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April 26, 2004


Steven Berg

"Badly designed" probably isn't the best term for it. It's an annoyingly naive movie in Tarantino's insistence on trying to have everything both ways.

Ken Lowery

Lord, people have put a lot of thought and time and verbage into a movie that really doesn't call for any of it.

It's 3:45, I'm tired, and here's my statement:

It's fun.

That's all.


(This isn't me yelling at you, Marc, just at the blogosphere in general.)

What I see here are a lot of people assigning motives, subtleties, and positively Machiavellian plotting to a movie that emphatically denies any of that.

Vol. 1 was style as substance, a re-blending of a thousand kung fu movies and western movies worked comfortably into one serving. Vol. 2 was Tarantino having fun just exploring these characters by letting them talk a lot. (I am aware that they were meant to be one movie, but the tone shift is absolutely undeniable.)

I am, believe it or not, capable of critical thought. I also like to have fun at my movies. What makes me dissimilar from a lot of these people is that I can apply both traits at the same time. The idea was to write a 4-5 hour love letter to every type of revenge flick ever made and be entertaining about it. For the most part, it succeeded.

It's not about empowerment. It's not about making a serious statement. It's not about having your ethical cake and eating it too.


Jesus Christ already!


i'm not really the guy who has "reactions" to movies- i'm not really an intellectual when it comes to KILL BILL of all things(i'm in the "fucking katanas" school)- but i can't sleep, so...

1) as to the guy who enjoyed the sofia fatale scene a little too much- i don't know that i see anything wrong with admitting to being titillated by action movie violence. i think that's a more human reaction than intimating a tacit acceptance of real violence, if not STALINISM. that prior essay in general, beyond the largely incorrect plot description... the idea that you don't remember the characters from a tarantino film simply because they're "all crooks and scumbags" is, well, not an outlook on anything ever that i think i share.

2) as for how to respond to a movie that's "awash in the objectionable" - didn't everyone know what they bought a ticket for? the title of the movie is KILL BILL. its not hiding what kind of movie it is... saying anything's "objectionable" seems somewhat inherently dishonest.

and i imagine by "objectionable" we're talking about the buck scene... first, complaining that a tribute to exploitation movies contains a scene that's exploitative- again, seems inherently questionable... secondly, questioning the scene's necessity because the underlying topic is objectionable is a logic i'm more uncomfortable with. the scene seems obviously necessary as a plot point(i.e. something exciting has to happen when she wakes up) and as part of the movie's cataloging of various exploitation genres (i.e. rednecksploitation)(i've never seen deliverance; guess what the only scene i've ever heard anyone talk about is).

i don't think anyone sane watching the scene APPROVES of rape, but i'd think i'd be bored silly by a revenge movie where nothing particularly bad ever happened to the person out for revenge. granted, i'm from the "fucking katanas" school of thought.

3) "Kill Bill is that Bea is powerless – or unwilling – to fight that sexism on any more than the most personal level" this is an interesting point, but i don't know that i understand this objection completely just because as you yourself note, satisfying this need(at least as the character relationships now stand) would violate the movie's internal logic and more importantly, genre(i.e. revenge film) too much. though you can always say he could've written it differently, so to that extent, this does seem like an interesting point...

4) on a plot level, i think its clear that the bride couldn't kill esteban because he controlled an army(his kids). i agree that she should've killed the midget, but i'm afraid that speaks more to my own deficiencies as a human being than any more sophisticated thematic needs...

5) i'm unclear why the "insipid" empowerment theme argument fails. movie starts with her killing a housewife and ends with her killing someone identifying himself as "the man" and the villains become progressively masculine(including hannah) as the movie progresses... girl power's not my favorite theme, but... i prefer it to that left-field "lioness jungle" thing at the end, which threw me more...

