Kill Bill 2

Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Forgot to post my thoughts on this here,
as I had posted them over at a mailing list I’m on. Here’s pretty much what I said there.
On the Jackie Brown DVD, QT talks about how JB “proved” he could make an intelligent, mostly dialog-driven film. And he had done it as his third film, early in his career. He goes on to say that maybe the next film will just be a movie-movie, just stupid fun, but craaaaazy.
So that’s how I take KB. The trouble with QT is that we have to wait so bloody long between films that the expectations outweigh the eventual release.
A friend of mine made a comparison between 1 and 2 in that they reflect Kurosawa’s tactic with Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Yojimbo is all blood ‘n’ guts; Sanjuro has little of that, and when violence does arrive it doesn’t conform to our expectations. Big baddies are dispatched quickly and without flourishes, where we expect big set pieces.
Over on the P5 list, where the convo is about sampling, Paul’s Boutique has been mentioned a few times, and I feel that KB is a bit like that–QT has made a sampladelic movie, no more no less. He’s just throwing everything out there on the table–all the movies he loves, reconfiguring it, tweaking it.
I admit it’s light and superficial, but I had some laughs along the way: Sonny Chiba’s sushi chef scene, Gordon Liu’s segment, the massacre of the Crazy 88s.
Who knows what QT will do for a follow up? My sense is that it will be something more like Jackie Brown. There’s been this WWII movie that he’s been wanting to make. Maybe he’ll pull a David Mamet and do a drawing-room drama like The Winslow Boy. Really, it could be anything. Only by the next film will we really know how to see KBII.


Dir: Stephen Shainberg
A fabulous performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal
and a typically weird one by James Spader, in this tale of a socially backward girl who comes into her own under the weird dominating presence of the lawyer, Edward Grey, she works for. The critical consensus of the film is that the ending falls apart, or suggests that much was cut to keep the third act from leaving its near-literal hothouse atmosphere. I felt this way too, that Lee (Gyllenhaal) finds her freedom through becoming a submissive, and so the end, where the two consummate their love in a very straight, hetero way (naked rumpy-pumpy) feels like it’s against everything that’s come first. Surely, the desired outcome for Lee would be more of the submissive game.
A few days later, I came up with an alternative to just dismissing the ending. Perhaps what we’re seeing is Edward’s assertion of dominance over the narrative. How can Lee, a submissive, wind up being the hero? Wouldn’t that make her dominant? So, think about the orchids, Edward’s prised possession. They are cloistered, doted on, but stuck in an artificial “natural” environment.” We also see Edward plant a photo of Lee in the garden. What if the lawyer’s office is the nursery, and marriage/life in a suburban house is the end location/result? Lee becomes a flower that is transplanted into Edward’s life. When they finally make love, it is on a grass bed. A following shot shows Lee strapped to a tree during sex (the last image of bondage we see). Is the ultimate bondage domestic servitude? Is the final shot of Lee, as she looks into the camera with all sorts of emotion washing over her face, damning? A cry for help? Acceptance? She has spoken to us thorughout, but now Lee just looks. Is the film a very subtle and/or vague version of “The Collector”? How complicit is Lee in her fate? How should we feel about this?
Looking at the film this way, it may not be so hard to dismiss.

Stolen Kisses

Dir: Francois Truffaut
Francois Truffaut’s sequel–if you discount the short made in between–to “The 400 Blows”,
following the young adulthood of Antoine Doniel (Jean-Pierre Leaud), as he goes from crummy job to crummy job (hotel night clerk, detective (!), shoe salesman, TV repairman), falling in and out of love, and getting into a little bit of trouble.
It’s an incredibly light film, surprising as it was made during May 1968, as the Nouvelle Vague protested the Langlois affair and shut down Cannes. In the Criterion Collection DVD extras, the film is said to almost have been made as a way to relax from the political pressures of that year, with filming happening in a scattershot fashion with loads of improv.
The various detectives in the film (in typical trenchcoat, and always shadowing someone) are classic American Noir (Truffaut had just finished his adaptation of Cornell Woolrich’s The Bride Wore Black before this film) rendered comical by their transplanting into French society. The young, sometimes girlfriend of Antoine, Christine (Claude Jade), is tailed all the way through the movie, only to find the detective confessing his love for her at the end in a strange closing scene. Hey, it’s France, vive l’amour!

Prime Suspect 6

Dir: Tom Hooper
Has it really been six years since the last Prime Suspect?
This series along with Cracker show how differently the British and the Americans see their police dramas. Although Prime Suspect is clearly Detective Tennyson’s show, the fleshing out of her fellow squad members and of the victims and suspects really give the show a novelistic touch. Detective Supt. Tennyson is not a super-genius, but we thrill at her bullheadedness and determination, while her moments of self-doubt and even defeat round out her character humbly.
There are very few chases–the ones that happen resolve themselves quickly (suspect escapes, suspect caught)–very little gunplay, though there are guns. Tennyson wanders around potentially dangerous areas without a gun drawn, confusing the American viewers. Major clues are not exclusively the domain of the lead–often a member of the team finds them.
Steadily, steadily, the case is built, in this case around an obvious suspect in the murder of a Bosnian Muslim women who immigrated to England 10 years before only to find the war followed her. Interrogations don’t produce immediate results. The media is out of the investigation’s hands and ruins leads. And one major tactic that PS does over and over to some effect is never allowing the audience any release through the protagonist. As stones are lain in her path, Tennyson gets more and more frustrated, but very little do we see her exploding in anger. Instead another, sometimes disconnected, scene begins and we carry over that emotion with us. No wonder the show is so bleedin’ tense.
Helen Mirren is great, just great, a real hero, always thinking.