Ten years ago today, Uma Thurman’s THE BRIDE declared her simple, and deadly mission.
The Bride was going to get revenge on the people who killed her daughter and who tried to kill her. She….was going to KILL BILL.
Interesting enough, Agent Earl wrote about this film already in his SOBER GEEK CONFESSION. (click here to read)
To put this lightly…I politely disagree with my fellow Agent.
Kill Bill isn’t just a film that I really like…it’s one of my all time favorites.
Granted, I’m in the majority of film fans who do like it and it’s not like we need a ton of people defending this film. We don’t.
AND Agent Earl isn’t wrong for feeling the way that he does too. And NO, this will not be an article in which I will compare and contrasts what he wrote and how I counter argue with it.
Right now, I’ll do my best to explain why I adore this film deeply, and why it’s a touch stone movie for me even ten years later.
In my teens, my film obsession was ramping up. It was the time I was started to get into Hong Kong cinema and the movies of Robert Rodriquez, Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino.
They are, even to this day, my biggest filmmaking inspirations. These are guys who had a deep love of film and who’s first film clearly identified the kind of films they want to make, and they each found a way to make that first film in their own way. Each of those guys first film clearly declared their voice as filmmakers, and Tarantino’s voice was as clear as day.
I was going crazy for Tarantino’s films, hungry for his next one. It’s been five years since he made Jackie Brown (the first film I saw of his actually.) It was at this time I was reading about Tarantino holding a film fest in Austin, TX. Here was a film fest in which he showed all his film prints to a packed house, and enjoy a full night crazy fun cinema. Martial arts movies, crime films, spy movies, sex comedies, westerns, Italian epics etc.
It sounded like a blast! I keep reading the reports on the site, Ain’t It Cool News on how the audience kept eating up the films, despite how old and how silly the films were. They were enjoying a night at the movies, laughing, crying and being shocked. But, more importantly, they were being entertained.
Every time I read about the film fest, I got more and more antsy that I couldn’t be there. If there is anything I truly love about going to the movies with a packed house, it’s the crowd reaction. I love it when we all get the same reaction to whats on screen, and this film fest sounded like that’s how it was every time, no matter what film you were watching.
Became clear to me, reading these reports how much a film fan Tarantino was. Yeah, I know, not a real shock, but keep in mind when I started to get into him, the Media blitz that he had when Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction officially died down. He was out of the main spotlight, and the reports from the festival that I was reading in Ain’t It Cool News were the first time I’ve gotten to know Quentin the film fan. Reading his introductions to the movies he was presenting, I was reading how much he loved every single film, despite it’s flaws. He didn’t saw flaws, he saw the entertainment value in these films. Being “bad” became part of it’s appeal.
Reading these reports started my interest in Exploitation/Grindhouse Films.
When word started spreading that Tarantino had a new film in the works, I was excited as hell to know what it was about.
Originally, it was rumored to be that KILL BILL was about a hooker (to be played by Uma Thurman) whos out to get revenge on here pimp, Bill (then to be played by Warren Beatty.) Ok, this sounds interesting, a thriller/revenge movie. Sounded character based, the kind of movie that Jackie Brown was. Could be cool. Then I started hearing word that Uma was having samurai sword training and was learning martial arts.
Turns out, KILL BILL was much bigger then what was originally rumored.
It was actually about an amazing and deadly assassin who betrayed her boss, Bill. On the day of her wedding rehearsal, her boss and her former “co-workers” dropped in, killing everyone, leaving her for dead. Turns out she wasn’t.
KILL BILL soon became a project that I was deeply invested in. I wanted to see and read every casting news, every script review, and every production still. I even bought the soundtrack before I saw the movie, and was trying to imagine how Tarantino was going to use the music in the film. I needed to know more about the movie. I got excited to read how Tarantino found a way to include characters from other movies and TV Shows, how he got Toho to build a Tokyo model, and how there is an anime sequence.
When the announcement came that the film will be split into two parts, my initial reaction “Jesus man, how epic does this thing get?”
It seemed like for Tarantino, the goal for the movie was to try to convey the fun of going to his film festivals, but in his own version of those movies. Much like how Raiders of the Lost Arc is a film that is lovingly a tribute to the adventure serials, KILL BILL will be that for Grindhouse movies.
