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GreenCine Movie Talk
In The Theaters
I just saw it and boy does it...
318

Thoughts after seeing Kill Bill (impossible to spoil)
Topic by: kamapuaa
Posted: October 11, 2003 - 1:51 PM PDT
Last Reply: November 19, 2003 - 1:07 PM PST

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author topic: Thoughts after seeing Kill Bill (impossible to spoil)
kamapuaa
post #1  on October 11, 2003 - 1:51 PM PDT  
Saw this movie last night, and and had mixed opinions. Reading the Greencine blog I thought I'd lay out a thought or two on the movie.

First, there is NO WAY this could be considered the best Tarantino movie. It just doesn't have the charisma of Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. It's more the best Charlie's Angel movie - wire-fu for its own spectacle, with hot actresses. Tarantino's popular for making genre pictures with a twist - sequences out of order, extremely quotable dialogue, etc. While time got played with some, it didn't really progress the movie, and Kill Bill was more of a straight genre picture.

Secondly, the NY Times review suggested that the more familiar you are with the Chinese & Japanese action movies being riffed on, the more you'll like it. I'd disagree - it's best to know just a little bit, so you can appreciate the martial arts and the wire-fu - it's not Crouching Tiger, where the wire-fu was so well shot that even newbies could appreciate it. But if you're too familiar with Asian action movies, you'll probably enjoy things like Sonny Chiba and the "Battle Royale Chick" being used in small roles, but you'll also realize that Uma Thurman is no Michelle Yeoh. To his credit, Tarantino doesn't use the cut-right-when-they-kick technique, or shake the camera during action scenes, or other annoying American techniques when trying to make martial arts movies with actors who don't really know martial arts. It's probably the best American attempt yet.

Thirdly, this movie was THE WORST EDITED MOVIE, EVER. I have to believe that this movie, and it's sequel, should have been edited together to 1:30, 2:00. Too many sequences were way too long, too many sequences should have been cut altogether. While nothing was terrible, you felt like you were watching the DVD extras. There's no doubt in my mind, a year from now you'll find "The Phantom Edit" of Kill Bill floating around on the Internet, and that'll be much more enjoyable.

Fourth, the RZA wasn't so great. Tarantino movies are known for the soundtracks, and Wu-Tang is a natural for the genre - as shown by "Ghost Dog," where the soundtrack made the movie to my mind. Here, here I found the music sank into the background.

So I found the movie dissappointing, but I still think it's worth watching for people who are open to martial arts movies.
oldkingcole
post #2  on October 27, 2003 - 12:26 AM PST  
My thoughts on seeing Kill Bill Vol. 1:

I just saw the movie tonight. I came to it expecting little. Although I avoided, as much as possible, reading any reviews about the movie, I'd still heard rumors that the film was "all action/no characterizations." This, as it turned out, isn't entirely true, but it is largely true. For me, though, the main point of contention I have with the movie is its seemingly unresolved tone. How are we to take the exaggerated levels of violence in this film? Are we supposed to revel in it, thinking "how cool!" or are we supposed to be pushed, via that technique of exaggeration, into realizing that its *not* cool. Tarantino often seems to want to have it both ways. The exaggerated heapings of killings and mutilations are so excessive that they seem to be making a comment about media violence, as if to show us, despite everything else, that what we're enjoying when we enjoy traditional violent fare, is actually fairly hideous. And yet, the music, the camerawork, and the hip references to other (often bloody) movies, all seem designed to make us think Kill Bill *is* cool afterall.

The violence itself is also inconsistent. The opening shot, of Uma, beaten and bloody on the ground, breathing heavily, is played pretty straight and therefore has a level of intensity that is high. Later, though, when Uma's "Woman with No Name" character takes on the army of assisins, she severs limbs in so cartoonish a fashion I was reminded of the Monty Python sequence with the Black Knight ("Come back here; I'll bite your ankles!"). So which is it, Quentin? I'm confused.

Kill Bill also has some peculiar choices in the music editing department. Tarantino occassionally jump-cuts from one musical number to the next in a manner that is far from seamless. It's the sort of jump-cut that someone like, say, Woody Allen, would use purposefully as an artistic effect (see, for example, Deconstructing Harry). But it almost seems like an accident or a mistake in Kill Bill. If it has a purpose, the clarity of that purpose was insufficient for me to discern it.

