No 423 - Kill Bill Volume 2
Director - Quentin Tarantino
Whereas Volume 1 was a tribute to Eastern cinema, Volume 2 is a modern western. Gritty and dirty and dusty.
It also begins by telling a bit more about the character of The Bride, introducing the wedding rehearsal, and also introducing the all important Samuel L Jackson role as Rufus, the Organist.
But, most importantly, in those opening scenes we finally meet Bill.
The saga of Kill Bill appears to be about timing, about the slow leak of information. Volume 1 meant we never saw Bill - just his hands, or his gun, or his voice, as soon as Volume 2 begins, he is there and we see his face.
It is the same with The Bride's true name. For the entire of Volume 1, her name is edited out of conversation (for reasons that I do not understand) until, in Volume 2, we learn she is called Beatrix Ditto. Whilst I understand the suspense in not showing the viewer the titular Bill, I did not gain anything from knowing The Bride's true name. It is not an important enough bit of information to deserve a BIG reveal. But that is just my view, Tarantino enjoys these little gimmicks and whilst a lot of them do work, some (such as The Bride's name) do fall a little short.
What really works though, are some of his camera tricks. Volume 2 only really has one fight, despite The Bride going after 3 people. I want to talk about the first of the three - Budd, Bill's brother and the only male in Bill's gang.
The introduction to Budd's character makes him seem he may have changed his ways slightly. He is certainly no pacifist but has a zen view to his past:
That woman deserves her revenge... and we deserve to die.
Despite this introduction, he is the one closest to beating The Bride and he is also the cause of the most disturbing piece of torture in the entire story.
After the quick and nimble sword play and ninja skills seen in Volume 1, Budd's fight feels like cheating as he shoots her in the chest with rock salt (ouch) and then leaves her knocked out.
The screen closes in on a small patch focused on The Bride's face. The rest of the screen is a black frame, it shows the claustrophobic condition that The Bride is in, but it also gets us to focus on The Bride's face. Then, as she is put in a coffin and buried alive, the screen goes black. All we here are the coffin being dragged, the deafening THUDS of dirt being piled on top of the coffin and the constant exhausted whimpers of The Bride.
That single moment affected me more than any slit ankle, gouged out eyeball or wooshing geyser of bloody. That single moment is a beautifully presented segment of undiluted horror.
It also really works because it fits perfectly into the tone of Volume 2, unlike the Pei Mei flashback.
All of a sudden we're sent back to the whimsy of the first film's Eastern fantasy. This time it is made to look like a 70s film, complete with crash zooms and wonky cameras. Whilst Pei Mei does have the greatest eyebrows ever (like the guy in Parallel 9 before the dinosaur puppets came and ruined it. This is a show I SWORE I didn't invent, but which nobody remembers - thank you YouTube) I feel that his section is cheap for a number of reasons. Which I will list.
Firstly - by cutting back to the Eastern 70s vibe, it jars too much from the rest of the film. If this section was used as part of her training montage in Volume 1, it would have worked far better.
Secondly - there is too much of a feeling of Deus Ex Machina. She is trapped underground in a coffin... cut to a scene where she learns how to punch through woo at close range. How convenient..
It is a shame, because whilst I like the scene in itself, it doesn't sit well in the framing of the entire film. Whereas the subsequent fight scene with Elle works perfectly. Fast, frantic, gritty, set in a trailer and ending with an eyeball being yanked out and squashed. An excellent little fight that leads me to an interesting point (which my housemate, Doc, uncovered.... not I).
In Volume 1, The Bride kills hundreds of people - anybody that crosses her path. However, she fails to Kill Bill.
In Volume 2, despite the fights (Budd is killed by Elle, Elle is left blind) The Bride ONLY Kills Bill. That is a nice touch and a good way of dividing up the film, and is something which my frazzled brain failed to notice.
The act of killing Bill seems oddly anti climactic. The Bride meets her daughter for the first time and the three play happy family until BB goes to bed. There is a minor scuffle, some completely un necessary pop culture chat (almost as if Tarantino couldn't help himself and had to drop SOME in) and then the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. This leaves Bill in the position where after he walks five steps, his heart will explode and he will die.
It is graceful and it is elegant. It is a fitting way for Bill to die. It just lacks the grand finale vibe which is so prevalent with O-Ren at the end of Volume 1.
But, maybe death shouldn't be showy. Death shouldn't be a spectacle. Death should just be death.
Which brings me to the end of my blog. I'm a little sad that there was no natural space to include Estoban. A fabulous pimp played by Michael Parks. Parks also plays Texan Ranger Earl McGraw who appears in Volume 1 and a number of Tarantino and Rodriguez films. How meta.