Stephen Speicher

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

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  1. 1. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

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I think vol.1 + vol.2 are the best movies of the new century. Far more creative, fun, wild, original, and well made than anything else in that time. And David Carradine should have gotten an acting oscar!

Of the two, the first volume is the more original. The House of Blue Leaves is just amazing from start to finish.

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I think vol.1 + vol.2 are the best movies of the new century.  Far more creative, fun, wild, original, and well made than anything else in that time.  And David Carradine should have gotten an acting oscar!

Of the two, the first volume is the more original.  The House of Blue Leaves is just amazing from start to finish.

I never really had any desire to see either of these two films but with this kind of enthusiasm, I'll definitely put them on my to rent list.

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Although the trailers looked interesting, I've taken a pass on these because of the extreme graphic violence that they are said to contain.

My question then is, what positive attributes are there that might outweigh my aversion to bloodbaths?

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It is very violent but the violence is almost cartoonish. If you've seen Monty Python making fun of Sam Peckinpah movies -- it's similar to that.

That being said, I liked the first part of Kill Bill but the second part I did not find quite as enjoyable. I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I expected a different resolution, though what exactly I can't really say.

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Although the trailers looked interesting, I've taken a pass on these because of the extreme graphic violence that they are said to contain.

My question then is, what positive attributes are there that might outweigh my aversion to bloodbaths?

I can highlight some of the positives, but if you are truly as sensitive as you seem to indicate, then I suspect you will have an upwards battle to fight. Film is a really hard medium to experience for what it is, when bringing expectations. I have seen many, many people not "get" a film because they do not like the actor, or the director, or the writer, or any of a multitude of anticipatory feelings. A movie unfolds in real time, and the emotional state you bring sometimes affects your emotional state for the two hours that you have. There is no time to pause and re-evaluate, lest you miss what is going on now, and sometimes what you feel in the beginning is what you wind up feeling in the end.

I love Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge (2001), but I know people who were so put off by the strangeness and the frentic pace of the first twenty minutes or so, that they completely missed the supreme beauty of what followed. A shame. Compared to many people I know, I seem to be more open to the experience of film, and less affected by prior feelings or judgments. I have no explanation for this other than my realization that I am on the premise of seeing what is there, not what I think may be. I have a very strong aversion to anything related to the Holocaust, and therefore struggled greatly with the idea of going to see Life is Beautiful. Yet, somehow, once I was there, I opened up, and I had one of the most passionately beautiful experiences with a film that I have ever had. But, on the other hand, I have chosen not to see Schindler's List to this day. Point is, if you have such a strong aversion to violence that you cannot really overcome it, in the experience itself, then don't go.

Briefly, though. Kill Bill is one of the most consciously determined films I have ever seen. If you can see it, nothing is left to chance. Nothing is there that shouldn't be. It is visually stunning. Breathtaking, actually. The sword-play scene in the snow is so beautifully crafted that each frame is worthy of hanging on a museum wall. The storyline is stark, the acting is great, and the action is as well choreographed as a ballet. It is an enormously well-integrated film. Not a sense of life movie, but a great one nonetheless. See it, if you really can.

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I agree with Stephen.

I have a simple criterion for whether I like a film. Do I want to watch it again? And for the films I really like, again and again and again.

By that criterion my favorite film of all time is "My Cousin Vinny" which I've watched dozens of times.

I rather suspect the Kill Bills will be up there somewhere. I've already watched them a number of times, certain scenes more than others.

You definitely need a strong stomach for graphic violence, in some sequences *very* graphic, like how about heads and limbs being cut off. But like on "South Park" there's an element of tongue-in-cheek humor to it. Unlike "South Park" though it is not strictly humor. It is strictly Quentin Tarantino which is unique to him (and applies as well to his other films, like "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs".)

As for Tarantino, what can I say? In a rational culture, he'd be committed, not writing and directing major motion pictures. The guy is clearly outa his mind. The expression "mad genius" comes to mind. But you can't ignore the genius part.

One element I didn't key into in the "Bills" at first was the background music. Once I did, I found myself rewatching certain scenes almost just to re-listen to the music.

Stephen is also correct about the fine crafting of most of the scenes, including the sword scene in the Japanese garden which he mentioned.

Fred Weiss

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I can highlight some of the positives, but if you are truly as sensitive as you seem to indicate, then I suspect you will have an upwards battle to fight.

