I hate to come out against our fine Subcomandante's opinion (see qrpnotes's entry here), but I'm afraid I just can't get behind Quentin T. this time. I really dug, was DELIGHTED by, Pulp Fiction, then absolutely loved Jackie Brown, and somewhere in the middle rather liked Res. Dogs, too, but he had me turned off this time by the opening credits. It's partly due to my instincts about the filmmaker, yes, which ordinarily have me laughing along with his violence-as-action bit. This time, though, the opening close up on the bloodied and about-to-be-shot Uma, in what is (yes) striking black and white and what is (yes) different from what we usually see in the movies, raised my ire more than my curiosity, as he dwells uncomfortably long on her helpless self as her would-be killer toys with her, and Quentin toys with the moment. It smacked of a director enjoying sadistic filmmaking as much as a filmmaker's offering of a villain's sadistic joy. My suspicion that QT was perversely titillated by that lengthy close up, drawing out its viciousness, brought out in me a kind of opposition to an artistic depiction that is usually reserved, with me, for contempt at aesthetic shortcutting (e.g., killing the Christmas puppy). I'm no prude, but I was already a bit peeved at the director for that savoring of her victimization when the shot to the head happens and we cut to the credits.
And there the first thing we see is "The Fourth Film by Me." Self-conscious poking of fun at directiorial ego, or directorial ego? I think the latter, given what he's said in the media about this his magnum opus. You know, it is kind of surprising that it's only his fourth movie, but the film itself announcing it seems to me to be asking for a flop (karmically), even if he thinks he's being funny there. And, yeah, it's the feminist in me who was pissed at him about the opening, and it's that feminist who got more pissed as he langorously dwells on several subsequent moments of victimization and/or anguish in our unusual heroine. I understand that the viewer must understand fully how fully motivated and justified she is in the revenge she'll spend the next four hours acting out, but, even if he's not enjoying the extremity of those long passages, he's certainly alienating many a viewer who must pull back emotionally from the film.
You may say that an emotional viewing isn't what he's going for, playing on the kung fu flicks and all, but it's his bold, intimate portrayal of her suffering to begin with that makes the character a woman we can relate to, or at least empathize with in her all-too-human agony. The kung fu reminiscence isn't even hinted at in the first reel---no shit. In fact, in the first stylistic departure, the animated anime-like sequence, this viewer at least was left scratching her head to think of what made that even that violence interesting. (It wasn't even terribly interesting animation.)
Yes, there are eventually some appealing nods to 70's cinema, and there is some fun in both style and action there at the end, if you can keep yourself in the theater long enough to see it. (Holly would argue that even that went on a good 30 too many flamboyantly severed limbs.) We were lucky not to have gone with one of several people (women) I know who wouldn't have been able to stay, who would have felt much more assaulted by it than I did. I'm curious to see if this sensibility turns up in any of the reviews of the picture.
But I'm All For Intolerable Cruelty
I guess I was a little disappointed to have the last big twist of the new Coen Bros. offering occur to me long before it happened---usually I'm so caught up in the fun it's all a surprise---but this movie was fun, start to finish. I don't find either of the leads particularly attractive in any sexual way myself, but they are twinkley-eyed and playfully intense throughout, and I think they both know their stuff pretty well. Plus Billy Bob's in there, and Geoffery Rush and that Julia Duffy H. likes in particular, and Cedric the Ent. in a fun role, too---right there are a good six characters who are memorably goofy in one way or another. It's a tongue-in-cheek good time all 'round.
I won't get into it here, but School of Rock rocked, too.
I love when there are several movies out there I want to see.