Monday, April 19, 2004

Vile Jelly: Some Notes on Kill Bill: Vol. II

* There's a line from a Leonard Cohen song that keeps coming to mind when I think of Quentin Tarantino's latest pair of movies -- a line you may even recall from the Tarantino-scripted Natural Born Killers: "Give me crack and anal sex." There's no crack or anal sex that I remember in Kill Bill, either Vol. I -- which I actually willingly and mostly enjoyably sat through twice last fall -- or Vol. II, which I saw last night, but as movies they're all about hardcore sensation and little else: delivering new, sensuous, fleshy, bloody and somewhat boundary-breaking thrills. Tarantino is the most joyful of sadists, and there's a kind of -- I don't know -- strange bond between Tarantino and his viewers, isn't there? People can't wait to be punished by him. His movies aim for a violence that's not just over the top, but nasty. In the latest movie, after the (apparently) immortal Uma Thurman takes a double-barrelled shotgun blast to the chest, her assailant Budd (Michael Madsen) cracks wise about how much it must hurt to have rock-salt shot in your tits. Tarantino likes going after the soft and vulnerable parts of the body. There's another scene where Budd holds a mace can mere centimeters from Thurman's fearful eyes, and Budd himself will wind up with big, lumpy pustulent snake bites to the face; there are also two other eye-gougings besides. One ends with the eye being squashed by Thurman's bare foot -- an homage, I suspect, to the scene in King Lear between Cornwall and the Duke of Gloucester. The poor old duke, you may recall, is strapped in a chair, sort of like poor Marvin Nash in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, losing an ear as Mr. Blonde (Madsen again) tortures him for his sport. (Maybe it's all Tarantino ever remembered from Shakespeare: you know, the "good parts.") Chris Orr in the latest The New Republic called the first film "morally repulsive," and I'm not sure that isn't the point.

(More to come; I'm trying to compose this piecemeal as I find the time, which is getting harder to come by.)

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