5) i don't know that i read o-ren and go-go the same way. i thought the movie clearly had o-ren transform from cool assassin to caricature of japanese femininity; like vernita, she succeeded but only by the rules of the male heirarchy. similarly, go-go still wearing that outfit. (volume 2 seems a different movie; well, she starts killing the men in volume 2, and i guess i'd include hannah as a man(or mirror-self of the bride, if she'd stayed with bill)- budd refers to her as an amazon or viking or some such anyway...)

6) violence being problematic because its simultaneously blood-soaked romp and meditation on stoicism: not sure i understand this point. i can think of movies which have had both qualities, and i don't think this movie was particularly unusual as to this feature.

i could go on, but... i don't think i'm one of the "intellectual admirers;" i obviously seem to be one of the "male adolescent fans" enjoying the "wide-screen versions of the journal of a high-school spree killer." so, there's that. but mostly, i just wish the midget had died. there's always the deleted scenes.

Steven Berg

Hey, I think critical thought is fun. What am I supposed to do?

Dave Intermittent


If only it were; hey, I like my bread and circuses as much as the next guy, and would gladly have sat, smiling, through a movie about sexy ninja death. But that wasn't the movie QT made. And so instead I sit grimacing as the film lurches and shakes every time QT shifts tone and tries to elevate the film into a Statement on Vengence And Human Nature or somesuch. This film is flawed structurally just as much--if not moreso--as it is philosphically.

The violence isn't the problem. I'm even willing to look past the ideology the violence is tied to if the story is cool enough (in most cases). But when the violence undercuts the narrative....
well, it's asking a lot of me to watch a six hour film that is at war with itself.

Oh, and Steve? Go watch a Bergman film, you limp wristed.....(I kid, I kid).


Dave Van Domelen

I think Peter David put it well when he said volume 2 was Tarantino's version of a chick flick. And it certainly is, when compared to volume 1.

Vol2 never recaptures the ballet of blades that is the slaughter of the Crazy 88, no. But it's not trying to, either. Vol1 is Shaw Brothers, Vol2 is Sergio Leone (according to a QT interview, IIRC, anyway). The B&W "opening credits at the end" bit is a clear homage to the 50s westerns and revenge flicks.

But I ramble. Now, where did I leave that poisonous snake...?

Chad Imbrogno

I just had the pleasure of watching - or trying to watch - Kill Bill vol.1 for the first time the other night. While I didn't find the violence objectionable, I couldn't sit it through none the less so whatever the hell Tarantino was trying to say was lost on me. Aw hell, let's just quote the livejournal...

"Well, I tried to watch Kill Bill vol.1. Couldn't do it - after watching Gogo die (really after watching the lady get her arm cut off) I decided I didn't want to see any more. I had to walk out of Resident Evil when the laser beams began cutting people up, too. It would seem that I'm a wussy.

"But I don't think its as simple as that. I can sit through gore, actually - I've done it before and actually that really isn't what bothers me in these films. Its the suffering. I can't stand to see people suffer and die - thats why slasher films are the antithesis of what I can watch. Its all about good people suffering, and it just hurts to see that. In some ways it makes sense in that a good horror movie has you freaked out not by the gore but by the actual horror of the situation. Kill Bill evokes much of this even though it technically isn't a horror film. I didn't even get to the actual scene where the Bride is nearly killed but from the opening of the film I knew it was something I really didn't want to watch - it was meant to horrify.

"My roomate joked that "but if you don't watch the violence you won't become desensitized to it". But I have been desensitized - I can watch Isralis fire a missle into a crowd or see the aftermath of the bus bombing and feel little but sadness, not horror at the violence involved. Perhaps CNN and Fox news just don't have the directorial skills to bring about the true suffering like Tarentino does."


QT definately seemed to be doing his best to channel westerns, and visually he did. The opening shot is John Wayne at the end of The Searchers, and it goes on from there. But he draws enjoyment from the violence, and sometimes only enjoyment- something that the best westerns never did.

