Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Kill Bill, Vol. 1


I have never been so conflicted about a movie. We passed on it on the big screen, and kept putting off renting it, looking at it like a visit to the dentist; something you gotta do but you don’t look forward to. You got to see it because Quentin Tarantino is an amazing filmmaker … but such an annoying one. Pulp Fiction, outlined and organized in the regular way, would have been nothing special at all. But that’s not the point is it? I don’t think so. A movie is not a novel (I say it again), and does not even have to have a story at all. A two-hour film is actually 172,000 pictures that usually tell a story of some kind, but some of the most stunning movies of all time were nothing much more than a series of images: Un Chien Andalou, Koyaanisqatsi, Baraka, Winged Migration, Russian Ark. Pulp Fiction fascinated by the way it was told, by the weird situations, and by the snappy dialogue. One thing I would never dispute is that QT is a master of dialogue. (Another is that he always picks the right music; his tastes and mine in gut-bucket rock and roll are pretty much identical.) But what QT and I don’t share is his enthusiasm for B movies, slasher pics, and Hong Kong and Taiwan kung-fu potboilers. My tolerance for such stuff is soon exhausted, and Kill Bill was touted as the ultimate. So I was dubious. I still am … but I was awed. He is probably the most visually exciting director working today. I can always tell a Hitchcock film from his camera work, the way he makes the editing and the angle tell the story. I can always tell a Kubrick film by his incredible use of light; nobody lights a scene like Kubrick did, in films like Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket. QT will use anything that comes to hand to tell his story, including a section in anime here, and most especially his fracturing of time. The first person Uma Thurman kills as The Bride (and twice when her name is said, it is bleeped) is the second one on her list; we see that one name is already crossed off. He always keeps you aware that you are watching a film, he wants you to be aware of the camera, like the Coen Brothers often do. As for story here … it is about as basic as a story can be. The pregnant bride is slaughtered with her entire wedding party by Bill and his minions, a group she is or was a part of. But she survives, and sets out to kill them all. That’s it. We don’t know why; maybe Part 2 will tell us. An astonishing amount of gore is splattered on everything in sight, but most of the way I didn’t care, it was pure comic-book stuff, done with such stunning visual flair that my jaw was dropping. It only got dull at about the same point most of these films get dull, during the climactic battle in the Japanese disco where The Bride takes on about a hundred swordsmen single-handed, killing them all. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief that far. But even that was handled with flair. God knows I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody with a weak stomach, but if you are really a student of film, you have to see this, love it or hate it.