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Guest Russell Lucas

Kill Bill Volume 2

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And now Mark Steyn weighs in:

In Vol 1 the Bride stalked the stalk. In Vol 2 she talks the talk. I'd be interested to see how the two halves work when they're stuck back together for the DVD release. Perhaps after all the bloodshed of the first part, you're drained, sated and ready to kick back and relax into the characters. But starting cold halfway through, the film seems a bit too ruminative and unhurried for its own health. This is the first Tarantino picture that could have used a bit more gratuitous violence. . . .

Quentin Tarantino doesn't do Spider-Man or Superman, Hulk or Batman, but Kill Bill Vol 2 is the closest any movie has come to the spirit of a comic book -- a faintly pretentious comic book, like Dr Strange, say, but one that even at its most high-falutin' has a kind of primary-coloured sensuousness to it. This thought occurred toward the end when David Carradine launches into a meandering disquisition on Superman and Clark Kent, drawn from Jules Feiffer's book on superheroes. With hindsight, I realized what the character of Pei Mai reminded me of. He's the Bride's kung-fu mentor, extremely wise and ancient and sporting a long white wispy beard that he strokes a lot and two snowy eyebrows apparently borrowed from Mike Myers in The Cat In The Hat. Yet Gordon Liu, the actor who plays him, has a wholly unlined face. He's a comic-book notion of an old man, where the artist draws white hair and white eyebrows on an otherwise youthful face because that's the only way he knows how to indicate age. . . .

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Whoa about the "common" blackbelts could punch through wood comments.

Yes, but how many blackbelts could punch through that wood with tons of dirt on top of it? The physics is entirely different.

spoilers1.gif

And then somehow transverse through the dirt to the surface? Indeed.

Finally saw this one tonight. I enjoyed it quite a bit more from the over-the-top Vol. 1. But I felt rather empty after watching it. I didn't feel the conclusion was too satisfying - I never felt the film had any real heart. Yes, we were suppost to feel for The Bride during the last minute of the movie - the "God shot" of her on the floor saying "thank you" to God/someone - but at that point I didn't really care. I guess that's how I've always felt after QT films - uncaring and empty, because I never connect with any character on the screen.

However, Pei Mai was freakin' cool!

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Huh, I can think of a few QT characters that I HAVE connected with.

But this reminds me, I just got the soundtrack the other day, and I am wondering if anyone knows the official name of the RZA "hidden track"? Now that I have copied all these songs to mp3s, I would really, really like to separate that tune from the Meiko Kaji song after which that track is officially titled.

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Okay, it's official. I love this movie. All four bloody hours of it.

I had only seen each volume once each before, but today I rented Vol. 1 and watched it at home before joining some friends for Vol. 2. And I dug it just as much the second time around as I did the first time -- probably more. (Indeed, I felt my heartstrings tugging by the end, in a way that I did not feel them tug the first time I saw Vol. 2.) Yeah, sure, there are moments when Bill (and thus Tarantino) seem a little too in-love with their dialogue, a little too inclined to rattle off phrases like "therein lies a dilemma", and I find these digressions annoying when I listen to the CDs, but in the course of the movie as a whole, I don't really mind them.

The thing that struck me as I watched the entire epic today -- the thing that stood out for me, above all other things -- was Love. These movies are all about Love -- first and foremost, Tarantino's pure, unabashed, affectionate Love for the films, the music, the attitude, the moral codes, the whatchamacallits with which he grew up. To say nothing of his Love for the sheer expressiveness of film, period.

But there is Love of other kinds here. There is a genuine Tragedy in the way the Love -- and I do believe it IS Love -- between Bill and The Bride gives way to other things. There is also an implicit Love -- or perhaps Grace would be a better word -- in the way The Bride earns the respect of Pai Mei, so much so that he teaches her the trick that he has never taught anyone else. Who knows WHY The Bride got into the assassination biz, but in her relationship with Pai Mei, it is implied that there was something Extra about her that brought out an uncommon generosity in him. (And we see signs of that, of course, in the way she responds to Vivica A. Fox's daughter at the beginning of the first film, and in the way that she "begs" Gogo and others to not stand in her way.)