I am trying hard to give Tarantino the benefit of the doubt. Had this film been directed by someone else, I'd probably have simply dismissed it as one of those highly-allusive tales that I tend not to like. I know this puts me in the minority; everyone I know seems to find these sort of South Park-esque quote-fest smorgasborgs to be uproariously funny and clever, whereas for the most part, I just find them kind of puerile and dull. The "thrill of recognition" is nerdy, conveys little or no meaning or significance to the reference, and really, has no point beyond making the viewer feel like he/she has some sort of special insider-knowledge. Unless this is somehow a theme of the story being told, it seems utterly pointless and superfluous, like putting ketchup on oatmeal: it doesn't belong there or add anything of value. It's certainly not the way to make a better bowl of oatmeal.

Nevertheless, there are some terrific action sequences in this movie. And, having decided upon exaggeration as its primary stylistic method, the movie uses it well, especially in the O-Ren Ishii fight. The stylistic primacy of exaggeration also allows Tarantino to utilize extreme camera angles and do some crazy camera moves that are fun. They give the movie a kind of comic-book vitality (though they also cause some of the confusion about how we are supposed to read certain scenes, since the camera work generally treats the characters as if they were "cool", regardless of whether they are acting so in the shot or not).

In the end, this is only really half of a movie. So perhaps the issue of authorial tone will become clearer after we see Vol. 2. I'll be there, like everyone else, to see the second half. I've enjoyed Tarantino's previous films too much to write him off on the basis of this one-half of a film. And he's proven himself to be a clever filmmaker in the past. What appears to be a lot of sound and fury in Kill Bill Vol. 1, may yet turn out to signify something. For that reason, I'm cautiously looking forward to Vol. 2.
larbeck
post #3  on October 30, 2003 - 9:09 PM PST  
I saw a review that said that KB1 was more about hydraulics than anything else. But now that I have seen it, I think that was a bit of reality in this rather unreal film - can you see arterial bleeding?

And it would really could it immpossible to spoil. I did discover a couple of surprises.

There was some nice music but maaannn, some of those cheap horn was just cheesy, even for Q.T.

I love the sword maker in Okinawa. Tomorrow I hope to read the earlier post and maybe see what else he has been in.
hamano
post #4  on November 1, 2003 - 10:21 PM PST  
> On October 27, 2003 - 12:26 AM PDT oldkingcole wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Kill Bill also has some peculiar choices in the music editing department. Tarantino occassionally jump-cuts from one musical number to the next in a manner that is far from seamless. It's the sort of jump-cut that someone like, say, Woody Allen, would use purposefully as an artistic effect (see, for example, Deconstructing Harry). But it almost seems like an accident or a mistake in Kill Bill. If it has a purpose, the clarity of that purpose was insufficient for me to discern it.
> ---------------------------------

I think the "sloppy" music editing was an inside joke on how some cheap foreign action films seem chopped up and put back together, and the viewer is never sure if that was because the editing was bad to start with, or he's looking at a print in bad condition, or the film was re-edited for export.

I'm just home from seeing this film, and here's a report. Uma's Japanese is VERY bad. Pronunciation is bad, of course, but worse, there is no conviction in her delivery. It sounded like she was trying to inject emotion based on the subtitle rather than what she was actually saying. But I was highly impressed with Lucy Liu's Japanese. Her speech was natural, and fit her character well. It was more disconcerting to hear her English when she played sassy after cutting Tanaka's head off at the Yakuza summit....that was more Ally McBeal or Charlie's Angels. But her Japanese was elegant and convincing.

I think I was noticing these things because I wasn't totally absorbed by the movie. Too much of it bordered on campy, which hardly happened at all in Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction.

And Tarantino left out a lot of stuff that should have been put in. Uma gets her "Japanese steel" too easily. A real swordsmith would have demanded a test of some sort, where the Uma character proves to him that she's worthy of the instrument. Here, she just tells him it's to off Bill, and the next scene the swordsmith's finished already. No test of worthiness, no scenes of a sweaty man with a hammer beating the hell out of a red hot piece of metal. I know these are cliches, but wasn't that the point of this movie? Chopping a baseball in half just doesn't cut it with me! At the very LEAST the two halves of the baseball should have lodged deeply in the wooden pillars or something, showing the deadly strength, spirit and skill with which it was thrown by Sonny Chiba.

