Friday, November 21, 2003

What's the best way to generate content for your own blog? Respond to someone else's. My thoughts on Liz Penn's review of Kill Bill:

Well, it looks like I'm going to have to take the opposing opinion. I saw Kill Bill the weekend it came out and loved it so much I went back the next weekend to see it again with my seventeen-year-old daughter. All week long I had to bite my tongue to keep from talking about it; I wanted to tell her in detail about all the scenes. Shit, I wanted to tell the whole world about it.

I don't usually see movies more than once, but when I do, it's almost always for the same reason: I want those thrills to hit me all over again. There are movies of considerable depth where you need more than one viewing just to really get it, and there are movies with great stories you love seeing again, but the movies I'm referring to here are roller-coaster rides -- once it's over you just want to climb back on and do it again. Once, for me, simply was not enough to see Indiana Jones chased by the boulder, or to see the ghosts in Poltergeist, or the fantastic opening sequence of Blow Out (and everything that came after as well, nutty as it sometimes was.) And once was not enough to experience the bloody menace of the mace-wielding Go-Go Yubari, or that blood-drenched anime sequence, or the tremendously theatrical slaughter of the Crazy 88's in Kill Bill. At times, it kind of reminded me of the blood in Kurosawa's Ran; I'm thinking of one scene where a guy is on the ground profusely bleeding, and all the blood around him forms a very deliberate, artistic pattern -- hyper-realistic, hyper-aesthetic violence.

Part of the movie's pull is that it is almost a kind of anti-movie; not in the purely Godardian sense, but not all that far from it, either. This became especially clear to me over the weekend, a good month after I saw it, when I was watching that Martin Scorsese documentary about American movies. It included a clip from Vincente Minnelli's film about Hollywood, The Bad and the Beautiful, where Kirk Douglas, as a film producer, is reading the riot act to a director for the way he had handled a particular scene. The director replies: “I could make the scene a climax.  I could make every scene a climax.  If I did, I would be a bad director.  A picture of all climaxes is like a necklace without a string.  It falls apart.”

Well, I thought: that's it. That's what Kill Bill is -- a film that is all climaxes, and it works. I think that's what makes it such a jarring film, besides the violence; it's a little disorienting that we aren't given much build-up; hell, the movie begins the way most movies end, and it keeps, well, climaxing and climaxing. It's a brilliantly choreographed, multi-orgasmic bloodfeast.

P.S. I am fascinated by your comments on Salo. I hated it -- I thought the movie was an act of cruelty on the audience. Pasolini was in a position a bit like Bunuel's with Un Chien Andalou: he wanted to provoke and offend the audience's liberal sensibilities. Pasolini didn't like the people who watched his movies, I don't think, and he wanted to rub their nose in this one, and he went way, way, way past overkill. I think if you're going to find a point in that movie, that's where you have to start, with Pasolini's hostility to the audience, with how much they are willing to take; nothing about the story itself really justifies the way he filmed it, because whatever point he wanted to make about the connection between de Sade and Naziism could have been made in far less time. I think he wanted, rather, to say the audience was somehow culpable in the horrors that allowed the Holocaust to happen, that he wanted to indict them, to punish them for watching all this shit-eating and eye-gouging. It's an awful picture, a horrible picture, an unwatchable picture -- but so were Warhol's, weren't they? Like his, it's an unwatchable film about the act of watching. It's an essay, a cruel essay, on the viewer.

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