I've heard Tarantino's virtue being described as a love for all movies, and a willingness to take from all of them. His flaw, being, he won't necessarily ackowledge that some have good things to recall and some aren't. He didn't particularily add to the stories/genres he cited, he mostly made a mix tape.


"And so instead I sit grimacing as the film lurches and shakes every time QT shifts tone and tries to elevate the film into a Statement on Vengence And Human Nature or somesuch."

isn't this complaint(and many others that i've seen) just a complaint that the movie isn't BORING? that it has style? i saw the movie that didn't take itself seriously- it was called the Transporter. it was okay. people got transported... to hell. i don't know i get upset by aiming higher than that though.

i don't know i took any of it as a serious statement; perhaps taking it all as stylistic flourishes is more naive, but...

moreover, i really can't say i know what scene you mean at least in the first volume (the sonny chiba scenes were typical "overrespect the weapon" slash mentor scenes). the second volume perhaps near the end. but most of the second volume was clearly in spaghetti western territory, so a certain bigness of emotion seems to be expected.

Ken Lowery

Steven - Critical thought is fun. But what I'm seeing here is people beating a movie to death, whether they liked it or not, when the entire idea was to basically sit back, watch blood spurt, and watch talented actors chew up scenes and spit them out. People are analyzing (and overanalyzing) this movie as if it were The Magnificent Ambersons, right into the ground, only a week and a half after its second part has been released.

Hooray film discussion, but I seriously get the impression a lot of people are using this movie to soapbox their own personal beliefs (that crap about the 20th century intellectuals worshipping violence is certainly true, but then, that's true of every single century of human history ever... we are limp-wristed tea-sippers in comparison to our predecessors, believe me) or are just yapping to sound smart.

Marc - I just don't see QT really trying to "elevate" the film to anything. This movie is quite literally not about anything more than what it's about; as stated previous, Vol. 2 is more spaghetti western, and in a spaghetti western we have a fair amount of talking about vengeance. I don't think for a second QT (and we should include UT, since she had her part in character creation) takes any of these characters seriously.

Do you also believe that QT was trying to make a Serious Statement About Racism during Madsen and Chris Penn's dialogue about the former's time in jail, in Reservoir Dogs? Or that he was making a Serious Statement About Power Fantasies when he made his main character in True Romance a rising-to-the-challenge comic book nerd? How about a Serious Statement About Disparate Peoples Working Together To Overcome Greater Evils when the kidnappers and the kidnapped bonded while fending off vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn?

(I am aware he only wrote the last two examples, but he was also on set with FDTD the whole way through working with Rodriguez, and absolutely everything about TR screams QT.)

No, of course not. That would be silly. You'd be assigning higher motives and truths to movies that have no need of them. When you're critiquing QT's handling of the "Vengeance Trail" style story, you're basically saying the whole of vengeance movies, from whatever genre, is flawed and illogical. Well, frankly, no shit. Might as well critique the Merchant-Ivory films for being melodramatic. hcduvall's statement is perfect: this is a "mix tape" of a thousand movies that have come before this one, just like every single Tarantino movie ever.

I would disagree and say that spaghetti westerns fetishized violence just as much as chop-suey flicks; else why revolvers thundering like cannons and memorable underlying soundtracks for every bit of gunfighting?

Grand Statements are not being made, about anything at all. QT's characters are very, very talkative; this does not mean they're actually trying to Say Anything.


David Fiore

Am I the only one who thinks Tarantino is a crazy-ass gnostic who wouldn't know a genuine good time if it put its hand on his thigh and purred in his ear?


Ken Lowery



Kan Mattoo

That was a lot to read. A LOT TO READ.

But I must agree, both movies were fun. I really need to go back and watch 1 again.

Did anyone see the preview to Hero at their showing? I saw that flick already and I must say it's pretty dull. The trailer made it look so great. But it was pretty melodramatic. Crouching Tiger was a better flick.

