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Kill Bill (1) – dressed to kill, well Uma is anyway

dressed to kill - well Uma is

dressed to kill - well Uma is

Kill Bill (1) – Quentin Tarantino

Kill Bill (1) is like an expensive, super-cool, shiny, intriguing executive toy. Everyone admires and is impressed by its cleverness and design. It is amusing, diverting, conversation stopping – and totally pointless. Its only function is to be what it is. It has no purpose, or value. It is totally self-referential.

To subject Kill Bill to serious analysis would be plain silly. Like trying to grasp a cleverly blown smoke ring. It has no substance or point, but the swirling smoke in the perfect pattern fascinates the gaze. Blowing smoke rings is a neat little skill. But you do it idly just because you can and it attracts people’s attention. Kill Bill is an in-joke, with its references to comic books, Saturday morning pictures, schlock Kung Fu movies and more disturbingly, a kind of jokey Japanese racial stereotype. As battalions of black suited, Zorro-masked orientals launch themselves at Uma Thurman the only surprise is not which limb will be gushing blood but that they don’t all yell “Ahh so!” in chorus.

As ever with Tarantino, in the cinematic skill department there is much to admire: innovative structure; a witty, ironic visual style; great use of music and slick music-video editing. But even here, all is surface. There is none of the elegance and grace of John Woo’s fight scenes for example – Kill Bill is literally visual over-kill, collapsing at times into a Pythonesque black farce with gushing decaptitations, dis-memberments and of course such a witty play on the sexual undertone of penetration by Samurai sword. Wilkinsons missed a great product placement opportunity. This slicing, cutting, thrusting (ged it?) slashing cut-fest of a movie is fetishistic in tone.

And so to dear Uma and Lucy Liu. For such a movie freak, it is surprising that Tarantino didn’t pick up the Charlie’s Angels negative cross-resonance from the casting of Lucy Liu. Or maybe that’s just another clever little double bluff that only the cool folk are supposed to understand. Liu plays stereotypical, comic book oriental impassivity well enough though it hardly seems fair that in the final fatal showdown Uma gets full freedom of movement in a fetching yellow leather tracksuit while Lucy tries to remain inscrutable as she struggles to look athletic and lethal in a cross between Japanese Geisha gear and an overwrought wedding dress.

The idea that this movie has anything to say about anything, especially women, is plain ludicrous. Pull the other one Quentin. Much of the underlying sexiness in the movie, centred very dubiously on female retributive violence, displays more a series of adolescent fantasies than any adult sense of a strong feminine identity. Despite a body count only just exceeding the D-Day landings, there is nothing genuinely dark or disturbing here at all. Many of the amputees look like refugees from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Hey Quentin: the penny’s just dropped! The film is intended to be a joke. Hey man – how cool is that? Amputation, decapitation, disembowelment as slapstick. Uber cool. If we could just get one of the slanty-eyed Men-In-Black Zorros to slip on a banana skin and impale himself on an upturned Samurai sword, it would bring the house down.

Tanrantino is a talented if flashy, technically innovative filmaker with a rare and creditable respect for words and dialogue. If he ever decides to put these talents to work in film that is actually about something he might surprise us all. But I doubt if he’ll bother to try so long as he is lionised and over-praised for just blowing a few very expensive, fancy smoke rings.

(July 2004)

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