Anyway, that Love is there all over these films, and thus, I find myself giving these films my Love in return.

In the meantime, my question about the alleged "spoiler" regarding The Bride's name remains. Why, exactly, is it so significant that BOTH films bleep everyone's use of that name up until the moment Daryl Hannah rattles it off and we get that flashback of The Bride announcing her presence in grade school?

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Guest Russell Lucas

http://metaphilm.com/philm.php?id=310_0_2_0_M

There is probably a bit of overstatment in the above analysis of Volume 2, but I think it's a nice piece. And it touches on why Tarantino might have gone to such lengths to keep the Bride's name a secret. In this western, she's the Woman with No Name (until, of course, it is revealed). I don't recall in Leone's trilogy whether they simply avoided the topic of Eastwood's name or whether they obscured mentions to it by some means. In Volume 1, they drew attention to it by the bleeping, but I think you'd expect that people familiar with each other would naturally call each other by name.

I need to get out to see Vol. 2 again.

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http://metaphilm.com/philm.php?id=310_0_2_0_M

There is probably a bit of overstatment in the above analysis of Volume 2, but I think it's a nice piece.

Agreed. I finally got to see it two nights ago, and this is the best analysis of this sort I have ever read. Maybe it's overstatement, but he makes a convincing case.

The only thing that is contradictory is the whole "Bill = God = dead" angle in the piece, which contradicts Tarantino's own views, ambiguous as they are.

Nick

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Guest Russell Lucas

Well, I think he's employing his broader interpretation of Nietzche's phrase, to mean the cessation of fear of the powers of an unknown, omnipotent being, so I think we can distinguish that from Tarantino's own belief.

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Russell Lucas wrote:

: http://metaphilm.com/philm.php?id=310_0_2_0_M

Oh, brilliant, brilliant! I love it! And it kinda fits in with that whole metaphor-for-divorce thing, too.

SPOILERS

Re: "Indeed, their final clash begins with swordplay, but Beatrix's sword is quickly flung away in the fight, and as Bill jabs his sword towards her, she sheathes it in the case she's still holding. If the sword has all along symbolized the penis and the power it represents, then the sheath is symbolically the vagina, now itself a symbol of power -- and consequently the pussy overcomes the cock in this fight, the woman, as woman and mother, defeats the man, the father."

I thought the bit with the sheath was brilliant in the film -- kinda cool in the same sense that the trailer for Hero shows a sword passing through the gap that runs down the middle of another sword -- but what's especially interesting here, in light of this quote, is that the word "vagina" is ITSELF Latin for "sheath". As Diane Ackerman writes (p. 279), "In classical Latin vagina means 'sheath for a sword.' Aeneas would put his sword into his vagina." (What it says about our language that a female organ is defined by its usefulness to a male organ, I leave to the reader to determine.) So Beatrix Kiddo very literally defeats Bill by capturing his sword with her vagina.

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(Russel Lucas May 5, 2004)

I don't recall in Leone's trilogy whether they simply avoided the topic of Eastwood's name or whether they obscured mentions to it by some means

Actually, Eastwood's "Man With No Name" is one of those legendary movie myth's -- along the lines of Bogart's Rick from Casablanca being quoted as saying, "Play it again, Sam.", or the bandit's line from Treasure of the Sierra Madre, "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges." (Funny, that's a Bogart movie, too). In all three of the Eastwood/Leone westerns, Clint's character has a name and is referred to it more than once. In both Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Eastwood's character is named Joe. In For a Few Dollars More his name is Monco.

As for Kill Bill Vol. 2, I would have to say that I enjoyed this much more than Vol. 1 as an individual film experience... but at the same time I find that it strengthens my more recent viewing of Vol. 1.

