Stephen Speicher

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

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

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120 posts in this topic

Thought out and consciously determined is not in conflict with whimsical exaggeration.

Maybe I was not clear. I meant as embodied in the characters' actions and the storyline. Do you think that the characters' actions and the story development represent irrational or capricious acts, ones which there is no logical motivation?

But why the conscious and obvious humor which underlies much of Bill? Tarantino clearly intends for you to laugh at much of it.

Much of it? There were some humorous elements, but most always I was riveted to the intense drama.

When Beatrix marches to the diner covered from head to toe in dirt and asks for a glass of water, you didn't laugh? What is Tarantino trying to convey when, after the heroic effort involved in escaping from the coffin, he adds that scene clearly designed to make you laugh?

And what beauty that little scene was. The diner was a transitional scene. It took us from arguably the most intense segment in the entire film, the coffin scene which was the culmination of so much of her previous training, to what followed. What would you have preferred?

There are numerous other examples.

Examples of what? I see nothing in what you have said that explains or justifies not taking the film seriously.

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

Someone mentioned Tarantino interviews, and I have one I'd like to quote and provide a link to. I think it answers some of the questions here as well as gives tons of information that fans of the movie or the kung fu genre in general will enjoy.

Before that, though, at one point in the interview Tarantino says that "finding the right name for your character is one of the most important things about writing them. You almost can't really go forward until you get the right name." So B.B. was no mistake--and, as an aside, Copperhead's daughter having the last name Bell had to be planned as well.

On some of the characters, their respective stories, and future movies, Tarantino has this to say:

About Kage no Gundan for a bit. There's like multiple sequel shows. You know, Kage no Gundan 1, 2, 3, 4. Every time they did a new series it was always a different Hattori Hanzo. It was set a little further in history. Hattori Hanzo number three, Hattori Hanzo number four. It just kept on going down. So now Sonny Chiba is playing Hattori Hanzo one hundred and still continuing that character. Now the thing about this is that, the audience doesn't need to know any of this. I'm very much a believer that if you're creating your own universe and your own mythology, you can have no question unanswered. But here's the thing: I don't have to answer the questions to you the audience. You just need to know I know the answer. I can tell you the whole story of how Hattori Hanzo ended up in Okinawa and why he didn't make a sword for 30 years, and who the bald guy is. I can tell you that. I don't have to tell you this during the watching of the movie, but you need to know how large this world is. This is how much I'm going to tell you now, and what I don't tell you, you can figure out. You can make up your own things. I know what's going to happen with Nikki (Vivica A. Fox's daughter). She will grow up and she will seek her revenge. I could go backwards. Once we get all done with this, we're talking about the concept of doing a couple of prequels with maybe Production IG just doing full-on animation. You know, the origin of Bill for instance. But I could do it with any of the characters. As far as actually continuing the story…again, I don't know about shooting this in live-action or animation or writing it as a paperback, who knows? But it would be every ten years. Right now, The Bride is 30. The next one would be at 40. The last one would be ten years later when she's 50.

In response to the question should viewers laugh at Kill Bill, Tarantino responds:

I don't think you should laugh AT it, I think you should laugh WITH it . . . All my movies are funny, but I also wanted to go up and down, up and down. I want you to laugh, laugh, laugh, and then stop you laughing and show you something else. Maybe start you crying, and then get you laughing again. I want to just constantly keep moving. For me, if I'm watching a movie and I'm going from laughing to crying, that's me having a good time. That's when I know I'm seeing a movie. I'm being jerked around emotionally and it's great.

There's plenty more, but I want to add just one more because I think it shows just how much Tarantino has thought everything out. This is in response to a question on whether he thinks Japanese audiences will get understand the line "Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids."

Oh yeah, the Trix commercial. There's all of these Japanese and Chinese things in the movie that I have no expectations that Americans will get at all and that's one of the things that I don't expect anyone outside the US to get. In my thought, that was a something O-Ren and The Bride used to say to each other when they were Deadly Vipers on a job. It was a private joke between the two of them.

Finally, the link.

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Finally, the link.