Katana fetishism was expressed much better in Pulp Fiction when the boxer character played by Bruce Willis decides to rescue the gangster boss played by Ving Rhames. He's looking for a weapon in the pawn shop and he picks up a couple of dangerous looking things like, what was it, a baseball bat? But he looks up and he sees the katana up on a high shelf, and he lights up, like "Wow! A katana! I've ALWAYS wanted to try cutting someone with one of those!"

I'm hoping that Part 2 will improve things, but if I had to choose I'd say Sam Raimi made a much better film that riffs on genre classics when he directed The Quick and the Dead. When I saw THAT film, I came out of the theater feeling quite giddy.
dwhudson
post #5  on November 2, 2003 - 3:51 AM PST  
hamano:

>> I think the "sloppy" music editing was an inside joke on how some cheap foreign action films seem chopped up and put back together...

I think that was the aim as well, and you may have put your finger on one of the most disconcerting aspects of Kill Bill for me. Either the film can't decide exactly what it wants to be or I haven't fully grasped QT's concept here. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film and look forward to Vol. 2. But with the possible exception of the orangeish shot in which we seem to be looking up at the Vipers from the Bride's POV, where you have that swift zoom up to Lucy Liu's face, there is very little recapturing of the visual atmo of those early flicks he's paying fan-boy homage to going on that there is in that "sloppiness" of the music editing, for example.

I'm not talking about restaging sequences; that's clear enough. More in the sense of what gives a film its atmo; quality of the stock, depth in the color balance, that sort of thing. Kill Bill wants it both ways, to be a cheap gas but also a highly polished one. I admire the attempt. I'm still not sure, though, that it's a successful one.

> Uma's Japanese is VERY bad.

Yeah, I've read that. You wonder why she and QT didn't take more care there, at least send her through a crash course.

> I'm hoping that Part 2 will improve things...

Here's a clip from what QT's recently said about the pair:

"The most intriguing aspect will be to see the audience take the leap into Vol. 2. It's a very different movie. Vol. 1 is the big kung-fu movie, the vengeance quest, sort of on a straight line. If it were an album, it'd be a Greatest Hits album from 30 years of grindhouse cinema. It's all viscera, no heart but a lot of fun.

"But remember Sonny Chiba's speech in the film: Revenge is never a straight line, it's a forest to lose your way in. Vol. 2 is the forest, and things get really messy."

>>... The Quick and the Dead. When I saw THAT film, I came out of the theater feeling quite giddy.

Wow, mileage varies. I didn't make it past the first 20 minutes or so.
hamano
post #6  on November 2, 2003 - 11:03 AM PST  
> On November 2, 2003 - 3:51 AM PDT dwhudson wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> > Uma's Japanese is VERY bad.
>
> Yeah, I've read that. You wonder why she and QT didn't take more care there, at least send her through a crash course.
> ---------------------------------

I'm curious how they will handle that in the Japanese theatrical release. Surely they wouldn't dub over her bad Japanese a la Mad Max? Would they subtitle her Japanese in Japanese? Will they just leave the English subtitles to make it doubly cryptic? It doesn't really matter, but it's fun to think about.

> ---------------------------------
>> The Quick and the Dead. When I saw THAT film, I came out of the theater feeling quite giddy.
> Wow, mileage varies. I didn't make it past the first 20 minutes or so.
> ---------------------------------

Hmm...I get that reaction a lot. That film was tailor-made for a demographic of hamano, maybe. It seems to fly right under the heads of smart people like you. I remember critical reaction was lukewarm and so was box-office in the US. The credits indicate that a lot of Japanese bubble-era money was poured into that film...did Raimi give it an "international" style that was bound to fail domestically? Or according to dpowers, perhaps my critical faculties were addled by the presence of so many "stars that I love"...

I did get Q&D on DVD, and I gotta admit the impact is somewhat lost on TV. I saw a brand new print in a big theater in Palo Alto with great sound. A lot of critics savaged Sharon Stone's acting, which was unfair, I thought since she was just doing her version of the "stiff and wooden" that Eastwood and Bronson did in spaghetti westerns. I thought she showed her character's underlying fear and lack of confidence really well.