Steven Berg

The thing is, if I saw From Dusk till Dawn, I'd do a critical reading of it.

Steven Berg

I do like katanas, though.


Wow! What a thread. I'll try to direct my responses to a couple of people, but it's going to take several comments to do so.

First up, Abhay - I agree (obviously) that containing objectionable material doesn't automatically make a scene or movie objectionable, but at the same time I would never claim that Bride's comatose rape is "necessary as a plot point" - plenty of "exciting things" can happen that aren't motivated by the Bride's rape, and she already has plenty of good reasons for revenge. I'm not saying that element shouldn't have been there - it is part of the movie's general and consistent portrayal of misogyny - but let's not pretend Tarantino was backed into a corner and had to go that way.

About the personal limitations of Bea's revenge - yeah, I am just shooting the breeze about how I'd like to have seen it go. (My dream revision: At that point, Bea had two Hanzo swords. She flings one, Budd's, and it lands in one of those wooden posts, vibrating madly right in front of the scarred girl... we are left to imagine the consequent army-of-whores-on-crippled-man violence.) But saying the movie's options are limited by the revenge genre doesn't wash - the movie's already a genre mishmash anyway, and Tarantino clearly could have gone in any direction he wanted.

Notice how some of these apologies oscillate between "It's all katanas and it doesn't mean anything" and "Tarantino was FORCED to do it that way"? Look, we're talking about a six-hour movie that Tarantino split in two rather than cut down, and Miramax let him do it - let's not pretend this movie represents anything other than the exact vision QT wanted.

Next - "on a plot level, i think its clear that the bride couldn't kill esteban because he controlled an army" - Uhhhhh... that's why she couldn't kill O-ren either, right?

As to the bogus empowerment theme - first of all, I like the way you set up her killing targets in order of ascending masculinity, right up to Charlie, er, Bill. (I wonder why she doesn't get to kill Budd? Why is he the one guy who gets the drop on her, and why does Elle Driver deny her vengeance on him?) And yeah, Driver is more masculine - look at what she's wearing, or at the fact that she does what Beatrix can't do with Budd. So she clambers up from happy housewife to Bad Dad (although she starts with a quick prologue with Buck and pal, the ultimate caricatures of dangerous masculinity).

I just don't buy the premise that the asskicking alone serves as "empowerment," for the same reason that I never bought Ally McBeal dancing around and acting like an idiot as "empowerment." They both present surface trappings of power or equality but do nothing to challenge the sexist, misogynist world that surrounds the characters. (By the way, I don't think the movie claims to be about feminist empowerment, to its credit since it's not.)

Interesting thoughts on O-ren and Gogo, and I completely agree that they succeed to the extent that they still play within the roles and rules of patriarchy.

Finally - "violence being problematic because its simultaneously blood-soaked romp and meditation on stoicism: not sure i understand this point." Sure, some movies blend violence with metacriticism very well - Crouching Tiger (though not particularly gory) or The Searchers or maybe Leone. Or the original Revenge Play with a Heart of Gold, Hamlet. I guess the real problem is that in Kill Bill as is so often the case with Tarantino, these two impulses pull off in completely different directions and don't seem that harmonized at all. The stoic frowns about bloodshed don't seem like part of the same movie as the House of Blue Leaves, frankly don't seem that sincere at all. (When do we ever see Bride/Beatrix repulsed by her own violence? We know she was, when she left Bill, but where do we see it in this movie?) I get the feeling that Tarantino put them in to be "serious" - or because that's what his sources did - but not because he really means them.

Next up: I dunno, maybe I'll tackle Ken Lowery's brilliant George Costanza impression. "KATANAS!!!"

Matthew Rossi

Uhm... how about that Hellboy, huh? (Only movie I've seen recently, sadly.)


My last shot on QT: I suppose, in the end, its that he likes the same movies I do in a different way, without too much assessment. But its clear he's thought about it- O-Ren's apology to the Bride about the "White girl with Asian toys" is the most convincing pt he can make about his appropiating another group's verve earnestly.