Tarantino has been on my permanent blacklist since my wife and I rented Pulp Fiction, watched 15 minutes of it, took it back to the store, demanded and got a refund. I have no aversion to violence per se, only to wanton dumping of trash. But, I may give him another chance based soley on the praise given here for these Bill movies. (Although I've never heard of an "artist" changing course in a career.)

So, my question is; besides the violence, is there any similarity between Pulp Fiction and the Bill movies? Especially the language (and subject matter of discourse), I work in a kitchen, I hear that talk all day long.

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I want to second Stephen's recommendation to everyone who hasn't seen either of these films. Caution should be exercised by those who abhor violence, as both of these movies abound in it.

Stephen hits the mark exactly with his concise summary:

Kill Bill is one of the most consciously determined films I have ever seen. If you can see it, nothing is left to chance. Nothing is there that shouldn't be. It is visually stunning. Breathtaking, actually. The sword-play scene in the snow is so beautifully crafted that each frame is worthy of hanging on a museum wall. The storyline is stark, the acting is great, and the action is as well choreographed as a ballet. It is an enormously well-integrated film.

Stephen, if that description was a sword, it would be worthy of Hattori Hanzo himself! :)

This movie made me think of something Ayn Rand said in the Romantic Manifesto, about the movie Siegfried:

Though other directors seem to grasp it occasionally, [Fritz] Lang is the only one who has fully understood the fact that visual art is an intrinsic part of films in a much deeper sense than the mere selection of sets and camera angles-that a "motion picture" is literally that, and has to be a stylized visual composition in motion.

It has been said that if one stopped the projection of Siegfried and cut out a film frame at random, it would be as perfect in composition as a great painting.  Every action, gesture and movement in this film is calculated to achieve that effect.  Every inch of the film is stylized, i.e., condensed to those stark, bare essentials which convey the nature and spirit of the story, of its events, of its locale.  The entire picture was filmed indoors, including the magnificent legendary forests whose every branch was man-made (but does not look so on the screen).  While Lang was making Siegfried, it is reported, a sign hung on the wall of his office:  "Nothing in this film is accidental."  This is the motto of great art.

I haven't seen as many movies as Stephen has, but I will say that as far as I can recall, this is the most completely integrated and purposeful movie I have ever seen. I bet Stephen and I could spend several minutes discussing each minute in the movie itself; it really is that good.

Needless to say, I give it a 10! (that's 10 Factorial, for you math nerds! :) )

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One element I didn't key into in the "Bills" at first was the background music. Once I did, I found myself rewatching certain scenes almost just to re-listen to the music.

Stephen is also correct about the fine crafting of most of the scenes, including the sword scene in the Japanese garden which he mentioned.

Fred Weiss

Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

Fred,

That's an excellent point, and one which I didn't catch onto originally either. One of the scenes which comes to mind for me is when "the Bride" is in the bathroom stall, and Sophie Fatale enters. Something about the "music" they play is just riveting for me, and makes concrete to me the anger and violence that must be brewing inside of "the Bride".

And the final scene in the garden between O-Ren and "the Bride" is exquisite, absolutely priceless.

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Ok, I know I'm on a tangent now, but I couldn't resist plugging this movie one more time. :)

Two movie tickets to see Kill Bill Vol. 1 - $20.

Two Sodas and an Extra Large Popcorn - $17.50.

Experiencing a fully integrated and stylized motion picture - Priceless.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

Fred,

That's an excellent point, and one which I didn't catch onto originally either.  One of the scenes which comes to mind for me is when "the Bride" is in the bathroom stall, and Sophie Fatale enters.  Something about the "music" they play is just riveting for me, and makes concrete to me the anger and violence that must be brewing inside of "the Bride".

And the final scene in the garden between O-Ren and "the Bride" is exquisite, absolutely priceless.

Yes, I like the garden scene music a lot and I've replayed it a few times just to hear it. But my favorites are (1) the songs played when "the Bride" is lying in bed with her daughter after she has fallen asleep. It is some intensely moving interspersing of the old rock song "No One Ever Told Me" and what sounds like a Billy Holliday song, (2) the closing sequence song, during the credits, in Bill2 when she's riding down the road. I'd actually like to know the name of it if anyone knows it; (3) the song "Bang. Bang" in Bill1 which is played leading up to "the Bride" being shot by Bill.

But in general he used music very effectively and powerfully in both Bills throughout. I don't recall that being the case in his previous films.

Fred Weiss

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As regards "Pulp Fiction", I've come to the realization that it's an "acquired taste" - like intensely spicy food. :)

I was totally grossed out by it the first time I saw it and didn't get it at all.

