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Kill Bill, Vol. 1
A film review by Camus
"One of the motives for the big finale fight scene, the Showdown at the
House of Blue Leaves, was to see whether he was capable of it," says
Tarantino. "It was 'Let's see if you can do some of the best action ever
filmed and if you can't, you'll know you're not as good as you think you
are, you have limitations, stick to dialogue.' I was daring myself to hit
my head on the ceiling of my talent."
Quentin Tarantino quoted in The Guardian


I’ll get the bandages.

Let’s face it, after Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, that ceiling of talent was way up there, the space below it cavernous, full of dark red, sticky viscera and echoes of some fresh, verbal sparring, gun shots and the odd ‘muthafucka’ ricocheting off every wall. The cinema of Quentin Tarantino had burst in on us like an exploding head in the back of a Pontiac. With an uncanny grasp of self-publicity, Tarantino managed to entwine his personality so entirely with his work that Kill Bill arrived with the all but official sub-title 'Quentin Tarantino's 4th Film'. Breaths were baited.

OK – deep unbaited breath. I came 'that' close to walking out. The fact I even considered walking out stunned me. I must have just reached a point (or Tarantino crossed it for me). I was so acutely bored because I just didn't care, not a jot. This is a cartoon film interspersed with real cartoons with no one or nothing to care about. In fact Kill Bill is like watching a brilliant surgeon (technically it's a tour de force but then again – who cares?) performing one of the most absurdly difficult operations known to medical science – on a corpse. And both surgeon and observer know this. Kill Bill tries so hard to be hip and ends up a simple regurgitation of what used to pass as hip thirty years ago spliced with the almost obligatory Matrix fondue. In Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino's radio station was 'where the seventies survived...' He's faithful to his early influences, I'll give him that. I never thought I'd hear that whiny electronic 'woo waar' intro from Ironside ever again. What a simple pleasure (ho hum) it was to hear it four or five times, like an aural neon sign saying "Uma's a tad miffed now..." Is our creative cultural future the bones from TV bygone TV?

Exploding limbs and literal cartoon blood a coherent movie do not make. The fact Tarantino can so effortlessly throw in ideas of morality (don't kill mommies in front of their daughters) and then show us it happening anyway made me quite sick, but not in a good artistic Blue Velvety sort of sick. The other throw away – "Oh but luckily for Woo (or woo ever) the man she swore vengeance against was a pedophile..." – so our cartoon nasty could straddle him and exsanguinate him with one profound knife blow... What? One of our deepest, nastiest human depravities – to force children into sex – and it’s a simple set up for a technicolor stabbing? We presume that the little girl is fucked up beyond measure, so it’s OK she’s being fucked by a gangster who killed her mom... Jesus.

I wondered why this scene was bereft of real actors – it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to play the scene – maybe Christopher Walken could get away with playing the gangster. As for the pre-teen girl, that’s a tougher one to call.

Tarantino is taking the taboo of paedophilia and plopping it firmly as a throwaway in his cartoon. I mean... That's like Tom and Jerry dealing with 9/11. At least when Oliver Stone makes Natural Born Killers he's making a spectacularly valid point. Interesting that that film was originally written by Tarantino and then disowned.

Kill Bill is all technical dick swinging – look at MY technique... It's just that anyone can do that sort of thing with Yuen Wo Ping on your crew. I just sat there and fidgeted at it.

When will QT go purple? Before you ask, it's Camusspeak for a film-maker's craving peer acceptance after making their careers out of well intentioned and well received fluff. Spielberg was the model (making The Color Purple was his first failed step, hence going purple). Tarantino’s life and world is movies (and 70s TV) and ultimately it means his ideas are second hand ones, however first hand and dazzling the technique.

Kill Bill, Vol. 1

USA 2003
111 mins
Quentin Tarantino
Lawrence Bender
Quentin Tarantino
Uma Thurman
Robert Richardson
Sally Menke
Lily Chou Chou
D A Young
production design
Yohei Taneda
David Wasco
Uma Thurman
David Carradine
Lucy Liu
Daryl Hannah
Vivica A Fox
Michael Madsen
Michael Parks
review posted
25 November 2008