I couldn’t wait and when this first teaser came out, I could barely contain my excitement.
Clearly, a film that had that much expectation from me, it had the potential to let me down. I was hyping myself TOO much.
KILL BILL Vol. 1 was finally in theaters on October 10, 2003. I convinced my friends to watch it with me before we went to the local amusement park for it’s annual tricked out Halloween event. (AKA Knotts Scary Farm for you local SoCal folks.)
As the lights got dark in the theater, and when the trailers were over, we were staring at a black screen in which we soon started to hear the painful sounds of a woman….
That shocker of an opening, still gets me to this day. It’s a blast to the senses when Bill pulls the trigger, and no matter how many times I saw it with an audience, that first scene STILL works in opening the film.
This film is, out of all of Tarantino films, the most reference heavy out of any of his film. For me, I look to it as a DJ who sample a ton of tracks and remixed the hell out of it and spun his own tune. He made a film set in the HYPERACTIVE world of MOVIE MOVIES, a universe that is both real and insane. It’s a crazy tone, yet for me, it made all the sense in the world. This wasn’t reality…this was cinema.
The film is structured and built unlike many other movies, even when comparing to other Tarantino films.The thing I was most surprised about was how brutal it was. The first fight in the film with Vernita Green was brutal as hell, with the sound design selling the harshness of the battle. He takes characters in directions that surprise me. Some of my favorite moments in the film are when it’s clear that Quentin knows the genre he’s playing with really well. One of my favorite moments came near the end of this scene…
Now, I heard a lot of “gasps” during this film when I saw it with an audience, but the biggest definitely came when it was revealed that Vernitas daughter Nikki saw the Bride killing her mother.
The directing/editing choices are spot on to me, and every fight scene, to me, is exciting as hell and chock full of enjoyable insanity. Is it as good as any of the fight scenes from Asian cinema? Nope, of course not, but I still think it’s a blast to watch and I though it was still executed really well, and in this day and age where fight scenes in American films still fall short, KILL BILL Vol. 1 still stands above the fights scene in recent American movies.
The performances are great all around. My god do I love Sonny Chiba in this film. He was so powerful in his small amount of screen time, and I loved how warm he was in the scene when Hattori Hanzo showed the Bride the swords he has made. (sadly, the best version I could find of this scene on Youtube was this bootleg.)
Uma Thurman as The Bride is still her best role to this day. She was able to convincingly portray so many different emotions and moods through the films schizophrenic tones, she gave me the center I needed to focus on this film.
Tarantinos use of music in this film still makes me smile, like the use of the Green Hornet theme in this sequence…
YES, I do agree, this film is overindulgent. Yes, it’s very much the exaggerated work of an auteur putting everything and TWO kitchen sinks. I know all this…and I LOVE EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF IT.
Keep in mind of course, I am talking only about KILL BILL Vol. 1. I loved Vol. 2 just as much, but Vol. 1 was the crowd pleaser. It had more showstopping sequences, with the Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves being a perfect climax to the first film.
The biggest thing for me, WAS how much the audience ate this up at the theater. The weekend of the film, I did something I never did before. I saw a movie three times on its opening weekend.
The second time was when I got off of work from my server job. I saw that there was a 9:45pm showing. It was a Saturday, so I figured the audience would still be packing the theater. I drove alone to the movie theater and sat with the nearly packed theater, and they too reacted beautifully with it. And THEN, I saw it again that Sunday afternoon to a surprisingly mostly filled theater, once again enjoying both the film and the audience’s reaction.
And that is one of my favorite reasons why I still love this film. I still marvel at it’s audacity to make sense of its hyper active sensibilities, its film making techniques, but I am in still in awe that Tarantino actually succeeded in his goal. Everytime I saw KILL BILL Vol. 1 with an audience, I felt that I just watched a samurai/kung fu double feature with Tarantino hosting. KILL BILL Vol. 1 is still a great night at the movies. KILL BILL Vol. 1 is the closest I’ll ever get to going to Tarantinos Film Fest in Austin, and I didn’t even have to fly to Texas to do so.