Thank you, Daniel. I hadn't seen this interview before, but what you quoted, especially the first long quote about creating your own universe and leaving no question unanswered, reflects the conscious thinking that this man has done. I don't have time to read the full interview now, but I hope it also reflects the love he has for his work. Basically, his work is his life.

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Also, just to jump into the discussion on whether or not this movie is intended to be taken seriously, I think it is. There are plenty of funny scenes in the movie--where Beatrix asks for a glass of water, spanks the young boy from the Crazy 88's, etc--but as Stephen has mentioned these are at transitional moments. For myself, this is the mark of a great director or writer.

There's an art I think in delivering suspense in stages--until the climax is reached. Rachmaninov does it with music and Rand does it in her writing (with Atlas being the best example). I'm scared to say it, for fear of some overly sensitive reader getting the wrong idea, but Rand and Tarantino (via their writing) can be compared to a master like Rachmaninov in this respect, as well as others. In fact, it is this very attribute that made the movies so enjoyable to me--along with another one that all three have in common (being a completely integrated, well-thought out piece of art).

Again, regret having to do this, but just to make sure I don't get a response saying that "it's ludicrous to compare Miss Rand and Tarantino when the former's vastly more important than the latter by any rational judgement" I will mention that I am comparing two attributes that both of their works have in common, omitting the extent to which their works can claim the attributes for themselves (as well as all their other achievements). So, please don't take my comparison of one aspect of two people to be a comparison of the two people as a whole. Nothing of the sort is meant. And with that, I'll end this post.

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I'm scared to say it, for fear of some overly sensitive reader getting the wrong idea ...

But it will happen anyway, even if you do not make it explicit. I can assure it has already happened. People take their movies to heart, sometimes more than even literature. And what other art is as controversial as is film? Name the movie and guranteed there will be those who loved it, and those who the others are nuts.

I've thought hard about why these differences, and there is much involved. I can abide with differences, but I cannot abide with those who voice their judgments out of sheer ignorance. Personally, I find little in life more distasteful than that. So, don't worry about speaking up, as long as it is based on reason and grounded in fact. For what it is worth, I agree with much that you have said.

In fact, it is this very attribute that made the movies so enjoyable to me--along with another one that all three have in common (being a completely integrated, well-thought out piece of art).

Okay, I'll ask. Which film?

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

What is going on in that flashback schoolroom bit when the teacher calls out Beatrix's name?

It's just a touch of whimsy to underscore the exposition. Remember that immediately before they cut to the schoolroom is the first time the audience hears Beatrix's name. By having Uma raise her hand and say "present", she's just underscoring the fact that she is Beatrix. It's just a nice, fun, creative touch.

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I saw the movie today. And even if nobody cares, a sense of justice demands that I make up for the time I spent watching it by posting this. I had never wished for a heaven before, but I did today so that two hours could be given back to me (luckily, I picked up The Incredibles as well, it was great and redeemed the day as a whole!).

I voted it a 0.

I'll start with the good. It had my wife's and I favorite commercial "jingle" in it, the one before the big fight scene near the end "woo-hoo woo-hoo-hoo!" Also, the dialogue is not as putrid as in his other movies.

The bad. The sense of life (as in all of his movies) hardly needs to be mentioned, and I don't think would even be argued about by anyone that likes the movie. Stinking, nihlistic sneer at the world and man, where a well choreographed bullet splattering brain matter is the thrill of life (and the proper end for all). A sense of life so low that it does not even contain an anti-hero, only killers and the senseless glorification of blood.

If this is by conscious, deliberate design, so much the worse. I'd feel more at ease if this was made by a couple of partying teenagers with daddy's camera and a big blood allowance. But that this is made by that sneering malevolent creep and is hailed as serious filmmaking (even the cutting edge-the future of cinema!) makes me want to say things that wouldn't even be allowed in Pulp Fiction.

Plot? Well, of course the simplest kind possible, for the simplest ends, the presentation of killing. Killing for revenge to be sure, but this makes The Count of Monte Cristo look like advanced calculus! (Apologies to Dumas.) In a story so completely devoid of any shred of values, I don't see how complex of a plot could be made. So, kudos to him for making it as complicated as he did.