But Kung-fu, samurai, and westerns are mostly just genres (in a generally dismissive way) to people and they can have a lot to say- and I feel like he tried but missed a chance to say something new. If his characters were just being talkative, then he's wasting a lot of my time that could be filled with katanas.

As for Hero, it looks pretty. I've seen it too, the melodrama weakend the Rashomon aspect a lot to me. The trailer's pretty misleading though. Love Jet Li as I do, its got Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love) and thats a bigger sell. CTHC is more enjoyable, but I think a bad comparison, Hero's a different kind of movie. It tried for a more difficult tone I think, but failed (or may'be it didn't, I think I just disagree with it).

Ken Lowery

"Notice how some of these apologies oscillate between "It's all katanas and it doesn't mean anything" and "Tarantino was FORCED to do it that way"? Look, we're talking about a six-hour movie that Tarantino split in two rather than cut down, and Miramax let him do it - let's not pretend this movie represents anything other than the exact vision QT wanted."

The thing is, I'm not apologizing or saying QT was compromised in some way. I'm saying that this movie doesn't mean a damn thing, and that's how he wants it to be. I'm sorta hating having this discussion because I come off as increasingly anti-intellectual or something, but I really think most people are just beating this movie to death because it kills time.

I still say that his characters are just talkative for the sake of providing us good, entertaining dialogue. This is true of every single one of QT's movies. Me? I found it entertaining as hell, and far superior to Vol. 2.

Ken Lowery

Er... meant to say far superior to Volume *1*. Whoops.

Anyway, I wasn't knowingly channeling Castanza, but hey... I'm here to entertain. :)


Not to go heavy on authorial intent, which I hate, but part of what made the movie problematic and difficult for me was what Tarantino said about it, that he did think it was a moving, emotional story and that he thought it was intensely meaningful and all about the ass-kicking feminism and the redemptive status of motherhood. And Uma Thurman talked at great length about how shocked she was to realize when she got to the death scene that she felt pity for Bill, because even from the script she hadn't expected it. Somehow if they'd managed to say smart things that could have salvaged the movie for me, but this doomed it.

I know I've already talked about this movie way too much, though not here, and basically I could have liked it if I could believe what Ken does, but that just doesn't work for me. And it's because I enjoyed parts of it so much that the "failings" (as I see them) frustrate me so much. Because it's too good not to have been better, it can't capture my affection like the so-awful-it's-amazing Masked and Anonymous.


I'm putting myself in the uncomfortable position of wading in on a detailed movie review without having seen it myself. Not to condemn it, I'm sure you're relieved to know, but because it is so OBVIOUSLY my kind of movie that the criticisms laid out here might as well apply to any number of films I adore. Actually more so, as Tarantino brings a style and skill to his work that challenges (perhaps not ultimately refutes, but challenges) his own material in a way that, say, _Reanimator_ does not. Even if his qualifiers and counterpoints are ultimately undermined and dismissed in the face of his enthuiasm for the exploitative side, the fact is it is artistically acknowledged unlike, say, _Dead/Alive_. Those movies also fail, and far less ambiguously, at being not-misogynistic and glorifying of violence.

Perhaps it is just the veneer of auteur that Tarantino brings that makes KB12 different, but a misogynistic or exhuberantly over-violent criticism of those movies is really too obvious to be meaningful. And dismissive of the wonderfully adept mix of revulsion, horror, titilation and hilarity that flat out entertains more satisfyingly than pornography, medical dissection films and soap operas. No amount of down-the-nose-gazing critiques speak effectively to that, even the fairly leveled ones.

"I thought this was both shocking and exciting."

This reminded me of a comment my brother and I heard coming out of _Blue Velvet_. The creepiest part of a creepy evening. There's a thing as knowing TOO much about someone you barely know. Eh, like say this post.

