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DVD Qualifies and Quantifies Tarantino&#39;s <I>Kill Bill: Vol. 1</I>

14 Apr, 2004 By: Stephanie Prange

In one of myriad articles published recently in regards to this week's separate DVD and theatrical releases of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 — director Quentin Tarantino's two-part ode to relationships, revenge and kung fu movies, among other idiosyncrasies — it was remarked that the DVD possessed only minimal extras: a making-of featurette, a music video and trailers.

Never mind that such bonus material is de rigueur on the average DVD. More importantly, any snapshot — however minimal — into the mind of Tarantino is to stumble upon a torrent of non-stop eccentricities that are best digested in digital bits and pieces.

Spending time with the creator of such cinematic triumphs as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown was recently described by Los Angeles Times writer Rachel Abramowitz as a bit “like entering a one-man hothouse of movies and memories of movies, of imaginary characters who are more real and vivid than living ones.”

If there was ever a format best-suited to quantify, qualify — and control — Tarantino's over-the-top energy and exuberance, it is DVD.

Instead of the usual behind-the-camera banter found in most special features, the apparently maligned bonus material in Vol. 1 underscores the former Manhattan Beach, Calif., video-store-clerk-turned-cult-film-director's enthusiasm and respect for the mainland Chinese studio, crew and cast used during the grueling eight-week filming of “The Showdown of the House of Blue Leaves,” a 20-minute climactic samurai sword battle between Uma Thurman's character The Bride and the minions of killer-turned-yakuza-boss O-Ren Ishii, played by Lucy Liu.

The bonus feature displays Tarantino's equal affinity for the film's soundtrack, which at times superceded completion of the film.

For example, the Japanese female surfer trio, “The 5.6.7.8's,” whose act and music appear as window dressing in the “Blue Leaves” fight sequence, was discovered. Tarantino procured a copy with some difficulty while perusing a Japanese record store. Ditto for the ultra-obscure German neo-lounge band “Neu!”

“Once I got going, I just wrote and rewrote for a whole year,” Tarantino said. “If I hit a snag, I would just stop and go watch a martial arts movie. I basically watched at least one Hong Kong movie a day, and sometimes two or three a day. I also watched Japanese samurai movies and anime. So images from these movies just filled my head until they were second nature, and that became the raw material for Kill Bill.

Tarantino said his devotion to writing and creating the multi-chapter Kill Bill was so complete he knew absolutely nothing about any of the Hollywood movies that had been released during that time period.

“When you get to the end of Vol. 1 you're exhausted,” he said. “You're ready to take a break.”

Luckily, the DVD format allows this viewer — relatively new to Tarantino's hyperbole — to digest his “killing as a metaphor for human relationships” in metered doses.

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