I will say that he does a fine job incorporating all the elements to his "message". The music is set up just at the right time, and is of the right mood, so I can witness the stylized excitement of blood spewing like a gyser from severed arms, legs and heads. Killing human pigs is great! Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo-hoo!

The anime piece was very instructive as well. Life is like a cartoon and just as important; there is no difference between cartoon people killing each other and cuttin' 'em down in real life! Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo-hoo!

I could go on and on (some probably think I already have!), but I have to wash this out of my mind and start forgetting it. I need to bathe or something...

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Okay, I'll ask. Which film?

I'm very sorry to say that that was a very ambiguous sentence you're responding to--the misunderstanding being entirely my fault. By three works of art, I had in mind Rand's Atlas, Rachmaninov's Concerto No. 3, and Tarantino's KB movies (which make up really just one story). All three of these works are integrated throughout, and build up to their climax with hints and "pull-backs" brilliantly. Not that they're equal, just that the same attributes make each of them immensely enjoyable to me.

By the way, your comment on Tarantino's work ethic being important to him is right on. There's a great quote I discovered while looking for the above interview which you'll probably enjoy. Speaking of the writing he did over a six-year span:

I was in the best part of my thirties. I didn't want to spend all of that time on a movie set, all of that time in a mixing stage. I mean, it's fun, but if it ever gets to be too much, it can never be a job for me. It's got to be a calling. It's got to be the most important thing in my life.

At times like this, I really like the man--even as a person. But I don't really like any of his other movies. (Not that I've seen them all.) Do you have a Tarantino movie, besides the two KB's, that you can recommend?

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I'd like to add, because I respect the views of a lot of the people that have expressed a liking for these movies (some I do not know), that I am not denying what they may be getting out of the movie. Those elements may or may not be there. But I cannot swallow what he is giving me in message and sense of life, and I know that that is there. If there are artistic merits to these movies, he (Tanantino) makes me unable to be able to see or experience them.

I'll now leave the fans of these movies their due peace.

Thanks

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But I don't really like any of his other movies. (Not that I've seen them all.) Do you have a Tarantino movie, besides the two KB's, that you can recommend?

He's only made three other full-length films, so you may have already seen them all. None of them, however, in my opinion, is anything like the quality of Kill Bill. I actually like Pulp Fiction more than my friends who also think so highly of Kill Bill, but still no comparison. Reservoir Dogs was utterly gruesome, but interesting. Jackie Brown was much better.

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Someone mentioned Tarantino interviews, and I have one I'd like to quote and provide a link to. ...

Finally, the link.

Thanks for that. I know very little about Tarantino and his thinking about this - and his other - films. I've bookmarked it and will read it with interest when I get a chance.

Fred Weiss

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I asked: "What is going on in that flashback schoolroom bit when the teacher calls out Beatrix's name"

It's just a touch of whimsy to underscore the exposition.  Remember that immediately before they cut to the schoolroom is the first time the audience hears Beatrix's name.  By having Uma raise her hand and say "present", she's just underscoring the fact that she is Beatrix.  It's just a nice, fun, creative touch.

If that's all there is to it, Ok. But I still don't get the point. As I recall the little girl called just before Beatrix had a wierd name but even after rewinding several times, I couldn't quite make it out.

Fred Weiss

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I'd like to add, because I respect the views of a lot of the people that have expressed a liking for these movies (some I do not know), that I am not denying what they may be getting out of the movie. ..<etc>

I thought your review was very, very funny and enjoyed it. I may even want to steal some of your lines for future use if I really want to skewer someone. So there's no need to apologize for it.

I especially liked, "I had never wished for a heaven before, but I did today so that two hours could be given back to me." And, "I'll start with the good. It had my wife's and I favorite commercial "jingle" in it, the one before the big fight scene near the end "woo-hoo woo-hoo-hoo!" Also, the dialogue is not as putrid as in his other movies." Cracked me up.

I don't suppose I could interest you in "South Park"?

