Friday, January 12, 2007

on 'kill bill'

a few days ago, alyssa left a comment on 'all these things that i've seen part II'. it was quite interesting, and my reply got so long that i decided to put it up front, instead of buried in the archives.
so there you go.

Alyssa Rock said...
This comment is deeply buried in your blog so I doubt you'll ever see it, but I just wanted to offer my empathy on Kill Bill. I had to watch both Kill Bills for my "Intro to Graduate Study" class at the University of Kansas. My prof thought it was a brilliant example of post-modernism. And yes I agree with him that they're quite brilliant from a post-modern perspective. For one, they're so packed full of references to popular culture and Asian camp that it would take many, many days to annotate all of the other films that Tarantino references in this one. And yes, Kill Bill 2 is much better than 1 in my opinion.

That being said, I strongly regret having seen them. I watched them unedited and they were pretty difficult to stomach. It's being required to watch films like that which made me leave my PhD program. I don't mind violence if it has some sort of transcendant purpose. But Kill Bill just felt *so* post-modern it was just self-indulgent. Anyhow... thought I would offer some validation for ya.
3:59 PM

-->jeff * said...
first off, i do browse older postings to see what comments do get left. of course, i can't help but wonder if you'll see this reply....

tarantino is perhaps the film critic's poster child for the post-modern film of the last 20 years ['annie hall' is a great example of inter-textuality from 30 years ago, by the way], and i think he has become overly conscious of that trait, though perhaps not to the self-destructive extent that shaymalan did with his own style.
talking with darl larson shortly after the movie came out [and long before i had seen it], he commented on the massive amounts of nods and homages to the kung fu movies and obscure asian films [and i'm sure darl has seen more of them than anyone else i know, even dean].

yet referencing your vast personal knowledge of film does not make your movie a masterpiece. perhaps if i could recognize what godzilla movie that sunrise shot was from i might get a few of the movie's winks and nudges. i've read before, in reference to adaptations [particularly comic book to movie adaptations] that a movie should stand on it's own; if i have to have read a fair amount of the 'fantastic four' canon to appreciate the movie, then the movie cannot stand on it's own and is therefore not a good adaptation.

all that being said, i don't think that knowing those references would make me appreciate the movie more [knowing that uma's yellow jumpsuit is a nod to bruce lee hasn't done a lot for me], although if i had seen hundreds of kung fu movies, i would most likely have developed a taste for it and therefore enjoy the movie more on the basis of a love for the genre.

i do not think, however, that the majority of movie-goers did not like the movie because they recognized motiffs from 'tokyo showdown.' rather, i think they reveled in the obscene amounts of gore. as several friends told me, 'yeah, but it's so over the top it's hardly even real'. perhaps, but if a movie is finding its strength on absurd shock, that's not much a of movie, even if it is 'done well'.

now, there is the argument that perhaps the film maker was making a commentary on how extreme violence has become in our society [i've heard that a few times in regard to 'natural born killers']. ok, though i again would be surprised if even 'most' of the audience left thinking that society was too violent and that they needed to make a change [if that were their train of thought, they probably wouldn't buy the dvd when it came out].
so then the argument becomes a kind of 'caveat emptor', placing the responsibility on the viewer, saying that we, as viewers, need to be educated and aware of what we watch, not sitting back for a rollercoaster, but keeping our minds awake and considering what the director is saying.
and if the intended audience was for darl or dean, i would concede to that.
but it's not. tarantino is a film maker for the masses [although the bergman/renoir crowd likes him, too; the circles are not mutually exclusive], and that carries responsibility [no, he is not the culprit, just the topic at the moment]. true, guns can be used well with responsibility, but that does not mean they should be given to the careless or the youthful.

i didn't think 'kill bill vol.1' was a very good movie, and that it gleaned its power from extreme shock violence. surprisingly to even me, i quite enjoyed 'vol.2'. but that's for another post.
4:09 PM


Em said...

I find that to be true about so many things out there. On some levels they are of good report and praiseworthy, and on other levels they really aren't. You'll have to let me know if and how you come to peace with it all.

Alyssa Rock said...

Hi Jeff... I saw your response over the weekend but had been mulling over what you said before I responded. I was hoping to come up with something brilliant to add to what you've said. Alas, nothing terribly brilliant came to mind. I guess it's hard to add much when I already agree with all that you're saying. :)

It's too bad that we can't discuss the film in person because we could probably have some interesting conversations about postmodernism here as it relates to the gospel here... For later, I suppose. :)

Tim said...

I wrote a response to this that was about a page or so in length explaining why I thought Kill Bill Vol. 1 was a fantastic film.

Then decided not to post it.

Instead, I'm just going to say "chub toad".

Chub toad.

-->jeff * said...

capt. amazing,

i would be interested in hearing what you have to say about the movie.

chub toad.