Dear Kill Bill/Quentin Tarantino,
Obviously Quentin, at this point your reputation precedes you! Hell, you even remind us how many films came before this one in your promotional materials. I get it; you are feeling pretty confident in yourself. So, when I first take in your disjointed story telling at the beginning of your Kill Bill saga, I squint in perplexity. I barely blink and its one down four to go. Of course, Bill’s stab of conscience in the hospital costs him dearly but initially it all seems like appetizer fluff.
That is until you get to our heroine in her first moment of awareness and you just lay her heart and soul out there, naked, and while we see up close her loss, suddenly you have heart and your saga has heart. One of the first feelings this stirs in me, is that though I know her former team members are bad asses, I have to wonder if even Bill himself is going to be bad ass enough.
But then again BANG, you switch strange gears again. Seems killing always begets killing and O-Ren is one twisted piece of work. Not only was this exposition a chunk of skillful anime, it even felt like an anime story being told. Nicely done, but I was starting to wonder if there was a point to all of this moviemaking-muscle-flexing? I pondered this style as you continued on your merry way.
However, you then decide to surprise me with homage and reverence for the great steel makers of old. It is proper, it is right and it is respectful to all the Hanzo’s that came and went. I scratch my head again. Perhaps it’s all about pacing, a sort of epic setting-up that seems to require that larger than life comic book highs be set up by subtle and nuanced lows. Maybe it’s your homage to yourself, Quentin, and all the personal movie making influences that helped you hone your skills. Whatever your motivation, it seems inspired and keeps your saga properly epic.
Then you decide an over the top and stylish reality needs some attention and the Crazy 88 seems like it would refer to eighty eight hundred sword wielders. Your story treats the non-stop carnage with a sense of style even to the point of a black and white treatment to avoid the desensitization of all that red blood. It’s impressive and it propels us forward but once again our denouement with O-ren turns out to be a properly intimate affair.
Perhaps you feel appropriate trials leading up to the event of revenge are the only way to warrant the satisfaction you seek for getting the job done. I guess we will see. But then, as seems to be the case with this saga, you surprise me again with a contrite and respectful O-ren who realizes the quality of her foe. As in the first battle, though, it is a little too late. Black Mamba shows her worth and I am again intrigued. You even leave it hanging well enough for a smooth transition to the second half of the story.
When you do start volume two, it once again has some of that old skipping around the story feel; like you can’t quite take the linear path. At this point, ironically, it starts to feel a bit natural like the tall tale saga it set out to be. I almost feel like I am watching some old legendary western and to your credit I am unsure as to whether that is your intention or not. Upon reflection, I smile again in appreciation.
Then we make our way to Bud and my first thought is, ‘Deadly Viper Squad? Are you serious?’ But then Bill is an equal opportunity assassin trainer and so this good ol’ boy must be the worst kind of good ol’ boy, and it makes him very dangerous indeed. Sure enough he brings our heroine low, in just about the worst way you can, at least for a little while. When he does it’s something special and just about enough to choke you up just listening to it, and no matter how many times I see it I still get the willies. But then I smile a sly smile because you give a glimpse into the surprising fact that she is indeed a master grade martial artist and boy what a bomb that drops on the proceedings.
Obviously you remember to tell that little tale right in the middle of this and demonstrate that ‘oh yeah I almost forgot,’ story telling that lends this whole thing a human dynamic. At this point it is the story of her time with Pai Mei that resonates most with me. He is indomitable as he should be and she is absolutely voracious in her desire to learn. In the end he knows, as we all do, that he found a worthy apprentice.
As you wind down to your conclusion there is irony and more red-hued revenge. It does, however, pale in comparison to your final encounter. Bud’s death – agonizing though it may be – seemed more merciful than some of the others and he deserved far worse but Elle did do well on short notice and there was some poetic justice to it as Beatrice finishes the blinding Pai Mei started.
Oh yes, that conclusion I mentioned. It is subtle in its encounter and breath-taking in its nuance and some of my all time favorite human drama in this kind of story. It seems all the larger than life, comic book highs up to this point have lent weight and power to this nuanced low. Does Bill play it like a fine conductor? Sure he does. Is he contrite about what he has done? Yes, probably as much as a murdering bastard can be. His cop to over-reaction is technically correct in his case, though he didn’t realize the price he would pay for it.
What he did do that made it so hard to hate him was even more powerful because he knew she was a natural born killer and there would be no reconciliation. When the encounter occurs, it is brief as is fitting with masters and he takes it like a man. Yet as the parting touch is brilliant, so too is her release and you are never sure if it is tears of mourning or relief that flow from her – and that is as it should be, too.
Bill, your story had to be told and Quentin I think picked a good story teller to use. For me, it resides on a pedestal probably higher than even your heralded early work, which says a lot. Just like she had a soft spot for Bill, I will always have a love for you precisely because you never lose touch with both sides of this human experience. We will meet again and I cant wait.
With more love than I should have,