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Culture Reviews
Kill Bill: Vol.1 / By Q. Tarantino /
Tchaikovsky Cultural Center 
By Robert Lees:
It has been six years since Quentin Tarantino's last film. His latest highly violent offering, Kill Bill: Vol.1, has both captivated and disturbed audiences across the globe. Our contributors, Robert Lees and Shaun Walker give their own contrasting views. Whose side are you on?

Quentin Tarantino’s long anticipated new release, Kill Bill vol. 1, has finally arrived in Moscow cinemas, two months after its worldwide premiere. In his first offering for 6 years the cult director has created a film that has divided audiences the world over.
The film displays the now almost clich?d Tarantino trademarks such as the funky soundtrack, a lust for violence and a selection of memorable lines. However it moves into rather unfamiliar territory, borrowing heavily from the chop-socky and Yazuka gangster films popular in the East.

Tarantino again teams up with the excellent Uma Thurman, star of his 1996 hit Pulp Fiction. She gives a stunning performance as ‘Black Mamba’ an ex-member of the Deadly Vipers Assassination Squad who is hunted down by her former employers and shot in the head on her wedding day. After surviving the assassination attempt she lies in a coma for four years before coming round and swearing revenge. With Bill, the organisation’s faceless leader, at the top of her death list, she tracks down and attempts to kill all those who responsible for the murders of her family.

After coming face to face with former colleague, Vernita Green (Vivica A Fox), in a brutally frenetic scene full of violence and gore she heads off to Japan to fight Viper-turned-crime lord O-Ren Ishi (Lucy Liu), the culmination of which ends vol. 1 of Kill Bill

The film’s Japanese location allows Tarantino to experiment with various, mainly oriental, film genres. He mixes outrageously over-the-top kung-fu fights with ultra-violent manga-style animation. Film noir is juxtaposed with visually stunning and unnaturally colourful dream-like sequences. This is all played out to a background music that effortlessly fuses western guitar riffs with serene eastern harmonies.
The appearance of Sonny Chiba, a kung fu film legend, brings some credibility to Kill Bill as a martial arts film. The choreography of the fight scenes is remarkable and Thurman displays an athletic prowess rarely seen in a leading Hollywood actress. Unfortunately these are not enough to rescue Kill Bill from the monotony of incessant and unnecessary slaughter. Screen violence and Tarantino are often synonymous.
He himself once said, ”Violence is a form of cinematic entertainment. It's just one of those cinematic things you can do, and it's one of the funniest things. I love it. It's fun.”
However, unlike his other movies, the blood letting in Kill Bill is nearly devoid of humour that provides its justification. It is very rarely funny or entertaining; the killing is for killing’s sake. Like the fight scenes in the recently released Matrix Revolution, they are visually impressive yet quickly become tiresome.

Tarantino mixes these diverse styles but proves unable to improve on any of them. Kill Bill is artistically unoriginal and ultimately achieves little. Fans of Tarantino may argue that he successfully parodies the kung-fu classics, but then so did Charlie’s Angels. He offers nothing new. The exciting and sexily violent genre created with Reservoir Dogs and so successfully developed in Pulp Fiction now seems tired; so yesterday.

However there may be one salvation for Kill Bill. Tarantino’s decision to split Kill Bill into two 90-minute parts is as clever as it is annoying. Although the viewer has in effect to pay twice to see one film it does mean that Tarantino has yet one more chance to rescue his latest work. Will Kill Bill vol.2 (released in Feb 2004) make up for the mediocrity of vol. 1? Only time will tell.


By Shaun Walker:

After six years of silence, interrupted only by the occasional dubious acting sortie, Quentin is finally back, seeking to prove he truly is a great director and not just a flash in the pan. Uma Thurman, back with the director of her most successful film, had her own point to prove – that her standard is that of Pulp Fiction, and not that of The Truth about Cats and Dogs, or The Avengers.

Not content with making us wait a whole six years, Tarantino gives us just half a film in Kill Bill Volume One, to much critical sneering. However, Miramax’s clean samurai slash of the film in two seems preferable to the illogical and irritating piecemeal chopping which ruined Gangs of New York, and the short length precludes even a millisecond of boredom during the film.

Tarantino leaves many questions unanswered in the first instalment, but what we do know is that the ‘Deadly Viper Assassination Squad’, headed by the unseen Bill, and of which Thurman was once a member, somewhat spoilt her wedding day – massacring the entire company and leaving her for dead. Four years later, Uma awakens from a coma to launch a bloody-minded avenging mission with a single-mindedness worthy of George Dubya.

The two members whom Thurman is able to cross off her list in the first instalment are Vivica A. Fox and Lucy Liu. If the latter is ever to become a serious actress, she might one day attempt a role other than ‘sassy uber-bitch’, but for now she certainly plays that role better than anyone else around – here she is ice cool and fantastically enjoyable as multilingual Triad boss O-Ren Ishii, with a terrifying entourage including Yo-Yo the mace-wielding schoolgirl.

But there is only one star of the show – the nameless ‘Bride’ in all her awkward yellow gangliness. Alas, I suspect that the only people in these parts to consider the full-on yellow tracksuit fashionable attire will continue to be a few Caucasian traders at Petrovsko-Razumovskaya market. Uma, however, looks phenomenal in her banana-suit, whether speeding motorbike-borne through the Japanese night, or butchering her way through over a hundred of Ishii’s minions in a spectacularly gruesome scene of flying limbs and gushing blood fountains that apparently took six weeks to shoot.

Violence permeates the film, climaxing in Volume I with Uma giving Ishii an involuntary lobotomy, but even the most gruesome parts are not of the genuinely stomach-churning nature of sections of Reservoir Dogs. It says a lot that Tarantino chose to make parts of the film as animation. Instead of being excruciating, the violence blends harmoniously into the fabric of the film, a masterful mix of grisly gore and gracious beauty – one swordfight takes place in silhouette against a dark blue backgroud and is as and well choreographed and visually compelling as anything on offer at the Bolshoi.

So then, is Kill Bill anything more than the nerdy fantasy of an adolescent video-shop clerk – a B movie brought to multi-million dollar reality? Well, no, basically, but does that matter? If – like me – you have not seen every single Japanese and Hong Kong Kung-Fu flick ever made, there are dozens of references that will fly over your head. Equally, Kill Bill has less quotable lines, and its tricks of chronology are less subtle, than Pulp Fiction. But this is an unfair comparison – one cannot expect every film the man makes to be a masterpiece. Kill Bill will not be epoch-changing, but it thrills in a way few others films can, having the same power to exhilarate as Requiem for a Dream did to depress. Kill Bill is a fun, visually exquisite, and seriously cool movie made by a truly talented director. Bring on Volume Two.

06.12.03
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