Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003, Quentin Tarantino)
!!!!! AVOID !!!!!
[Note: I was unable to get past 45 minutes of this when attempting to revisit it for the IMDB list project, and even if I had managed to hack it there’s little chance I’d have wanted to waste time writing a long piece about how deeply and violently I detest every single thing about it. Luckily, the 23 year-old version of me had a considerably greater reserve of patience and of expectation that other people would really want to read something like that (via LiveJournal!). So I present my original review verbatim; even though it’s less polished and tempered than something I’d want posted under my name now, I can’t say my opinion of Kill Bill has changed any since 2007. I might stop short of calling Quentin Tarantino “scum” now but not because I wouldn’t have the impulse to do so. Paragraph breaks have been altered and a few notes have been added in brackets. Enjoy!]
You’re reading this because you’re in the mood to read a pan. Well, let’s see how well I can deliver. We shall journey through my sitting down with Kill Bill through the magic of my note-taking, since the film was so awful I’ve sort of repressed it by this point. Let’s be fair to Quentin Tarantino for a second and admit that he’s at an immediate disadvantage when the time comes for me to review one of his movies; I hate his work and I hate what I know of him as a person. He’s a self-adoring fuckwit. But let’s be fair to me and say that if Tarantino made a good movie I would not even hesitate to praise it. [2015 note: see here and especially here for subsequent confirmation.] Just so you know I’m serious.
But Kill Bill, Vol. 1 is not a good movie, and if any film thus far has given me doubts about this whole “lists project” thing I’m on, it’s this one. Good things I can say about it: Like all of Tarantino’s films, it is brilliantly edited [by the late Sally Menke, the true artistic giant of the director’s films]. I liked it very slightly more than Pulp Fiction, one of my least favorite movies in history, for two reasons. The first is that it is marginally less cutesy; it doesn’t have as much dialogue, which is good because I loathe Tarantino’s pseudo-witty dialogue. The second is that it is a cliffhanger, and I have an intense fetish for cliffhanger endings.
However, everything else about this movie is vile. It opens with a 1-2 punch that immediately lost me: its first shot is Uma Thurman torture porn. Critics hate torture porn… except when Tarantino’s name is on it. Come to think of it, critics hate flashy overbaked action and soulless commercial pandering… unless Tarantino is the man who brought it to them. Not since Nirvana have so many intelligent experts on a given subject been so seduced by something so mediocre (if not offensive).
I expected to have to sit through indulgent shit like the first shot, though. What irked me a million times more was the incredibly pretentious credit that followed; I think I audibly groaned even though I was alone. I don’t like possessory credits to begin with. Alfred Hitchcock and Woody Allen never took them for good reasons; they’re stupid and redundant, not to mention misleading. Steven Spielberg does use them, and I don’t like it. I hate “A __ Film” but I hate “A Film by __” even more. And that’s nothing compared to the extreme anger I feel whenever I see “A Martin Scorsese [or Jonathan Demme] Picture”, which makes me want to scream. But from now on I think I’ll look past this because this movie opens with… “The 4th Film by Quentin Tarantino.”
Oh. My. God. Has there been a hack in any field in the world, ever, more impressed with himself? I bet he fucking watches this movie — his very own — and jerks off, like, every day. I bet he ejaculates when he sees that “4th Film By” thing. WHO FUCKING CARES HOW MANY MOVIES THE DIRECTOR HAS MADE BEFORE THIS ONE YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE? Nobody, except you and your fanboys. AAaaargh. There’s no way I can explain how stupid this looks to me. To clarify, if “The 4th Film by Tarantino” is in the trailers, or on the poster, that makes some sense to me. But in the movie!? Christ.
The movie that proceeds — 111 minutes that feel like twice as many — is mostly a series of fight scenes, full of pointless stylistic masturbation lifted from other movies whose exact identities I don’t care enough to look up. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction stole from movies I’ve actually seen (or at least heard of). Kill Bill raids Japanese cinema, and as uncultured as this probably makes me sound, I don’t care much about the obscure kung-fu movies Tarantino has a jones for, and I don’t really give a rat’s ass if he wants to steal from them. The point is, his movie is like a baby’s toy, empty of emotion and increasingly filthy as it goes on.
It’s not unusual these days for a director to misread Truffaut’s and Godard’s experimentation and play around with slow motion and shit; such masks for a lack of creativity have become rather common. But Tarantino’s positioning of an entire ten-minute sequence as a fake “anime”? For no reason except that it looks cool? That’s a new one, and I don’t welcome it. I’ve seen tons of rotten hippie ’60s cash-ins, and I’ve never seen a movie that so transparently kowtowed to current trends of what’s Cool. I recently said that the Lord of the Rings movies will look quite stupid twenty years from now; I stand by that. But Kill Bill will be absolutely unwatchable, I predict even for those who currently count it as a masterpiece. Because it’s purely and entirely disposable.
Check that. Disposable for everyone except Tarantino, who makes movies seemingly just to try and duplicate his own experiences of watching movies. Why this should have any bearing on anyone else’s life or interest I don’t know. Vol. 2 includes a jumbled, shaky jump to 1.33:1 for no reason. This is because Tarantino first saw some musty Italian classic for the first time on a shitty pan & scan videotape… and wanted to recreate that experience. Why? Why would anyone except Tarantino have that frame of reference? Why does he (or Cameron Crowe, while we’re keeping score) get the money to liven up his nostalgia trips? Shouldn’t he be more worried about connecting his (lack of) life experience to the audience instead of cobbling together a bunch of low-minded meta-references?
Tarantino’s movies are junk, and at that, they are pompous junk. Not only is the movie too long, every single scene is too long. Fight scenes that should go on for two minutes, tops, last a quarter hour. No wonder he had to split it into two fucking movies. His soundtracks, meanwhile, are the movie equivalent to Family Guy: look how pop-culture educated I am. Go on a fucking game show, quit making movies. Please. One of my pet peeves is scenes that go on longer just so the director can get more of some goddamn song he likes in. I don’t think any director worth his salt would ever do that.
And oh my god, the stupid fucking Malcolm in the Middle sound effects (like the “whoosh” when a guy’s head turns). The obvious lecherous fascination with Asian women. The kung-fu staging and cutting, which is no different from stuff like the Charlie’s Angels movies that would never in a billion years be taken this seriously (not that they should). The completely random periodic shifts to black and white which have absolutely no bearing on anything and make no sense. I hate directorial choices made for no reason. That isn’t directing. To use the same old analogy again, it’s jerking off. And I have no interest in that. That’s Tarantino’s entire career. His hand is rested permanently on his cock, which he strokes for two hours. And hipsters are always there to lap it all up. But it’s none of my business; they can have it. I knew what I was in for when I started to watch this movie, and I’m sure Tarantino’s fans (who I don’t mean to patronize, but this is my own space) know what they’re going to get when they go see his movies and I’m sure they sincerely enjoy it.
But there came a point during Kill Bill when I just knew that Tarantino and I aren’t even in the same universe of perception of the world. During the animated sequence, which was already offensive because it was so completely arbitrary and so self-consciously Cool, a scared young girl — who grows up to be Lucy Liu — is hiding under a bed; on top of it is her mother, who is being brutally stabbed to death by a Yakuza killer. Blood soaks through the mattress, forming little droplets that fall on the little girl as she weeps. At that moment I realized that Quentin Tarantino is not merely a bad director. He is not merely an annoying asshole. He is scum. It’s just my opinion, but I do mean it, and I want to type it again: Scum.