Since seeing the Bills and enjoying those, I've rewatched it a couple of times and found myself starting to enjoy it more. Not as much as the Bills by a longshot, but at least not to the point of being totally dismissive of it.

In contrast to the Bills, "Pulp Fiction" I think as a whole is a mess, an incoherent mess at that. But there are certain scenes and aspects to it which are classic Tarantino, most especially those which are intensely violent or gross while *at the same time* extremely funny. He really puts that together masterfully with the Bills.

Fred Weiss

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Tarantino has been on my permanent blacklist since my wife and I rented Pulp Fiction, watched 15 minutes of it, took it back to the store, demanded and got a refund....So, my question is; besides the violence, is there any similarity between Pulp Fiction and the Bill movies?

There is similarity in terms of style, but Pulp Fiction lacks the overall integration of Kill Bill. Sounds to me like you may be happier seeing Ice Princess, which JRoberts so pleasantly described in his review. We are going to try to see it this weekend.

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I haven't seen as many movies as Stephen has, but I will say that as far as I can recall, this is the most completely integrated and purposeful movie I have ever seen.  I bet Stephen and I could spend several minutes discussing each minute in the movie itself; it really is that good.

Yes, that would be fun, especially since you and I have such similar responses to so many movies. But the one we should really include is Tarantino himself. In every interview I have seen or read about him in which he discusses Kill Bill, he reveals more and more of the conscious thought and purposeful selection that went into these two films. Amazing how much I would enjoy speaking with Tarantino about films, considering the fact that for any other subject I probably would not last more than 30 seconds with him.

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Yes, I like the garden scene music a lot and I've replayed it a few times just to hear it. But my favorites are (1) the songs played when "the Bride" is lying in bed with her daughter after she has fallen asleep. It is some intensely moving interspersing of the old rock song "No One Ever Told Me" and what sounds like a Billy Holliday song, (2) the closing sequence song, during the credits, in Bill2 when she's riding down the road. I'd actually like to know the name of it if anyone knows it; (3) the song "Bang. Bang" in Bill1 which is played leading up to "the Bride" being shot by Bill.

But in general he used music very effectively and powerfully in both Bills throughout. I don't recall that being the case in his previous films.

Fred Weiss

I just gave my copy of Vol. 2 to my son and I have not yet replenished it, so I cannot check the credits. However, if you look here you can listen to samples of each song and thereby discover the title of the song you are looking for. (Incidentally, there is a commerical around that uses one of the more recogizable themes from the House of Blue Leaves sequence.)

Your identification of how well suited the music is to every scene is yet another instance of Tarantino's exercise of control and his performance of integration in the movie. He did not simply turn over the musical task to some music director, but was involved in the selection and or creation of every sound in that movie. I forget in which interview it is, but he even discusses how he wanted a particular sound effect for just one small aspect of one small portion of a scene. And he explains why. In another interview he described how he discovered the female Japanese rock singers from the House of Blue Leaves scene while in Japan, and what he went through to get them into the movie. Tarantino admits to being a "control freak," which for the best sense of that term I am glad for in his making of those movies.

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Yes, that would be fun, especially since you and I have such similar responses to so many movies. But the one we should really include is Tarantino himself. In every interview I have seen or read about him in which he discusses Kill Bill, he reveals more and more of the conscious thought and purposeful selection that went into these two films. Amazing how much I would enjoy speaking with Tarantino about films, considering the fact that for any other subject I probably would not last more than 30 seconds with him.

Awright, if you two guys are so schmart, there's one little bit which I imagine has a point but I don't get what it is. Near the end of Bill2, Bebe is watching an old cartoon on their motel TV. It's the one with the magpies and the farmer. Since he could have chosen any of 1,000's of cartoons, why did he choose that particular one?

Fred Weiss

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I just gave my copy of Vol. 2 to my son and I have not yet replenished it,

Whaddya gonna do if he looks at you with steely eyes sometime in the coming days and says, "Dad, you and I have unfinished business!"?

here  you can listen to samples of each song and thereby discover the title of the song you are looking for. (Incidentally, there is a commerical around that uses one of the more recogizable themes from the House of Blue Leaves sequence.)

Thanks. I'll check it out later. Looking forward to it.

In another interview he described how he discovered the female Japanese rock singers from the House of Blue Leaves scene while in Japan, and what he went through to get them into the movie. Tarantino admits to being a "control freak," which for the best sense of that term I am glad for in his making of those movies.

