Here comes the bride
Vivica A. Fox
Running Time: 111 minutes
UK Certificate: 18
Country: United States
With only three feature films to his name – ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992), ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994) and ‘Jackie Brown’ (1997) – at least two of which were hip classics, Quentin Tarantino has a peculiar status. On the one hand he is the most influential director of the 1990s, whose postmodern resuscitation of 1970s sensibilities and forgotten actors redefined the exciting potential of cinema for a whole new generation, delighting critics and the public alike. On the other hand, he has become a victim of his own influence, being unjustly blamed for the many inferior imitations which his films have inspired. So it is good to see the genuine article once again, and ‘Kill Bill: Volume 1’, Tarantino’s first film in six years, is a timely reminder of his extraordinary talent.
‘Kill Bill’ was originally conceived as a single, epically long film, but Miramax, keen to double both their profits and their chances at the Oscars, persuaded Tarantino to cut it neatly into two (much as its sword-bearing heroine does to her opponents). Still, after seeing this first volume, with its 111 minutes of over-the-top violence, raven-black humour, complicated narrative and stunning visuals, its show-stopping twenty-minute action climax and a final revelation in the best ‘Luke, I am your father’ tradition of cliffhangers, you will be too busy cleaning up your own drool to feel in any way short-changed. Tarantino has taken all the very best ingredients from Chinese kung-fu flicks, Japanese yakuza films, spaghetti westerns, the French new wave and all manner of 1970s exploitation cinema, thrown them all together into one big pot, and distilled from it entertainment in its purest form.
Uma Thurman puts in another instantly iconic performance as ‘The Bride’, a woman-with-no-name righteously annoyed at her former partners in the Deadly Vipers Assassin Squad and in particular at her boss and ex-lover Bill (David Carradine, never properly seen in Volume 1), who gunned her down at her own wedding. Awoken from a four-year coma with a metal plate in her head and a thirst for vengeance, she sets out to challenge her betrayers to the death, one by one. Yet what sounds like a straightforward revenge plot turns out to be something altogether more involving, as Tarantino’s dramatic breaches of standard chronology not only keep things interestingly non-linear, but also enable the introduction of a number of subplots, equally about revenge, which complicate our interpretation of the main revenge plot, its causes and its consequences.
‘Kill Bill: Volume 1’ is simply beautiful to look at and listen to. Different sections are told in different genre styles. There are sequences in colour, in black-and-white, a long episode in exquisite animé, and the final duel with O-Ren Ishi (Lucy Liu) – after the Bride has brutally slashed, gouged and hacked her way through her 88 henchmen on a modern club dancefloor – takes place in a snow-swept Japanese garden that looks like a classical painting. And in this mixed palette there is the ever-dominant colour of yellow (as often as not splattered in blood red) which this film truly makes its own signature. Yet for all its bold experimentation, ‘Kill Bill: Volume 1’ never ceases to be anything but accessible, guaranteeing that you, at least, will get all the satisfaction you demand.
It's Got: EVERYTHING you have ever wanted from a bigscreen film - AND lots of yellow to boot.
It Needs: A sequel - oh, its got one...
Quentin Tarantino is a genius, and this is his masterwork. Exuberant, inventive, kinetic, violent and fun, it grabs your attention right from the beginning and never lets go. Quite possibly the reason cinema was invented.