best film: Pulp Fiction is a seminal film in the one hundred plus year history of narrative cinema and a fine choice to have as the best film for any actor. Uma’s other collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill, is also a masterpiece (though not on the level of Pulp Fiction) so clearly a candidate for this category. Pulp Fiction is a three-pronged masterpiece— magnificent writing (on par with or superior to the great works of say Ingmar Bergman, Billy Wilder or say the works of Charlie Kaufman), tour de force direction behind the camera (the dance contest sequence, the freeze frame on Amanda Plummer with soundtrack drop), and a structural non-linear sonic boom. The dance contest scene is cinematic bliss— maybe it does not quite touch the opening of The Searchers and a dozen other scenes (Goodfellas Copacabana is another) but still, Tarantino’s scene is in that next tier—it deserves a Psycho shower scene breakdown, appraisal, and analysis. Tarantino uses a symmetrical wide shot, the camera glides in on both actors individually and then again together– and the fade to black at the end is crucial. In the very next scene, Tarantino actually gets off another sublime shot. This time it is of Uma dancing to “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon” from Urge Overkill as this is all captured in one take as Uma dives back and forth behind a column in the house.
best performance: Pulp Fiction. Uma slays it in Pulp Fiction. She is not just good- she jumps off the screen. For most any other actor, being front and center in a four-hour action masterpiece would be the easy choice for a best performance, but here Uma’s work as the Bride in Kill Bill is a close runner-up to her work as Mia Wallace in the 1994 landmark film.
stylistic innovations/traits: The nearly six foot tall statuesque blond was a name in Hollywood by eighteen (18) and had been an integral part of one of the best films of all-time by the time she was just twenty- five (25). Uma Thurman is almost totally reliant on her collaborations with Tarantino to make this list but that is not uncommon- looking higher up the list how about Masina with Fellini, Karina with Godard?. Uma is so well suited to QT’s dialogue and style. Uma’s top two performances are tough to top from any actor- but the downside to Uma’s case is pretty obvious as well. Her top five performances below are just obliterated by someone like Rachel Weisz just in front of her on this list.
directors worked with: The big two films are with Quentin Tarantino (2). Uma also worked with Lars von Trier (2) and then one archiveable film with Terry Gillian (1) and Woody Allen (1). In the collaborations with both Tarantino and von Trier she is an a two-part film that was really one film, shot at once, but split apart for distribution purposes.
top five performances:
- Pulp Fiction
- Kill Bill
- Dangerous Liaisons
|1988- Dangerous Liaisons|
|1988- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen|
|1994- Pulp Fiction|
|1999- Sweet and Lowdown|
|2003- Kill Bill Vol. 1|
|2004- Kill Bill Vol. 2|
|2018- The House That Jack Built|
Personally I would switch # 1 and # 2 but they are both so amazing that you really can’t go wrong here. Kill Bill is so much fun with such great action that it can be easy to overlook the layered performance. Uma gives.
Tarantino creates such great original characters and in many cases they are characters who seem like movie characters (no insult) such as Jules Winnfield or The Wolf.
The Bride is such a bad ass character that fits so well into the Tarantino Universe. But unlike many of the great Tarantino characters The Bride is a layered character who shows vulnerability without showing weakness. She is vengeful without being unnecessarily cruel like the scene in Vol. 1 where shortly after killing Vernita Green she tells her daughter that “When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.”
And while I think Vol. 2 could have been trimmed a little it is hard to complain too much especially the final 45 min or so when The Bride finally catches up with Bill. The actual final battle between them is fairly brief, it is the conversation leading up to it that is arguably the best acting scene in Tarantino Universe (with the exception of Sam Jackson in the diner scene in Pulp Fiction of course)
cont…meant as one posting.
The other thing that makes her performance in Kill Bill so impressive is that she has a unique dynamic with each member of the Viper Assassination Squad (it feels funny typing that name during a serious posting). For example, it’s clear that she and Elle Driver hated each other even before the wedding massacre. This probably was a function of their both sharing a romantic relationship with Bill. On the other hand you can tell she probably had a better relationship (pre massacre of course) with Vernita Green. The shared history The Bride has with each member of the squad is palpable during each of the revenge scenes.