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Yes, this is a review of KILL BILL, VOLUME ONE. But this is also going to hit some personal notes, as my relationship to this film is a little different than most that I see.
You see, Quentin Tarantino changed my life.
This may seem like a stupid thing to say, but, like the Magical Sitar in “Spectacular Spectacular,” I only speak the truth. Don’t get me wrong. Quentin isn’t aware that he’s influenced my life, and I barely know the guy. But it’s true.
Time number one was in 1994. I graduated high school that year with nary a dream or ambition. I had been accepted to a generic state university for no reason other than I thought I should. But I saw a movie by Alfred Hitchcock that summer, and I thought, Gee, maybe I should make movies. But I wasn’t sure.
Then I saw a film called PULP FICTION. For the first time, I could see the director on screen. I’m not speaking of Tarantino’s bit part as Jimmy, whose wife buys shitty coffee. I mean that every second of that film, I saw the man behind the camera. Before that, films were made by old guys who lived in the mystical land of Hollywood. They were big and cool and funny and impersonal. PULP FICTION was different. I knew this guy. In fact, he felt like he could be a friend of mine. I became convinced that I had made this film, but just hadn’t known it.
I walked out of that film with a friend. I turned to her and said “Oh yeah. I’m going to film school.”
Flash forward almost a decade later. February 2003. Working in Hollywood as a Production Assistant. My friend gets a call for work. He’s currently knee-deep in the siege that would come to be known as SEABISCUIT, so he passes my name on to them.
Two weeks later I’m working on KILL BILL.
I won’t bore you with an account of my two weeks on this set. I will only say that, for the second time, Quentin Tarantino changed my life. Just as he had inspired me with PULP FICTION, I was equally inspired by meeting the man himself and watching him work. Not only is he the nicest guy on the planet, he runs the coolest, most care free, friendliest set I’ve ever been on. There is no yelling. There are no bad feelings.
Filmmaking should be fun. That was something that four years in the movie industry had managed to make me forget. I was reminded by Quentin and his bad ass crew.
I will save many of my memories for myself, but I will say that I talked to him. Talked to him whenever I could. And, as you know, the boy can talk. My favorite moment was when we had a conversation about a director whom we both admire, the inimitable Wong Kar-Wai. It was a benchmark moment for me.
It also led me to ask the question: “How the hell did I get here?”
I thought about that 18 year old kid who sat slack-jawed in a Stone Mountain, Georgia movie theater watching PULP FICTION for the first time so many years ago, who he was, who he has become. And I just had to ask “How the hell did I get here?”
I know. I know.
GET TO THE FUCKING REVIEW, CHAD. HAVE YOU BEEN POSESSED BY THE FAT RED-HEADED SPIRIT OF HARRY KNOWLES? TELL US ABOUT THE MOTHERFUCKING MOVIE!
Okay. Okay. I’ll get to the movie.
But first, I’d like to thank Quentin for changing my life.
Now, how should I put this…
KILL BILL WILL ROCK YOUR MOTHERFUCKING SOCKS OFF.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the crew screening last week. According to Q, this was the first print to be shown to an audience. Also, it was the Japanese cut of the film, not the cut that will be released in the states. I’m sure we’ll see this one on DVD, though. Most of the theatrical cuts will be for violence, I would guess, because the version I saw was the most violent movie ever made.
The screening was an amazing experience as well. Quentin sat behind me. David Carradine, the ‘Bill’ of the title, was two seats in front of me. Watching it with the people who made the film was a singular experience.
But yes, it is the most violent film ever made.
No, seriously. I think Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson were in the back row, shaking their heads, going “Too much blood. Too much blood.”
There are going to be two kinds of camps on this film: those who get it, and those who don’t. It’s that simple. If you get it, you’ll have the time of your life. If you don’t, you’ll probably walk out about halfway through. You know what we say to those people?
KILL BILL is the story of The Bride, played by Uma Thurman. The Bride was a member of a team of female special assassins (PULP fans can think of this as a sequel to Mia Wallace’s aborted ‘Fox Force Five’ pilot) who work for a man named Bill. The Bride, whose name is unknown to the audience, decides to quit her life of violence and get married. Bill doesn’t like that too much, so he sends the rest of the Deadly Vipers to break up the Bride’s wedding. There are no survivors.
Well, there’s one.
The Bride wakes up in a coma four years later. Her baby is gone. Her husband is dead. Her life is in ruins. Realizing who is responsible, The Bride, a deadly warrior versed in all forms of combat, begins to go on, as the script describes it, “a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.” Her final target, of course, is Bill.
You get the title now?