That of course is the "5,6,7, and 8's". Perfect for that scene. One wonders what happened to "8", since there only appears to be three of them.

Fred Weis

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Awright, if you two guys are so schmart, there's one little bit which I imagine has a point but I don't get what it is. Near the end of Bill2, Bebe is watching an old cartoon on their motel TV.  It's the one with the magpies and the farmer. Since he could have chosen any of 1,000's of cartoons, why did he choose that particular one?

I'm no expert on this, but Tarantino has stated that he could explain the choices behind virtually every frame in the film. Based on the explanations that he has actually given, and based on my own observations, I believe him.

In answer to your question (again, I am not an expert here), note that in general Tarantino pays homage in these films to the great works of, and personal preferences he has towards, the visual and musical arts of yesteryear. The magpie clip is from the 1946 cartoon The Talking Magpies, in which Heckle and Jeckle were first introduced as cartoon characters. The words you hear (I do not have my Vol. 2, so this is from memory) are something like "Magpies deserve respect!" That seems like a clear allusion to Beatrix; the film is about her revenge and redemption and now at the end you hear the cartoon characters say just what Beatrix deserves.

The thing is, Tarantino spent years giving intense thought to every detail of this film, and whether or not we can make all the connections explicit, the evidence is there in the ones we do connect and, even more importantly, in the total integration of the film. Integration does not happen by accident, and to integrate a work of art on this scale implies a broad array of conscious choices. The man is a cinematic genius.

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Whaddya gonna do if he looks at you with steely eyes sometime in the coming days and says, "Dad, you and I have unfinished business!"?

Have you seen my Hattori Hanzo? :)

That of course is the "5,6,7, and 8's". Perfect for that scene. One wonders what happened to "8", since there only appears to be three of them.

The name of the group is based on the music from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.

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In answer to your question (again, I am not an expert here), note that in general Tarantino pays homage in these films to the great works of, and personal preferences he has towards, the visual and musical arts of yesteryear. The magpie clip is from the 1946 cartoon The Talking Magpies, in which Heckle and Jeckle were first introduced as cartoon characters. The words you hear (I do not have my Vol. 2, so this is from memory) are something like "Magpies deserve respect!" That seems like a clear allusion to Beatrix; the film is about her revenge and redemption and now at the end you hear the cartoon characters say just what Beatrix deserves.

Ah, so! That has a certain plausibility to it. Then there's the bit where one of the magpies beans the farmer with a sledge. The voice on the "radio" says, "If you have magpies amongst you treat them with respect" and presumably the farmer doesn't and gets beaned.

Ok, let's dig in. First official meeting of the Kill Bill Fan Club. What's your favorite scene? If you can't bear to pick, I'll make it a little easier on you. Favorite scene from 1 and favorite from 2.

Fred Weiss

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Have you seen my Hattori Hanzo?  :)

Yeah, but he being Speicher-son you have to figure he has somehow learned "The 5-Step Exploding Heart Palm" routine. Or how to pluck out eyeballs. :)

Speaking of which, Mr. Physics, was it/is it actually possible for Pei Mai to jump on Beatrix's outstretched sword. I assume that was just trick photography.

The name of the group is based on the music from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Ahh, ok. Obviously you are going to be an invaluable member of the Fan Club.

Fred Weiss

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

First, I must apologize for breaking my own rules. The magpie post should have had a spoiler warning on it. I was just carried away in my enthusiasm, but that is no excuse. From now on ...

Ok, let's dig in. First official meeting of the Kill Bill Fan Club. What's your favorite scene? If you can't bear to pick, I'll make it a little easier on you. Favorite scene from 1 and favorite from 2.

For Vol. 1 that's easy: the whole House of Blues scene culminating in the sword fight in the snow. If that is too broad, then I would narrow it down to the snow scene. Absolutely one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen on film.

Vol. 2 is a little harder. To me it is a toss-up between the coffin scene and the final battle between Beatrix and Bill. How Beatrix was able to survive the burial -- what she did and how it was tied to her previous training -- was done so dramatically, and it was so exemplary of determination. But the final confrontation, starting from Bill's speech about heroes, to his standing up and buttoning his jacket before taking the five steps to death, was magnificient.

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Speaking of which, Mr. Physics, was it/is it actually possible for Pei Mai to jump on Beatrix's outstretched sword. I assume that was just trick photography.

You obviously do not believe in The Force. (Oh, wait, that was another movie.) But, hey, if you want realism, go to the fish market! :)

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