Q&D wasn't a genre masterpiece like Unforgiven, but it was a fun little film. You should have gone back for the last 20 minutes, maybe.
ColonelKong
post #7  on November 2, 2003 - 11:49 AM PST  
>Uma's Japanese is VERY bad. Pronunciation is bad

Granted, I barely know any myself (I've met a few Japanese speakers, but what I know mainly comes from Japanese movies), so I couldn't really judge for myself how bad Uma's Japanese was, but it seems like it should be somewhat less than perfect. Of course, we don't really know from Vol. 1 how much time The Bride has spent in Japan before, but it would make sense to me if O-Ren Ishii's Japanese was a lot better than The Bride's. It reminds me a little bit of how Ron Perlman's French was pretty bad in City of Lost Children since his character was supposed to be from Russia or somewhere in Eastern Europe.

>There was some nice music but maaannn, some of those cheap horn was just cheesy, even for Q.T.

What cheesy horn are you speaking of? I'm not quite following you there. I liked Tarantino's music choices a lot, and the only instance where the music editing seemed choppy to me is when we only hear about a 10-second snippet of "Super 16" by Neu! (aka the Master of the Flying Guilltine theme music) during the House of Blue Leaves battles.
ColonelKong
post #8  on November 2, 2003 - 11:53 AM PST  
Speaking of Kill Bill's music choices, I liked how the spaghetti western tracks that he used can be seen as either a homage to spaghetti westerns themself or to the many kung fu movies to appropriate their music?

Some of Quentin's music choices were kind of oddball, but somehow they make sense. I thought the mournful Luis Bacalov spaghetti western piece in the anime flashback to O-Ren childhood was just about perfect, it also links that sequence to somewhat similar scenes of childhood trauma in a lot of spaghetti westerns, like Once Upon a Time in the West (which will FINALLY be on DVD in a few weeks! can't wait!)
kamapuaa
post #9  on November 3, 2003 - 12:06 AM PST  
A few more thoughts: I can't help but think this movie would have been a lot better had it come out ten years earlier. By now, HK action is just a normal party of the movie vocabulary - Jackie Chan pumps out some terrible Hollywood movie two or three times a year, "Crouching Tiger" reached #1 in the box office, John Woo works with Tom Cruise, everybody knows you don't mess with an old blind man, the (poor) Shaw Brothers return "Drunken Monkey" sold out all Honolulu showings, etc.

In the present day, the movie came off as a bit pointless. If it's trying to be fun purely by the spectacle of American actors holding samurai swords and talking about revenge, the Hong Kong lexicon is old hat, no big deal. If it's trying to be a straight action movie in the HK mold, it wasn't terrible, but it not even in the same ballpark (hell, not even the same sport!) as movies which use people who actually know how to fight, have more sympathetic characters, and have better-paced fight scenes. If it's trying to be satire, why even bother satirizing an HK action movie?

Actually, the movie is probably more fun for being in two parts, despite what I said earlier - if I had seen part 1 without benefit of knowing it was just the first half of a longer movie, I would dismiss the movie out of hand as an OK action movie drowning in smarminess. With a part 2 coming, I'm curious what Tarantino has in mind for the overall direction of this movie.

From interviews, it almost comes off like an adult in a Toy Store - he was given the chance to make any movie he wanted, so he made the movie he wish he could make in the 80's, including elements and references from favorite movies. I agree with oldkingcole - references for their own sake are puerile and dull, and unfortunately I think that's what Tarantino has planned for the movie as a whole.

On a tangent: I saw the movie with a friend from Japan, who thought their accents were both really bad, and the translations were a little weird. Plus, she mentioned having seen an interview, where Uma Thurman claimed to have learned conversational Japanese for the role.

And additionally: another friend ran into Tarantino in a bar (she didn't know who he was until after), they talked about Eastern Europe (where she's from), and he bought her a drink. Said he was a real friendly guy.
larbeck
post #10  on November 5, 2003 - 7:18 AM PST  
Oh, yeah - no long has mentioned this yet but "Revenge is a dish best served cold" comes from the Romans and that says a bit about Q.T. research. It was also in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, by Choderlos de Laclos and some sources also attribute it as an ole Arab proverb, but the Arab did save a lot of Roman knowledge that would have otherwise been lost by Christian scroll burners.
Eoliano
post #11  on November 5, 2003 - 2:45 PM PST  
One problem I had after seeing Kill Bill was that I didn't have any thoughts after leaving the theater, except what I was going to cook for dinner that night. Like maybe donburi or tonkatsu, or hey, how about donkatsu?