And that’s pretty much the whole plot. Don’t get me wrong. There’s much more to it. The film flows back and forth through time with the usual Tarantino ease. It is presented in a series of chapters, much like PULP FICTION. But, fact of the matter is, KILL BILL is a ‘Roaring Rampage of Revenge.” That’s the story. We’ve seen it a thousand times, be it with Stephen Segal or Mel Gibson. But, like they say, every story has been told. It’s HOW you tell it that matters.
And boy does Quentin tell it.
Much has been made of Tarantino’s influences in making this film. The Shaw Brothers. THEY CALL HER ONE EYE. Sonny Chiba and Grind House cinema. Check out Daniel Fierman’s great article in the October Fifth Entertainment Weekly for the low down on that stuff. I am familiar with some of this stuff, but not all. What I am familiar with, however, is the bliss of a cult B-movie. Of films that don’t have the prestige of a so-called ‘serious’ picture, but have an appeal to a certain type of people that most others don’t understand. In the universal scale of things, they may be bad movies. But they’re bad movies we love, bad movies that many of us treasure more than CITIZEN KANE or THE GODFATHER.
In many ways, KILL BILL is the Greatest bad movie ever made.
If JACKIE BROWN was the ‘mature’ Tarantino, KILL BILL is the exact opposite. This is Quentin at his most deliciously juvenile. This is a conscious immaturity. It is so deeply entrenched in the realm of the absurd that it will be sure to alienate most who came to see PULP FICTION II.
I can’t stress this enough. Whether or not you like this film will depend on whether or not you get it. It’s not ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Films like this cannot be evaluated with such black and white terms.
I guess I really don’t want to give too much away. The script has been available online for over a year, and I read it well before I even stepped foot on the set. I will say that the movie contains the following: more beheadings than 19th century France, an Anime sequence with more blood than a vampire buffet, more severed limbs than I can think of a clever metaphor for. Black and white sequences. David fucking Carradine. Sergio Leone close ups. A score by the Rza. Scenes of biting humor and scenes of unheard of brutality. Sonny Chiba. Sublime photography by master Robert Richardson. Beautiful wirework. An army of thugs in Kato masks. And a Japanese school girl who swings a hell of a ball and chain. Her name is Gogo.
If all this seems insane to you, you’re right. If it all sounds stupid to you, you may also be right. If it all sounds FUCKING RIGHT ON to you, then you’ve found your film.
It is both fast and slow at the same time. Silly and serious. Funny and scary.
It is my belief that if Quentin, at age 14, had seen this movie on cable one night, he never would have had to make it now. This is simply a film he wanted to see.
I saw his face while watching his creation. He was enamored by it. This is the type of movie he likes, and that makes it a work of passion. Some may define personal films as those that are quiet and small, about relationships and families. KILL BILL, much like Peter Jackson’s KING KONG will be, is a work of pure personal passion, as much as MOONLIGHT MILE was for Silberling or CHASING AMY was for Smith.
There will be no bigger fan of this 4th film by Quentin Tarantino than Quentin Tarantino.
About the much discussed splitting of KILL BILL into two parts. I was, at first, against it. I mean, we’ve been waiting a long time for Tarantino to make another film, who cares if its 3 hours long, right? Well, after seeing the film, I agree with the split. The film is so intense, so fast, so violent, that 3 hours would have been way too much. After the film’s final act, which is, by the way, the coolest fight I have ever seen on screen, I needed a breather. I probably would have been okay with a small intermission, but a two month one will do. When the film ended (and make sure to stay past the first few closing credits, the film ain’t over yet), I immediately wanted to see Volume Two. But I was also exhausted from laughing, clapping, and smiling. The two parts is a good idea. Whether it will pan out financially, who knows.
Okay. So this hasn’t been much of a review, just a rant. I probably haven’t answered your simplest of questions:
Should I go see this movie?
Did you like this movie?
Will I like this movie?
When I left working on KILL BILL, I asked Quentin to sign my PULP FICTION poster for me. What he wrote was the coolest autograph in the history of man kind:
“To Chad-- From one film geek to another. There’s two types of people in the world – us and them. Love, Quentin.”
Some people are going to love this film with a fiery passion. Every fiber of me got what it was, understood why it was, and enjoyed it. A lot of people will feel the same way.
We’ll call those people ‘Us.”
Some won’t get it. They will be offended. They’ll write it off as trash. They’ll be disgusted that the Academy award winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino would make such garbage. These people don’t understand the glory of a Sonny Chiba film. They don’t know how to laugh at a geyser of blood erupting out of a headless torso.
We’ll call those people ‘Them.”
And you know what we say to them?
Fuck them. This movie isn’t for them.
It’s for us.
Want a second opinion of this film? Take a look at theJK's review over at Living Corpse dot com!
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