Fred Weiss

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I see nothing in what you have said that explains or justifies not taking the film seriously.

Are you planning to take samurai sword lessons and to learn how to pluck out eyeballs?

Come on, Stephen!

Fred Weiss

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Are you planning to take samurai sword lessons and to learn how to pluck out eyeballs?

I don't think this is fair. These actions are in a sense non-essential to the story. I take the Harry Potter books very seriously, but do not make attempts at playing Quidditch on the weekends or learning magic potions. Such peculiarities in each story do not change what they're about any more than the humor in each detracts from the very serious issues at stake. (More on this last bit later--time to eat.)

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Stinking, nihlistic sneer at the world and man, where a well choreographed bullet splattering brain matter is the thrill of life (and the proper end for all). A sense of life so low that it does not even contain an anti-hero, only killers and the senseless glorification of blood.

If this is by conscious, deliberate design, so much the worse. I'd feel more at ease if this was made by a couple of partying teenagers with daddy's camera and a big blood allowance. But that this is made by that sneering malevolent creep and is hailed as serious filmmaking (even the cutting edge-the future of cinema!) makes me want to say things that wouldn't even be allowed in Pulp Fiction.

I love it when you talk like this :)

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I see nothing in what you have said that explains or justifies not taking the film seriously.

Are you planning to take samurai sword lessons and to learn how to pluck out eyeballs?

And Siegfried rode on his stallion and slayed the dragon on his way to Worms. Did Ayn Rand plan do those things?

Fred, these are ideas we are talking about, not concretes. It is what the actions represent, and how they are performed that matters. The skills exhibited by Beatrix were simply amazing, and it is that level of accomplishment that I truly value, not the particular form it took.

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I don't suppose I could interest you in "South Park"?

Fred Weiss

No, you couldn't. I love South Park!

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

Fred, these are ideas we are talking about, not concretes. It is what the actions represent, and how they are performed that matters. The skills exhibited by Beatrix were simply amazing, and it is that level of accomplishment that I truly value, not the particular form it took.

I agree with this, quite obviously given my previous post. I wonder how you would respond though to the "sense of life" charges made against this movie, or that it's good merely on a stylistic level. For my own part, I loved a lot of the content of this movie--and not just the parts limited to fights between individuals with great abilities.

This movie is very serious, even solemn in parts. When Hanzo hands Beatrix his sword, it is a very solemn moment--I want to say historical moment too, because in this world that Tarantino created I'm sure it is. Throughout, the actions taken by Beatrix towards her goal, are treated sacrosanct. Nothing will come in her way--not being buried underground, not her former feelings, nothing.

This is a movie about revenge--and the first movie arguably leaves some feeling as though that's just a reason to present mindless violence--but the second part of the movie presents even more reason to understand and appreciate the violence: it is the means for the enactment of justice.

On a sense of life basis I would say that the only thing that could damn this movie as a whole would be something bigger than just minor moments--something along the lines of Beatrix dying before she kills Bill. That this doesn't happen, and that Beatrix ends this movie riding in a car with BB, is very significant. It is a statement in itself about what is possible in this world and whether justice, though it can be fought for, can ever really be achieved.

I'll add, since it hasn't been mentioned so far, that the statements at the beginning about combat where you must be prepared to strike Lord God or Budda Himself if he stands in your way and by Hanzo, where he says (in reference to his sword) that if Beatrix encounters God on her journey God will be cut--elevate individuals to the level of gods. This is a real gem in any work of art today--especially since it is but a part of a presentation of truly efficacious individuals.

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

I'll add, since it hasn't been mentioned so far, that the statements at the beginning about combat where you must be prepared to strike Lord God or Budda Himself if he stands in your way and by Hanzo, where he says (in reference to his sword) that if Beatrix encounters God on her journey God will be cut--elevate individuals to the level of gods. This is a real gem in any work of art today--especially since it is but a part of a presentation of truly efficacious individuals.