For those of you interested in seeing one of Tarantino's inspirations for the Kill Bill's, I recommend seeing the recently released DVD Lady Snowblood (1973), a terrific samurai tale to which Tarantino's films hold more than a passing resemblance. Lady Snowblood is the story of a woman who was literally conceived for revenge. Like Kill Bill, the story is told in chapters, and the protagonist has her own death list to follow. The story also follows a somewhat fractured time line (definitely not the norm for many of the exploitation samurai- sword pics of the time). The fight sequences may seem dated and lacking of some style, but this was made 30 years ago and a little leniency should be allowed. Note of warning, if you didn't care for the portrayal of violence in Tarantino's films, you might have a problem with this film too. It's not called Lady Snowblood for nothing. laugh.gif

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The wife, a few friends, and I are gonna be doing a Kill Bill marathon this weekend -- wheeee! And just in time for that comes THIS little article:

- - -

Samurai Soteriology

With Hollywood still buzzing about the recent 77th Academy Awards ceremony, this is a good time to consider one of the most influential forces shaping our attitudes about religion: the movies. My favorite movie from the past year was ignored at the Oscars: Quentin Tarantino's second "volume" of his epic tale of bloody, inexorable revenge, Kill Bill. Taken together, the Kill Bill movies demonstrate some bona-fide Zen Buddhist doctrine, and can be read as a filmic meditation on the Zen koan that provides the philosophical keynote for the plot: "If you meet the Buddha, kill him."

David L. Simmons, Sightings, March 10

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The wife, a few friends, and I are gonna be doing a Kill Bill marathon this weekend -- wheeee!

Some friends and I did that just after KB2 came out. For some reason I had a headache at the end of the day - and I don't get headaches. I also don't really do movie marathons. I don't know if this is a cautionary tale, but take it for what you will.

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Well, the second time I saw both films, I saw KB1 on video and then went straight to the theatre and saw KB2 on the big screen, with only half-an-hour between the two movies, max. And THAT was when I REALLY fell in love with the films.

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Well, the second time I saw both films, I saw KB1 on video and then went straight to the theatre and saw KB2 on the big screen, with only half-an-hour between the two movies, max.  And THAT was when I REALLY fell in love with the films.

So my copy of Vol. 2 is now ready for pick-up at the library -- months after I watched, and loved, Vol. 1. I originally was supposed to pick up both volumes at the same time, but the library couldn't locate my "on hold" copy of Vol. 2, so I had to go to "the back of the line" and wait it out again.

I'll watch it Saturday night. I'm looking forward to it, although one friend tells me Vol. 2 turns into a standard action flick, a let-down from Vol. 1. I'm not sure exactly what he means; I'd heard the exact opposite -- that Vol. 2 has more character development than Vol. 1.

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Volume 2 is the best family values-promoting film from a Hollywood studio at least in the 2000s. No, I wouldn't show it to my kids (Heavens, no), but it makes me uniquely thankful for them. We just introduced some friends to the films over vacation and had lots of fun with them.

Volume 2 is the "western" to Volume 1's chop-socky.

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Ken, you come up with the best theses. I'd love to see the jaws drop at conferences when you lay that on 'em.

I can't speak to any comparison to EE. I rented it a year or so ago and my wife and I hated it so much by the twenty-minute mark (and I had grown tired of her asking me over and over again who had recommended it) that we tore it out of the player and watched Kiki's with the kids for the 76th time.

I know no one would ever believe this, but I tear up more at the end of KB Vol.2 than I do at any point of Finding Nemo.

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You're not alone there (although I've never seen Nemo) - that ending really gets me for some reason, and the bit of the film from the point she first enters Bill's place to the end is some of my favourite recent cinema. But I'd like to know more about how you think it promotes family values...

