Sunday, November 30, 2003

Kill Bill, Vol. 1



image piped in from http://www.kill-bill.com/images/downloads/hattorihanzo.jpg

Kari:

To be honest, I wasn't planning on seeing Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Kill Bill, Vol. 1. I have never seen any of QT's films and from what I have heard about them (they are very violent) I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like it.

I recognize that violence in movies is sometimes necessary. In a film like, Saving Private Ryan, the brutal realities of war are an integral part of the story. I know some people opted out of seeing the film because they felt they have enough understanding of the horrors of war without having to subject oneself to two and 1/2 hours worth of it in a film.

Sometimes violence has a cartoon bloodless fantasy quality to it. Having grown up in the television generation, the series, The A-Team, was of this variety. Some theatrical films are of this strain. I'm sure you and our movie literate readers could come up with a list of them.

Lastly, there is stylized violence as ballet and well choreographed mayhem. Not being as big a filmgoer as you and some of our readership, I'm under the impression some directors like QT have made bundles of money doing this. Let us know whose work to see and not to see.

One of our "blogparents" saw Kill Bill and posted this thoughtful and negative review of the film where lively comments ensued with most also being negative but a few defenders. In that post, there was a link to a site with lots of information on Kill Bill, vol. 1 and vol. 2 which is going to be out in the spring of 2004.

Why did I see this film which is getting such mixed reviews?

One, a friend I haven't visited with in a while wanted to see it so it was a convenient excuse to hang out. Two, one of my Hong Kong friends who is in the movie industry and who tries to keep clueless me in the know wrote this in an email:
I haven't seen "Kill Bill" but my colleagues love it because Tarentino uses a lot of symbols from those 1970s Hong Kong Shaw Brothers kung fu films. He even used the Shaw Brothers Company logo at the beginning of the film! Sure it is very bloody, but it is more on the fun side and trying to replicate those scenes in the 1970s Hong Kong kung fu films. Of course, both "Matrix" and "Kill Bill" hired Yuen Woo-ping as martial arts choreographer. Without him, these films wouldn't look the same.

So armed with these two reasons, I put down the cash to see the film. I was surprised to see the movie house was packed. Although, I suppose it had to do with the fact that it was theater #10 (comparatively small) in a 14-plex. The audience was so Los Angeles: every ethnic type you would expect in a Southern California audience, couples using the film as a date (?) night (!), groups of guys out for a night at the movies ranging from twenty-somethings to forty-somethings and indeed even a few (much fewer) girls night out groups.


Uma about to inflict some major mayhem in yet another film where pretty girls kick some tail and then some. Image piped in from http://www.kill-bill.com/images/downloads/thebride.jpg

At the end of the film, we talked with a black couple who relayed their impressions of the film. They were quick to point out many musical and visual references to 70s American culture. We were quick to point out our roots growing up in the Chinese community in Los Angeles with a diet of Kung Fu movies from HK. We explained that the over-the-top fighting and excessive bleeding was the style of those movie. Their reaction to those scenes were a mixture of revulsion (it was like kinda totally gross) and laughter (it was comic book and slapstick silly begging to be mocked).

In my compare and contrast analysis, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg revived the old Saturday afternoon serial adventure films in the three Indiana Jones films with the added benefit of modern visual effects technology. They kept the style and updated the film making technology. QT has not made a 1970s style Kung Fu movie with better visual effects. Rather, QT has taken the style and melded it with the everything in the kitchen sink of his movie and culture saturated mind and his quirky hyper reality audio-visual style resulting in something some just love and other find annoying.

As for me, I found myself remembering the martial arts films of my youth sitting in a darkened sticky floored movie house of Los Angeles Chinatown. I wasn't a fan of the genre so I didn't see many but you never quite forget them with their fantastical fight scenes, brief moments of terse dialog about the warrior ethos and philosophical sayings about life and an over-the-top operatic quality to the swiss cheese story arc. It isn't meant to look real like tall tales with talking animals aren't meant to taken as real which leads me to my closing thoughts.

Because, speaking of talking animals, I loved Finding Nemo! It is entertaining and it has a good story about taking risks and the power of love. Films are entertainment and NOT morally neutral.

So what of Kill Bill? Indeed, it has many moments that are immoral. The film is clearly labelled from the begining as a tale of revenge. The bad guys in the film are wicked and deserved to be punished. At that level, I can root for the Uma Thurman character. In real life, the struggle of fighting evil is not allowing oneself to become evil in doing so. Unfortunately, there are only a few moments where that issue arises in Kill Bill.

At this point, Kari, have you passed out from sheer boredom or have fainted at the prospect that I may have actually (gasp) liked the film?

Well, add a little coffee in your mocha! And please don't faint when I give the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and say I am most likely going to see Kill Bill, Vol. 2.

Rene

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