Wednesday, April 21, 2004

A Nod and a Wink

As Carrie Fisher said in When Harry met Sally, "Everyone thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor, but they can't possibly all have good taste." Not to say that people who don't get Quentin Tarantino have either no sense of humor or bad taste, perhaps the opposite. But I do think that a taste for Tarantino requires that you are in on the joke and share his tastes to some extent.

This, by way of saying, I saw Kill Bill Vol. 2 last night and predictably enjoyed it. Liking Tarantino is similar to having a taste for Kevin Smith, who also seems not to be everyone's cup of tea. It is often one big "in joke", and either you are in on it or not. Kill Bill Vol. 2 is pretty much that. Where Kill Bill Vol. 1 was mostly a tongue in cheek homage to a certain brand of Hong Kong action pictures, Vol. 2 is a pastiche of styles, from Noir to Spaghetti Western, to other types of Kung Fu movies, with nods to TV shows of the seventies and before.

David Carradine shines as Kwai Chang Caine's evil twin and Uma Thurman takes a beating that might catch Mel Gibson's attention. The dialog is typical Tarantino. Nobody actually talks like that in real life, but there is nothing in this movie that would or could lead you to think that this is real life.

I heard Ebert and Roeper on Sunday singing the praises of KB2, and one of them even mentioned the "O" word in terms of Uma Thurman's performance. That will happen about the time monkeys fly out of my butt. This is low art and not the sort of thing the Academy is ever going to honor. But it is high entertainment, full of wit and action, and can be oddly touching. But you need to share some of Tarantino's vocabulary. I lack Tarantino's fanboy passions for Kung Fu movies, but I've seen enough of them to get the archetype character of the white haired teacher. I get the joke when the master says something like, "Your Kung fu is pathetic... Let us see if your Crane style kung fu can defeat my Tiger style." And I had to laugh when the Bride walks out of the chapel and there sits David Carradine playing a bamboo flute.

Also, as usual, kudos to Tarantino for a great soundtrack. Especially the Malcolm McLaren, oh so slow version of The Zombies She's Not There (titled About Her on the soundtrack). There is also a wonderful Johnny Cash rendition of A Satisfied Man.

If you want to get in touch with your inner teenager KB2 is a lot of fun. Is it better than KB1, as many critics are claiming? Yes, as a piece of filmmaking, but KB1 had it's charms. KB2 is slower and more about dialog and character. It took me a bit longer to warm to KB2, but it hooked me in and I had a good time. And what's so bad about a good time?

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