Okay, Kill Bill was a rip; I dug most of the inside humor, though it wore rather thin after a while. I dig Uma! On the QT, my opinion of QT is another story entirely. What more is there to say? Oh yeah, afterwards I raced across the multiplex lobby and bought a ticket to see Lost in Translation yet again. I'll take Sophia Coppola over QT anytime.

> Uma's Japanese is VERY bad.

Wakkata!

Nani?

Well so is mine!

Post script: this is eoliano's first post in nearly eight months. exactly what has he been missing?
dpowers
post #12  on November 5, 2003 - 5:27 PM PST  
greencine is now a porno site.
dpowers
post #13  on November 5, 2003 - 5:36 PM PST  
also:

anime people now have permanent control of the clicker, if you know what i'm saying.

greencine now does video-on-demand (that's what the "watch" button is about) and they now have at least one person on staff who has seen as many european movies as you have.

the trivia game has expanded to the real world, conquering not one but two san francisco bars within months of each other. total conquest is a task left to our grandchildren.

just before the recall election, there was a movie showing, thanks a million. one of the candidates showed up.

the shipping monkeys have been revealed to be llamas.

i got a haircut and changed my species (again).

i mentioned porn.
dpowers
post #14  on November 5, 2003 - 5:45 PM PST  
also:

akrizman came to san francisco and we ate lunch! he has a blond ponytail.

you can now rearrange items in a list by changing numbers.

several members are considering suing the USPS, but the amount of postage required for any given DVD envelope is now public knowledge.

the full-fledged greencine daily blog has been heralded in public places.

i think if there were a vote, by a landslide, i'd be certified insane.

how was sicily?
dpowers
post #15  on November 5, 2003 - 5:47 PM PST  
topics, who needs 'em.
Eoliano
post #16  on November 5, 2003 - 6:36 PM PST  
> how was sicily?

sicilia era meravigliosa!

sicilia bedda!
oldkingcole
post #17  on November 6, 2003 - 12:28 AM PST  
Welcome back Eoliano! Where've you been?
oldkingcole
post #18  on November 6, 2003 - 12:31 AM PST  
> On November 5, 2003 - 7:18 AM PDT larbeck wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Oh, yeah - no long has mentioned this yet but "Revenge is a dish best served cold" comes from the Romans and that says a bit about Q.T. research. It was also in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, by Choderlos de Laclos and some sources also attribute it as an ole Arab proverb, but the Arab did save a lot of Roman knowledge that would have otherwise been lost by Christian scroll burners.
> ---------------------------------

Larbeck, you're kidding right, and I'm being gullible to believe you might not be...

But, of course QT's attribution of that quote was a reference to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It got a mild chuckle out of this long-time Trekkie.

dwhudson
post #19  on November 6, 2003 - 1:10 AM PST  
1. A majorly enthusiastic WELCOME BACK to Eoliano! We missed you, but for consolation, it was good to know you were spending the summer exactly where you wanted to be. More via mail.

2. I think dpowers should be writing the Dispatch. [g]

3. Once again, that link to the same talk with QT:

"I guess 'Kind Hearts and Coronets' was the seed, though I think it originally comes from Capt. Ahab in 'Moby-Dick.' My own favorite reading of that line is Ricardo Montalban's in 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.' You know, he starts off with, 'Here's an old Klingon proverb. ..."

It works because the quote itself sounds deadly literary, almost biblical - so much so that, if anyone saw this and remembers, all the way back to the weeks immediately following 9/11 (and it is rare these days that we're called on to remember that far back, I know), when Dan Rather made his (in)famously tearful appearance on Letterman, he introduced the line himself with, "You know, there's an old Arab proverb..." - anyway, that quote appears on the screen, and then, the attribution fades in. So, agreed, sets the tone just fine.
dpowers
post #20  on November 6, 2003 - 2:58 AM PST  
from moby dick comes the other big line from ST2:

Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!


(then they kiss)
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