Flickering Myth’s writing team count down to the UK release of Django Unchained by selecting their favourite Quentin Tarantino movies; next up is Kirsty Capes with 2003’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1…
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is a bit like a bull in a china shop. There is supposed structure in the narrative form, with each incident of the plot boxed neatly in a “chapter”, but somehow Tarantino weaves an engaging and cohesive story amid chaos. The jumps and swings in plot, typical of Tarantino’s style, which has been well established in his previous three films by this point. The conception of the plot in Kill Bill is so careful and articulate, yet witty and aggressive that it demands attention. And that’s what it gets.
Although by no stretch of the imagination is Kill Bill Tarantino at his best, it was one of the Tarantino films that demonstrated him to be a consistent director. The first Tarantino film of the new millennium, Kill Bill brought fans into a new era in colour and style. With homage to older works, particularly 70s and 80s martial arts films and TV shows, Kill Bill feels like an old school samurai film for the twenty first century. There are fight scenes that last for ten-plus minutes, but Uma Thurman is wearing canary yellow bike leathers, and she’s fighting a suburban soccer mom in what looks like the town in Edward Scissorhands. An hour later, she’s in a Japanese tea house taking off Lucy Liu’s scalp. And let’s not forget those fantastic blood splatters. I’m not a fan of gore or, particularly, violent films. But the hilarity of the special effects in this film, and the deliberate parody of Japanese filmmaking is so juxtaposed that one can’t help but laugh. Gogo Yubari and the rest of the Crazy 88 are also a study of racial stereotypes. Gogo herself wears a schoolgirl outfit throughout and has a thirst for both sex and blood. The rest of them are hyper-violent and super-fashionable in their matching suits. O-Ren Ishii’s childhood reads like a hentai gore anime.
Uma Thurman is fantastic as the vengeful bride. Her affinity for acting Tarantino characters and understanding exactly what he wants from his cast is blatant as she creates the perfect balance between a vulnerable and heartbroken mother, and a ruthless assassin. Tarantino explores the theme of revenge and its every facet. Each character is given depth beyond necessity. The female dominated ensemble is refreshing compared to the likes of Pulp Fiction which was on the whole a male dominated film. To have a female lead whose badassery outweighs her feminine vulnerability tenfold, is an absolute delight for the feminist viewer. See also, Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii (head of Yakuza, need I say more.) Other examples are Elle Driver and Gogo Yubari. After seeing Kill Bill, for a long time Gogo was my personal idol. Powerful women in film and literature always attract my interest. Kill Bill is far from disappointing in that respect. It’s a shame that it is a necessity for the plot to have Bill as the overseer and puppeteer of these women, perhaps a stumble on Tarantino’s part, even if he does describe the movie as a ‘feminist statement’.
However, having said that, having girls doing stuff that boys would usually do isn’t really enough to describe Kill Bill as feminist. Replace every main female character with male ones and subtract the baby – and Kill Bill barely changes. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the critical acclaim and attention Kill Bill attracted at the time of its release was due to the fact that it wasn’t men chopping people’s heads off and biting out their tongues. We’ve seen male actors do that a thousand times. Kill Bill has been described as one of the most gruesome films of its time. It’s far from it – it just appears more shocking to an audience who have not experienced women committing the violence that they have been desensitized to when it is performed by men. I feel that this lack of characterisation is the major flaw of the film. On the whole though, Kill Bill is fantastic, and bloody good fun.
What’s your favourite Tarantino movie? Let us know in the comments below…