the West is a far, far better film than America – all I was saying was that the latter is very good to look at and, somehow, hypnotic. It lacks the sheer dramatic power and tension of West but it has its merits.

    I’m not prepared to compare Tarantino with Leone and find him wanting. I honestly believe Tarantino, like Coppola, like Peckinpah, like Leone, like Huston or Hawks or Hitchcock or Kazan or just about anyone else, is first and foremost a product of his times. But what makes a director ‘great’? Kazan for instance, or, today, Almodovar? I think these are people who, working in their times, stand outside and produce works that are ahead of their times. I felt that about Pulp Fiction (I still do). I also felt it about KBV1. I don’t think Rodrigues is or ever will be in that class, but Tarantino is. To me he’s more than just muscle.

    And to answer the question, sound yes, fury yes, but in what must be a Shakespearean disappointment, also signifying something. Is it really empty or does it only look so? Very often I find myself looking around, or even at myself, and wondering the same thing: what does all this mean? Does it matter? Isn’t it all irrelevant?

    At the time when the directors we today consider ‘great’ were making films they were, I think, mapping the field – pushing boundaries, setting standards, doing new and daring things in an exciting, young, extremely plastic medium. Who among today’s commercial directors would you say does that? I have only a few in my book, for consistency: Scorcese, Ridley Scott, Peter Weir and somehow I really like John Frakenheimer. I honestly would put Tarantino in that class, for very different reasons.

  • Forgot to mention: Peter Jackson. I know Amazon is full of endless pages of comments by people who hated the LOTR trilogy but I’ve long been a devotee of Tolkien and the movies really enriched my memories of what I’d read many years ago. Speaking of those critical comments at Amazon, I remember seeing one that, in the space of about 15 lines, had no less than 79 typos. Trust me. I counted them. This from a guy who really socked me out of the park: He opened the innings saying that he could have made a better movie — because he’d read the books. Twice.

  • Chris Kent

    Anyone who likes John Frakenheimer HAS to know what they are talking about. What a fine director he was!! I think The Train is one of the great unheralded masterpieces. All of the directors you mention are superb. I have been a big fan of Peter Weir for many years.

    I will watch Kill Bill a second time on DVD. I might have missed something.

  • Chris, have you seen Le Samourai with Alain Delon? A film-maker friend rates it as absolutely the greatest film in that genre, and while I really want to see it I’d also like to hear from someone else who has.


  • Tex

    I think you’re both right, Tarantino is a great director because he’s breaking new ground as the above mentioned directors did in their time, but i also don’t like to compare Tarantino to Leone because frankly, Leone, in my opinion, is the best ever, and nothing tarantino has done as of yet has even come close to meaning as much as OUATITWest or OUATIAmerica. Although Tarantino’s films are fun to watch and interesting and even, yes, do have meaning in them, there at times just a bit too simple for me… there doesn’t seem to be too much substance or complication in any of his stories. And I for one think OAUTIAmerica was as close to as good as OAUTITWest as any of his other movies were.

    I guess what i mean is… yes tarantino brings alot to the table… but leone created a genre… there was no such thing as spaghetti westerns before him and in my opinion there never was after him either, just second rate copies. There is something classic and raw about leone that i don’t think tarantino will ever have and that is what does it for me.