24 Lies a Second

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Second Sight

Hello again everyone, and in the highly unlikely event of anyone feeling distraught at last week's lack of 24LAS, a review of Hidalgo and much other useless old tosh can be found in the Vault of Lies. Everything the reader untroubled by discernment could ask for!

Onto new business and the second volume of Quentin Tarantino's epic revenge melodrama Kill Bill. Attentive masochists may recall that I was less than taken with the first installment for all manner of reasons, and so I must confess to turning up for the second half with expectations that were less than stellar - to be honest, I was expecting to hate it. Well, I didn't: but I'm not really sure how much of this is down to the quality of the film and how much is the result of my possibly figuring how Tarantino wants his film to be approached.

There's a sense in which the plot of the Kill Bill movies is the least important element of the whole enterprise, but it's as good a place to start as any. Uma Thurman once again plays a revenge-obsessed assassin known only as the Bride, and the film opens with her two-fifths of the way through her hit list of former colleagues (those who massacred her wedding party, for anyone who's forgotten). Next up is redneck slimeball Budd (Michael Madsen), followed by the cyclopean Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) - and, finally, Bill (David Carradine) himself...

I say that Kill Bill's plot is the least important element of the film - and what I mean by this is that this isn't a conventional film one should turn up to expecting to be drawn into a consistent and believable narrative with three-dimensional characters and so on. Kill Bill isn't consistent and it isn't believable, and it makes no attempt to be: it changes wildly in tone and style throughout the different 'chapters' that comprise it, and is by turns naturalistic, operatic, OTT, fantastical, repulsive, comedic, and theatrical (actors play multiple roles). In places it is also variously slow and wordy, and also rather pretentious. The bedrock of Tarantino's career is his ability as a pasticheur, and that gets its fullest expression here, as multiple genres are reproduced one after the other. The key to enjoying this film is not to worry about the larger narrative and just appreciate what each segment has to offer.

Of course this has its downside too: the film is so upfront about its own artificiality that when it eventually attempts to be genuinely moving and emotional, it has a much harder job to do. It can't be so cool and ironic for most of its length and then suddenly expect the audience to care about the characters as much as it would like. That it generates any kind of emotive punch at all is mainly down to Thurman's performance, and particularly that of Carradine (displaying a reptilian charisma throughout).

And I'm still not wild about the offhand, faintly comic tone of the violence (much of it misogynistic) that punctuates the film. Tarantino's fan-club will probably say that it's only a film and that there's nothing wrong with being entertained by or even laughing at this sort of thing - which presumably means it would be perfectly okay for the great man's next offering to be a screwball comedy about paedophilia, assuming it was sufficiently stylish and witty (and contained enough obscure references to world cinema).

Anyway, while I'm still not entirely won over I am much more cheerily disposed to the project than I was. The action choreography is particularly spiffy, and fingers crossed Daryl Hannah will get a career bump off the back of this. The same goes for Michael Madsen, who gives a remarkable performance - somehow managing to be simultaneously worthless and repellent, but also weirdly sympathetic.

In the end the Kill Bill movies aren't much more than the cinematic equivalent of a particularly eclectic and well-put-together set of compilation mix tapes - for every bit you can't stand there'll be another you'll be delighted by, always assuming music's your thing. They are, probably inevitably, less than the sum of their parts, and it's still up for debate as to whether Tarantino's decision to essentially invent his own new style of cinema is a mark of genius or just a way of avoiding being held to the same critical standards as everyone else - but he remains a film-maker of note. Kill Bill is a virtuoso display of his style - its limitations as well as its possibilities.

The Awix


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