movie review: kill bill, volume 1

I saw the new Quentin Tarrentino film last night, Kill Bill. It is a far more challenging and difficult movie than anyone seems to be giving it credit for. The movie is very disturbing, and I think that is the intent. Rather than movies which desensitize us to violence, Tarrentino seemed interested in RE-sensitizing people to violence by letting it be horrible, graphic, and shocking.

The risk when trying to do something like this, of course, is that you can get two unintended responses. You can disturb people too much. That's certain a fair reaction to this film. The violence is pretty awful and it is tough to take because the volume of it is just so beyond comprehension. The flip side is you get people who still see it as entertainment, even though that is what the director is deconstructing.

Or is it? I'm not completely sure. Which is why the movie is difficult on the viewer. Is it gratuitous violence, or is he exposing the entertainment of violence. Is it over the top to lessen the effect or heighten it? Tough to say. I do want to learn more about the director's intent and when I do, I may comment more, but I want to post some quick thoughts now.

Aside from the violence question, it is a brilliant work of art. Agressively bold and daring and with a total understanding of the film and the motifs in play. He wields his deep awareness of the film to heighten the experience. Some fight scenes are played sans musical soundtrack, allowing their brutal nature to be alone on screen. Indeed, the sound effects are amped to jar the audience. When the music does come in, it is either disquieting or operatic. The irreverence of some of the music is made more obvious with the contrast to the music-less scenes, but others are played as a stylish ballet. And really, that is all movie violence ever is. It is a choreography, and Tarrentino delves deeply into wire-fu techniques for a surreal take on the viciousness images flying by. Everything is played out in its own way to make the contrast and distinctions more apparent. The violence is made all the more graphic because so much of it comes from the blade rather than the usual method of movie body counts, the gun. Vastly more. I can only recall one gun death off-hand. The effect of this is to personalize the violence and limit the audience's ability to disconnect. We're used to seeing movies where the "hero" mows down countless villains with a machine gun. Here, she holds a sword and the impact is not distant but intimate.

The question of the nature of violence as entertainment is a very relevant one. Movies often let us off the hook when they ram a massive body count into our open eyes. Its okay, they are aliens. Its okay, they are zombies. Its okay, they are terrorists. Its okay, she's a robot. Kill Bill doesn't seem to want us to get away with that disconnect. It is a daring and risky move, to be sure, and some people will not be able to handle the violence, and specifically the knowledge that some people are being thrilled by it. I don't blame them at all for that response, but I do think the movie is more than that and though I caution you to be aware of what you are getting into, I would certainly recommend the film.

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