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Cool Ass Cinema Presents: A Screenplay Not By Quentin Tarantino Part 3
CHAPTER 6: WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG TO KILL BILL? OR, THE WHOLE BLOODY, BULLSHITTIN' AFFAIR
This KILL BILL section is too damn massive to be contained in a single piece so it's gonna be split into two volumes, haha!
But seriously, the exorcism of the demonic presence that is my love/hate relationship with Quentin Tarantino movies continues with the two KILL BILL films. After
seeing the man in interviews and witnessing some of his bizarre
behavioral patterns, I began to become more and more disenchanted with
this eccentric talent. Is it just me, or does it look like Q Man's mouth
is actually being sucked back into his head?
the announcement and filming of KILL BILL got me excited and curious to
see the result considering T Bone frequently gushed about his love of
HK kung fu movies. I was really anxious to see this one. Taking into
account his technique of utilizing the conventions of the Blaxploitation
genre in JACKIE BROWN (1997) and making that style uniquely his own, it had me curious as to his treatment of Chinese martial arts pictures. And of course, QT's outboard motorboat mouth was loudly spinning how this was his big muthafuckin' EPIC.The
news soon broke that the picture was too titanic to be a single feature
and due its 4 hour running time, it would be split into two "volumes".
I recall an article where one of the Weinstein's claimed this was gonna
be the movie event to end all movie events. Possibly if somebody else
was directing it.
there I am sittin' in the theater and the Shaw logo comes up... big
smile on my face. Movie begins and it's okay. Not bad for a revenge
picture and I'm enjoying it, but something just doesn't feel right about
this movie. There's so many themes, ideas and kitchen sinks being
thrown at the screen at any given moment. Just some of the most random
shit I've ever seen. There's no tone or stability to this thing. You
expect erraticism in Hong Kong movies because they didn't have a hundred
million to flush down the toilet to tell a decent story, so the more
bat-shit crazy the better. KILL BILL wants to be THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE
of kung fu-samurai movies... if only there were any martial arts disaster movies.
And Japanese Superstar, Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba is totally wasted here (more on my disdain for Chiba's usage in the next chapter). Tarantino often gushes about how huge of a fan of Chiba he is, but when he finally gets around to casting him in his movie, his big scene is a "comedic" tea house sequence which consists of arguing over hot Sake. It has all the meaningful impact you'd expect from a typical conversation in a Rob Zombie movie.
I remember when in a couple of scenes some words were bleeped out, you could hear most everybody in the theater going "HUH?!" And when the film switched to B/W during the House of Discolored Leaves
sequence, a few folks got up to harass the projectionist thinking
something went wrong with the movie! The former turned out to be some
bizarre inside joke (see below) that the Great and Powerful Q
thought was so fuckin' Kool. He boasted about how this was supposedly
some big deal to be revealed in the second film. The latter was to secure an R rating, while I thought he was echoing the B/W tinting often given to the Chinese versions of the original films to avoid censorship.
"You think they've been hiding her name, but Bill's been saying it all
along. Uma came up with the name Beatrix -- she worked for somebody with
that name. And I came up with Kiddo. That's what I call women -- when I
really like a girl, I call her 'kiddo.'"--With audiences eagerly awaiting the shocking secret behind the "KILL BILL Bleep", Tarantino finally unveiled this monumental revelation in April of 2004!
Till Tarantino finally came out with the meaning of this name game, the audience would be teased/annoyed with several intrusive 'bleeps' on the soundtrack of KILL BILL 1 and a portion of VOLUME 2. Turned out to be nothing more than an inconsequential inside joke; or a reference to the Trix cereal brand (silly rabbit, Trix are for kids) by way of Uma Thurman's characters name being Beatrix Kiddo of all things.
another movie, Chang Chay, who was literally like the John Ford of old
school martial art films at Shaw Brothers did a film called
VENGEANCE!...sort of his version of POINT BLANK...and there's a scene
where this guy, uh, where the um...uh, um, uh...Tai Lung who was in THE
KILLER, uh, is murdered, but the thing is, before he's murdered, he
fights like a hundred guys, and they even have in a sequence in it, in
the American prints, where at a certain point it gets so bloody, it goes
to black and white! You know, and, uh, I was like 'wow, that's really
cooool', alright! I actually saw the actual Chinese version of it, and
they never go to black and white!"--QT rambling on incessantly and showing off his Untruth Fist Style, taught to him by Ric Meyers,master of martial malarkey. While Chang CHEH did direct VENGEANCE! (1970), TI Lung was not in THE KILLER (1989).