Just realized all I've done is mount a verbose restatement of "It's fun. That's all." Acknowledging the implicit heads-up that this kind of fun is dirty and nothing to base a life-view on, I'm comfortable with that.

Kan Mattoo



Okay, now on to Ken (and maybe Jeff).

I think the "it's all just fun" response actually does more injustice to the movie than some of its critics do. Yes, the movie is fun - that's the first and best reason to see it. But it doesn't pretend only to be fun (really, where's the "fun" in Buck?), in fact it constantly gestures towards some kind of thematic depth - and even if you feel it doesn't attain that depth, that's a valid criticism in and of itself. I'm not sure the movie "means" a damn thing either, but it keeps telling us it means something more than just ninjas and revenge.

Basically, I think the movie is too ambitious, too well made to be dismissed as empty entertainment. Tarantino himself keeps us from writing it off as "KATANAS!", even if the katanas are indeed its greatest selling point.

And then there's this bit, from Ken...

Do you also believe that QT was trying to make a Serious Statement About Racism during Madsen and Chris Penn's dialogue about the former's time in jail, in Reservoir Dogs? Or that he was making a Serious Statement About Power Fantasies when he made his main character in True Romance a rising-to-the-challenge comic book nerd? How about a Serious Statement About Disparate Peoples Working Together To Overcome Greater Evils when the kidnappers and the kidnapped bonded while fending off vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn?

I think this makes a pretty simple mistake; just because those three features of those three movies are ostensibly Not Serious, does that mean every aspect of every Quentin Tarantino movie ever made is to be exempted from scrutiny?

Are we supposed to pretend that the drama of Resevoir Dogs doesn't revolve around friendship and loyalty just because it's got that peppy, aimless dialogue? Or that the Butch sequence from Pulp Fiction isn't about male pride and male bonding just because that theme is delivered in such a tongue-in-cheek manner in the brilliant Walken monologue? (If so, why does that whole episode revolve around things being put into and taken out of other guys' anuses?) Are we supposed to pretend Kill Bill has nothing to say about sexism and misogyny when they feature in almost every encounter - and if it doesn't, wouldn't that make the movie worse, just the kind of exploitation flick its admirers (like me) say it rises above? Sometimes the seriousness is what redeems this stuff. And it's also what complicates it, since sometimes the movies posture towards a seriousness they don't support.

At any rate, I'd rather watch the movies that are worth talking about - on most days, I get more enjoyment from that.

Ironically, I actually liked Kill Bill quite a bit (1 moreso than 2, at least initially, although the violence was of course a lot more unsettling), and thought I was writing a piece in favor of it against some of the more ideologically-oriented critiques I've seen. (I would have liked to have written more, in the initial piece, about the parts that exhilarated me, but that would have just been a boring tabulation of stylistic devices.) I guess I just bristle when I see anyone claiming we should shut off all our critical faculties, even if it's for something I enjoy.


I think my post was as much or more a reaction to the sources you cited as to your own exploration, whose positive conclusion was not lost on me. In fact, I happened to enjoy your layered analysis, and did not mean to imply "Apply 'fun' label, rinse until critical feeling goes away."

Like you, I guess I'm just a little unsatisfied with critiques that bandy about 'misogynistic' and 'exploitation' and all the attendant cultural baggage. I just reacted more to the dismissal of the guilty, heady entertainment value these provide to the talented filmmaker. Maybe it's stale critical ground that it sounds so wrong but feels so right, but still, it does!

Put another way, I'm not sure well-executed entertainment, including God help me cheesey entertainment, requires redemption. Even towing misogyny and ultr-violence.

To your point, I would never dream of cutting off dialogue on intellectual layers that pile on top, particularly where ambition enhances the overall experience. Or falls short. We can both have our way!

As a compromise I will, any time any where, discuss _Reanimator_ on any level. Including misogynistic undertones. :]

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