Tag: Death Proof

San Quentin

by on Aug.21, 2009, under Movies

I am very, very excited to see Inglourious Basterds very, very soon. Until I do, I’ll have relatively little to say about it–consider that reticence an exception, not a rule–but here are a few observations and links to kick off the inevitable Josh-vs-Josh Tarantino side-taking.

Kill Bill as Parable of Redemption in Zen Buddhism Kill Bill was developed by QT in partnership with his muse Uma Thurman. Thurman’s father Robert is one of the foremost exponents of Zen Buddhism in the West. Und so weiter.

I made the strategic decision to wait until I could see both Kill Bills on the same day. We rented the DVD of Part 1, and as the credits rolled we dashed to the Vista to make the late matinee. If you don’t think you can handle a marathon, I recommend Kill Bill Parts 1 & 2 in One Minute in One Take.

(There’s no sense in discussing them as two separate movies. They are not separable. If you’re constitutionally unable to take the oceans of blood in Part 1, you could still enjoy Part 2, but you’re coming in in the middle.)

Also at The House Next Door, Keith Uhlich (pro) and Matt Soller Zeitz (anti) debate My Tarantino Problem–And Yours. MSZ discusses his unease with Tarantino’s violence:

That’s what bothered me even the first time I saw Pulp Fiction, although at the time I discounted those misgivings, and I shouldn’t have. When Marvin gets shot in the car, by accident, it’s very much like the rest of Pulp Fiction, and the rest of Tarantino’s work, in that it’s comical, and the sense of humor is superficially very Scorsesean. It’s bloody, savage violence, and the callousness with which characters address — or just as often don’t address — the violence is the source of tension and excitement in the movie. […] But Tarantino’s missing something about Scorsese […].

Marvin’s shooting is the sourest note for me in Tarantino’s entire body of work, and it led to an informal rule: I won’t call any movie an all-time favorite in which someone is shot in the head for comic effect. Sorry, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, though you too have considerable charms.

It’s possible to explain away the violence in Tarantino’s work by saying “It’s not about violence, it’s about movies”. That’s true enough, but it only gets you so far down the path towards understanding his work. I think of Tarantino as both a humanist and a film pastichist. He’s working without a net in a number of modes at once, and they aren’t always possible to reconcile.

I think Death Proof may go the furthest towards doing so. There’s a way in which movie-ness solves problems in Tarantino’s work. The scene in which Uma Thurman’s gangster moll asks John Travolta’s thug to the dance floor was the first time I noticed this–was really the first time I thought about metafictional conceits in film at all (so it’s kinda 101, aight?). She goads him to get up there; he’s not eager. She takes her shoes off (revealing the feet that got Antwone thrown into a glass house). He slowly takes his shoes off, taking his time, delaying the beginning. Can he do it? Can he dance? … Of course he can. He’s John Travolta.

Death Proof doesn’t take the everything-and-more approach of Robert Rodriguez’s companion Grindhouse piece Planet Terror. Instead, it’s relatively serious-looking and slow, alternating between talky longeurs that introduce us to and weight the characters, and action sequences. It’s divided into two mirror parts. In one, a group of confident, seemingly intelligent attractive women are annihilated by Kurt Russell’s stunt driver. In the second, a group of confident, seemingly intelligent attractive women who are also stunt drivers give him a taste of his own medicine. It’s a vengeance flick, in which the avenged and avengers have no knowledge of one another, and the secret weapon against the badguy is matching him on his terrain of movieness.

As for Inglorious Basterds, I’ll say this in advance. Two different, both wildly point-missing takes on the Holocaust might be, first, a movie in which none of the Jewish characters die (that’s an excerpt, here’s a pdf of the whole thing), and second, a movie in which the Jews do the killing. I’m kinda into the second.

CONFIDENTIAL TO J.M.: Yes, Tears of the Black Tiger was very good. I’m glad I saw it. Doesn’t change my mind.

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