One more thing, this movie--unlike Matrix or Bourne Identity--presents the great ability of its actors by reference to hard work spanning years, even decades. The training of Beatrix versus the computer programming of Neo are important to a judgement of their characters and of the worlds they inhabit (as well as the movie itself and the inspiration it can provide viewers with).

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I asked Stephen, "Are you planning to take samurai sword lessons and to learn how to pluck out eyeballs?"

And Siegfried rode on his stallion and slayed the dragon on his way to Worms. 

So you're arguing that Kill Bill should be taken as a kind of modern mythology? And that one should view it as "literary license" or these aspects of the story as "literary devices" to convey his ideas? I'd give some consideration to that and certainly wouldn't dismiss it out of hand. I hardly could because I like it in other works.

Fred, these are ideas we are talking about, not concretes. It is what the actions represent, and how they are performed that matters. The skills exhibited by Beatrix were simply amazing, and it is that level of accomplishment that I truly value, not the particular form it took.

Nonetheless, the humor element is so pronounced in my reading of it that I find it hard to believe that Tarantino takes it as seriously as you do. I'll have to read his interview(s) to see what he says on the subject.

Fred Weiss

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

So you're arguing that Kill Bill should be taken as a kind of modern mythology?

That's what this movie is. Again, Tarantino has referred to it as such many times. The whole thing is its own world and has its own history--right down to the most minute stuff like the Crazy 88's being half made up of Chinese people and half made up of Japanese people (to reflect O-Ren's bloodlines). Here's one more quote from that interview posted--which I have now milked almost all the very important stuff out of, leaving only which movies he took different ideas from, since it was so recent in mind. The following is in response to a question asking for the reason for the samurai swords on the airplane.

Well, this whole movie takes place in this special universe. This isn't the real world. It's funny that you bring it up because in the original script, Bill was going to have a different introduction. This is back when I was writing the part for Warren Beatty. The idea was that Bill would show up at this casino carrying a samurai sword, and the bodyguards, who also have samurai swords, ask him to leave it at the front desk. Warren goes, "wait a minute, hold it Quentin Everybody has a samurai sword?" I go "yeah." He says, "how does that happen?" I say, "that's the world that this movie takes place in. Everybody has a samurai sword." And he goes, "oh! So this isn't real life?" I go, "no! this is a movie movie universe and in this universe, people carry samurai swords. Not only do they carry samurai swords, not only can you bring a samurai sword on an airplane, there's a place on the airplane seat to put your samurai sword! Now, I'm not saying you can do this on every flight, but on Japanese airlines you better believe there's a place for you to put your samurai sword!

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I love South Park!

Quick Stephen, start a South Park thread!

(This'll get really wierd if Stephen hates South Park.)

Ok, explain how you can like all the grossness and gore in South Park, but not in Kill Bill. In fact it may be even worse in aspects in South Park!

Fred Weiss

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Quick Stephen, start a South Park thread!

(This'll get really wierd if Stephen hates South Park.)

Ok, explain how you can like all the grossness and gore in South Park, but not in Kill Bill. In fact it may be even worse in aspects in South Park!

Fred Weiss

Yes why? :)

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

I wonder how you would respond though to the "sense of life" charges made against this movie, or that it's good merely on a stylistic level. For my own part, I loved a lot of the content of this movie--and not just the parts limited to fights between individuals with great abilities.

The overall sense of life is somewhat dark and bleak; the world is ruled by evil hordes and they can strike anytime, anywhere, with no sense of justice or mercy. That is why I have made clear this is not a sense of life recommendation on my part. However, within that created universe there lies much to be admired and enjoyed, mostly in the capability, perseverance, determination, and achievements of the heroine. Her actions are a joy to behold. Her movements rival those of a ballerina. Her strength of will carries her to victory. But all of her marvelous actions are still undercut by moral flaws in her character, and it is not even clear that the victory she achieves is one that can or will be sustained.

And there is much enjoyment to be gleaned in other aspects of the movie, some of which you mentioned. Even Bill becomes the magnificent character that the storyline demanded, when Beatrix meets him and B.B. in his home. What Bill reveals in his story about heroes and superman is enjoyment enough for an entire film.

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