The major problem I have with KILL BILL (aside from bizarre music choices and obligatory Tarantinoesque close ups of feet)
is that Tarantino totally failed at re-establishing the kung fu film as
a viable commodity in the American mainstream marketplace. Granted,
those movies will never enjoy the sort of popularity they had during the
1970s. Even that early in the game and despite their popularity and
curiosity factor, those films were snickered at for their off cue
dubbing; which will never perfectly sync, anyways. The Chinese language
is a tonal one; at the end of sentences, their mouths are often open
whereas ours are not. Tarantino
had an opportunity to bring some new-found respectability to a genre
that had long lingered in the minds of the mainstream as films with
poverty row production values, lousy photography, bad actors, bad
dubbing, bad everything. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON was a fluke and
doesn't really count since it wasn't technically a martial arts film. It
was a love story that happened to have martial arts-swordplay sequences
accentuating the dramatics surrounding them. But it was a huge success and pushed long standing misconceptions of Asian films out of the lime-light, albeit temporarily.
By comparison, Sergio Leone deeply loved the American western; so much so that he took the genres conventions and created a loving tribute to it
with the sprawling majesty of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968); a
stunningly gorgeous movie that resembles a canvas of visuals come to
life. You could watch it without sound and still understand what the
film is about. But then that begs the question of why someone would do
such a thing and miss out on the operatic excellence of Ella Dell'Orso's
magnificent vocals; but I digress. Tarantino didn't do this. Instead, he took aspects of those films (the
dubbed imported versions, mind you. The originals are the polar
opposite of what we ended up with on our own cinema and television
screens) that he was fond of, threw them all in a blender and created this wily, erratic, self-absorbed
concoction. Traces of Q's pop cultured, referential ego surfaced in
PULP FICTION, but it ran buck fuck wild in both BILL's. Q Baby's
treatment of HK's most recognized style of genre export did nothing to
entice new fans, nor enamor older, casual fans into believing they were
anything any different from their memories; simple entertainment for
un-sophisticated tastes to only be remembered fondly for temporary
lapses of nostalgia.
To be fair, I still like things about KILL BILL. Uma Thurman pushes her emotional range to the limit and creates a memorable performance in a mostly unbalanced movie. Some of the shots are extraordinary in their attention to detail. The fight choreography is exciting, although action scenes (particularly the finale)are slightly undone by bizarre musical choices. Why must there be beach music during the battle with the Crazy 88s?! The inclusion of a disco song for the sword fight between Thurman and Liu is just awkward. The song is great, it's just a jarring selection for a samurai/martial arts fight. Some find Dario Argento's fascination with heavy metal music in his horror films perplexing, but it's nowhere near as out of place as T Bone's iPod playlist here. I do like the soundtrack, it just doesn't always fit what's transpiring onscreen. No other director could get away with this kind of musical rambunctiousness. Because they're not KOOOOL, man.
The floodgates of arrogance and self-parody
weren't opened, they were blown up with KILL BILL, reaching critical
levels when that Titanic floating refuse, G****HOUSE, came out and sank
mightily a few years down the road. But that, is another story. Next up, it's the even more jarring KILL BILL VOLUME 2, a 2 1/2 hour bore-fest where people do lots and lots of talking. There's more weird, intrusive musical cues, different genre styles mashed together and a climax that is less slam-bang than it is touchingly poignant; which drastically clashes with the already tonally uneven first picture. From here on out, QT's movies are the cinematic equivalent of a Gary Busey coke binge lorded over by Drew Barrymore and Robert Downey, Jr.
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I've been a huge movie buff since childhood catching old horror and monster flicks on Shock Theater and kung fu movies at the drive-in during the late 70's and early 80's. I've had a long time fascination with, and appreciate all genres of fantastic cinema, good and bad. One fans cheese is another fans juicy steak. I like both equally and seldom find a film I truly dislike as I will find something of interest in just about anything. The bulk of the films or tv series' seen here are mostly from my childhood, or films I own in what has become an Amazing Colossal DVD collection.