CITY LIFE 15 OCT, 2003
“Where’s the resonaance..?” Quentin Tarantino on Kill Bill
“I’m doing this shot where Uma swings the sword at this girl’s throat. And the idea is that the camera’s behind the girl. Uma’s like this – SHWAH! – swings, the camera’s right over here. and as she grabs her throat – PSHHHH! – she squeezes the condom, and then the blood – PSSHHHH! – spurts out like that, towards the camera. And we did it. and it’s a Chinese condom, who knows where the blood’s gonna go? You know. so we’re doing it 10, 12, 13 times. And the blood keeps gong – PSHHHH! – down her front. And its supposed to – PSHHEE! – go out like that. And I swear to goodness, umm, at some point I feel like, I felt like Chang Cheh (70s martial arts movie master) talked to me. And he kind of came to me. And he said: ‘Hang in there. Quentin. It’s gonna work out.”
Quentin Tarantino, black jacket and zebra print shirt, is in the place where he’s happiest: in the midst of a blood-soaked movie reverie, recalling the shooting of his new film Kill Bill, and in particular the blood. He clearly loves the blood – so much no that he giggles every time the word ‘blood’ is said.
By now, no doubt, the Kill Bill precis will have reached you: 1) Uma Thurrnan stars as The Bride in a Shaw Brothers-inspired kung fu revenge extravaganza: 2) there’s a samurai fight sequence at the end which has been described as one of the bloodiest spectacles ever filmed: 3) conceived originally as a single rollicking splatterfest, the movie was split into two instalments at the behest of Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein. It’s a film that is gong to divide critics like no Tarantino movie has before. A Roaring Rampage Of Revenge, the poster proclaims. A roaring rampage of arse, your reviewer reckons. Neil Young’s review appears elsewhere in this issue, and we needn’t duplicate his thoughts here.
The opportunity to sit and listen to Quentin Tarantino for three quarters of an hour affords some interesting insights. First off (for my money at least) the Tennessee tinhorn /movie geek thing has, if anything, been underplayed in the past. In those heady days when the movie world worshipped at the feet of the Pulp Fiction-meister we took the geek thing with a pinch of salt in the knowledge that our hero could mix gore with Godard on some postmodernist level playing field. Today it all feels different though. It all starts when, asked if Uma Thurman’s female avenger reflects a feminist side to the director. Tarantino replies in considerable earnest: “I would probably use the words ‘Girl Power”.
Behind the bluster there’s a heavy duty self defence mechanism kicking in. “You know,” he says, “I’ve actually heard people – and it can be said, actually (adopts fruity French accent) ‘Well where’s the resonaance?’ All right? Now my feeling is, it’s there but you don’t need it. All right? When I watched, growing up, Avenging Eagle and Five Fingers of Death I wouldn’t think (French accent) ‘where’s the resonaance?‘ I WAS GETTING OFF, MAN! ALL RIGHT? THIS WAS THE SHIT! ALL RIGHT? So that’s where I was corning from. All right? i think it’s there but it don’t have to be there. It’s there if you want it. All right? The (French accent) ‘resonance’ is in Volume 2. All right?”
Right you are, Quentin. Resonaance.
“When it came up to do the House of Blue Leaves fight I was trying to think up every inventive, most entertaining way I could of howda…dismember and disbowel [sic] and put to an end those bastards. Err….you know, I was out there trying to create one of the greatest, most exciting sequences in the history of cinema. So I was definitely working overtime. One of the things I’m actually really proud of, amongst other things, all right, is that the movie doesn’t stop while that scene goes on. I think there’s actually storytelling going on in the course of it. I looked hard to try to see A someonc reading from a picture book in the <one( Al the screen during that SCqUE nce. because that in.:10 have been the only storytelling to be found it.”
I look hard to try to see if someone is reading from a picture book in the corner of the screen during that sequence. For me, it is neither inventive nor entertaining by modern standards. The world has moved on. We have Hollywood’s own take on Wuxia now in the form of such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix now (though choreographer Wu Ping had a hand in all three). If the fight at the House of Blue Leaves is the greatest fight sequence in the history of cinema then the end of the Blues Brothers is the greatest care chase in movie history. All right?
“If I could have done it as two movies from the get-go I would have ,” says Quentin. “But to bring it up to Harvey Weinstein and say: ‘Hey! I got an idea! Why don’t we make it two movies! All right? That would have maybe had a tendency to set up a warning sign, or a red flag, you know, right off the bat, which I thought might not have been prudent. But when it actually happened, er, Harvey Weinstein came on the set, and er, in the last month of shooting, came on and said: ‘You know I hurt like hell that we have to lose anything – why don’t we make it two movies? And I was like: ‘That’s a great idea, Harvey! Genius!!”
Kill Bill isn’t just a disappointment – it falls so far short of the director’s previous work it makes you go back and question the qualities Tarantino brought to bear on his first movies. It makes you wonder if Harvey Weinstein didn’t shit a brick when he saw the rushes. It makes the Quentin’s cast-offs and side projects True Romance, Natural Born Killers, From Dusk Til Dawn, each of them, look very, very good. A sneak peek at the shooting script for Vol 2 (if the ones on the ‘net are to be trusted) offers a modicum of evidence that what Tarantino promises in terms of resonaance he may deliver on to some extent. But it won’t save the chop-socky mess that is Vol 1 or leave Tarantino without the first major mark against his hallowed reputation. Or alleviate the suspicion gleaned from listening to him that deep down the director knows it himself.