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Well, in this context I'd define family values roughly as the promotion of the idea that family, and the act of affirmatively caring for and sacrificing for children, is a social and personal good that should trump individual or self-directed achievements, including certain kinds of career advancement or engaging in destructive behaviors. From the moment she hears she's pregnant, Kiddo wants out. She's like a month pregnant, and she throws away being the best at what she does, both because of the inherent dangers and the inherent not-other-centeredness of her profession. Contrast it with the Lone Wolf and Cub/Road to Perdition model, which shows fathers still in conflicted roles as killers/fathers. Kiddo can't be both. Won't be both. She starts over as a record store chick. Throws away the High Life. (Pro-life viewers like me like the way she talks about her one- or two-month pregnancy as her "baby" or "child.")

All of that transformative value-shifting is put on hold after she emerges from the coma when she thinks she has nothing left (the Vernita fight is interesting as an ice-breaker because we see the remnants of her tenderness toward the idea of having a child and she defines her revenge as killing Vernita, and not killing her daughter and husband). She's made a mommy again at the end, and only Bill stands in the way of her being rapturously happy then. They clearly can't just live together now, and he's not going to let her take the child. Sensibly, though, there isn't a lengthy fight to the death. Kiddo the mommy can't just be retransformed back into the butcher from the House of Blue Leaves. Thus we get a short (some would misguidedly say too-abrupt) skirmish after which she dispatches Bill with a relatively nonviolent manuever.

It's important to note that she learned that manuever only by getting Pai Mei to trust her, a feat Bill can't even believe. That's after talking Hanzo out of retirement. Bottom line: Kiddo's a person one can trust. She's the thief with honor. She's done nasty, unspeakable things, but when presented with that glimmer of blessing and the impetus to ground meaning outside of herself-- a child-- she 180s.

And when it's all over, when Bill is gone, she's left a wake of many more unspeakable and nasty things done to get her revenge. Her life is ruined. Her soul is stained with blood. She has no marketable skills. She's got BB, though, and her blubbering relief and thankfulness are heartfelt and really memorable.

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...She'll live now to be a completely different and profoundly better person because she's living for her daughter.

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Brilliant, Russ.

And y'know, I don't mind that the final duel is so, so short, or abrupt. Given the tone and the pace of the rest of the film, an extended fight scene would have been really out of place. I'm quite happy to settle for the fight scene with Daryl Hannah in that crowded trailer.

But it's interesting, isn't it, how all the fight scenes in Vol. 2 are somehow LESS of a big deal than the fight scenes in Vol. 1. Y'know, in the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars franchises, there has always been a sense of escalation, a belief that each film must have bigger fight scenes and/or more fight scenes than the film that came before it. But the Kill Bill series is quite different. Vol. 1 builds up to the big and bloody climax -- and even THEN, it can only do this by showing Kiddo's first two acts of revenge in REVERSE ORDER! -- but then Vol. 2 gives us something different: one of the three remaining "villains" is killed not by Kiddo but by someone else; the second is defeated but left alive; and the third is defeated in a fight scene so brief you'd miss it if you blinked. It's an interesting reversal of the usual priorities.

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Yeah! I like that. Certainly, there'd be no significance to showing that Death List in Volume 2. She couldn't really cross off Elle-- she's not dead, and she'd have to asterisk Budd-- it wasn't her doing. And I agree that any protracted fight with Bill would have actually been more anitclimactic.

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Saw this last night and am looking forward to -- at last -- reading through this thread.

I found myself less than enthralled by the Leone-esque posturing and soundtrack of much of Vol. 2; thought I'd enjoy the homage much more than I did.

But that final half hour threw me for a loop, in a good way, and left me giddy.

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W.r.t. your soundtrack diss, Robert Rodriguez wrote and played the guitar on that awesome mariachi/flamenco piece that's laid down against the first set of credits. I saw him in the flesh last night and am convinced beyond all doubt that he's the most charismatic person currently alive and possessing XY chromosomes. Please acknowledge how fantastic this song is.

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Please acknowledge how fantastic this song is.

I will if Christian doesn't.

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