First off, it is one movie- and Ebert would agree with me: “It’s not a sequel but a continuation and completion, filmed at the same time; now that we know the whole story” I’m also going to go with Roger on “Tarantino has made a masterful saga”.
Like all Tarantino post-Pulp Fiction it has flaws (which I’ll get to) and gets talkative in spots—but the highs here are incredibly high—visually arresting– ambitious
It’s Tarantino so there are influences galore—too many to count from Leone to Star Trek—but one to note is Lady Snowblood (lots of the plot and some of the formal reoccurring cues – the audio siren when she sees one of the gang) from 1973- an incredible film that I caught up with about a decade after Kill Bill – it made my 2019 list of top 500 films of all-time
Mark Caro from the Chicago Tribune calls it “the most gorgeous b-movie ever made”- I think debating what a B-Movie is gets us nowhere but my first reaction is to agree.
The b/w opening to Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” is impressively striking. Carradine’s baritone with the “do you find me sadistic?”
The storytelling is great but the voice-over formally runs into some issues- Thurman is there every once in a while… we have the yellow titles giving us the chapters (which is well done)
Like most of QT’s best work the narrative structure is non-linear—we’re in the middle here not only with the opening b/w but jumping right into a fight with Vivica Fox—then we get the origin story (and origin stories for others)
I love checking off the boxes on some glorious trademark QT shots—the overhead shot of the carnage, the trunk shot (a few here)
Darryl Hannah is whistling a tune from Bernard Herrmann when we go into split screen in the hospital and then we get a freeze-frame pop out of the coma
The lead, in an action role— outstanding work here by Uma Thurman- it’s her, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens and Charlize Theron in Fury Road. Uma’s performance has moments of pain (at points if feels like we’re in a von Trier misogyny/torture/abuse situation) and realism—moments of action-star animation and cool
The Anime short chapter (chapter 3) on Lucy Liu’s background is a highlight. It’s directed with energy as well. The trumpet music, the bed soiling with blood, tracking up from the dead father’s body to the sword
No small part here in the casting- Sonny Chiba – Michael Parks- tremendous
Freeze-frame intro into characters in O-Ren’s gang
There’s an obsession with numbers here—the 5 in the gang, the chapters, QT counting his filmography as we go along
The Lucy Liu entrance into the restaurant (which is a hell of a set piece) to that music drop—incredible use of slow-motion and music drop
The Woo Hoo song tracking shot in the restaurant – 2 minutes of great camerawork, floating overhead getting the entire set piece
Yes, Leone is an influence but that can’t take away from QT’s achievement here- he’s an artist just as Leone—Leone was borrowing from Kurosawa— Yojimbo, and Kurosawa borrowed from the likes of John Ford, too
Achievement in sound design—much of it elevated especially during the action sequences—nails pounding into the coffin
During the Crazy 88’s (number counting again with QT) we get b/w, blue shadow work, overhead shots—the entire gamut, Tarantino understands the potential monotony and transcends it here
The film’s most beautiful shot (and there are so many) could be the view of the backyard garden with the snow as Thurman opens the shoji door in the restaurant. It’s a Leone moment with again the sound design focusing on that water sprout into the pond
There are a few flaws—even with some of the spectacular muscular stylistic achievements— for one it does get wordy in parts—long segments that could easily be cut like Michael Madsen getting yelled at by his boss with no particular value, I blame the distribution of the film (broken up into 2) for the weird movie trailer that semi-starts the second half of the film (with Uma talking to the camera and driving)- it’s a formal blemish, the music is perfect in spots but inconsistent as an total piece— there are great musical cues (as I mentioned earlier the entrance of Lucy Liu and her gang at the restaurant to “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”) but there are bad ones too— “About Her” garbage remix by Malcolm McLaren—lyrics literally saying “nobody told me about her” when Uma finds out about her daughter. It’s god-awful. And worse- it’s just bad form- we’re going from Morricone, to Johnny Cash to this pop song— it’s just a messy blend—another bit of messiness is the zoom-heavy Pai Mai section of the film. Now I love the section of the film, the chapter if you will, and I love the use of the zoom as a stylistic technique (from Altman on down) when employed correctly and consistency. It’s employed corrected here- but the consistency isn’t there. It’s used as a stylistic homage to these type of Kung-Fu films of the 1970’s but it isn’t used often enough in other places in the film formally to make for a consistent whole
I don’t understand the obsession and repetition on the joke over her name and not saying her name
Stunning “The Searchers” doorway shot at the chapel.
Bill may be QT’s best villain. He’s a big figure—and I adore the superman speech and this film is a triumph not only for Uma of course but Carradine. I just wish the finale was shot somewhere closer in quality to the showdown that Lucy Liu and Uma had—it deserves a richer visual or set piece—this looks like it was shot at my parents condo in Tuscan. Gross