Kill Bill Volume 2

Did you spot as many references in Tarantino's misshapen masterpiece as we did? Read on to find out…

By Max Leonard

It may be a little late in the day, but Musicalbear has decided it's time to throw its hat into the Kill Bill ring. And what a ring it is, with the bloated second instalment weighing in at over one hundred and forty minutes; so long are the two parts, in fact, that Uma gives us a 'previously on...', reminiscent of our favourite soaps Sunset Beach and The OC, to set this ball rolling down the track to its foretold conclusion. Structure and concision, as you may have noticed, are not the film's strong points but this is inevitable when you consider the range of influences that Quentin manages to cram in; its fragmentary nature even becomes a virtue, with the title cards measuring out the action and giving a sense of progression and order to the myriad quotations. Those of us who weren't fortunate enough to catch the recent season at the ICA showcasing some of the more obscure Swedish and Japanese antecedents will remain in the dark about those that can only be found in Tarantino's video cabinet, but there are some nice homages to things as varied as The Bride Wore Black, The Vanishing, Night of the Living Dead, Shaolin vs Lama, and Dragonball Z.

This is, to an extent, precisely the way to watch the film, as a patchwork quilt of material given coherence and gloss by a skilled artist and cinema geek, with hundreds of unexplained touches for the viewer's inner nerd to slaver over. Kill Bill Volume 2 is a tour de force of the director's favourite pictures and runs the risk of never establishing a link between the world of movies and the real one we all inhabit; Tarantino constantly changes film stocks, filters, aspect ratios, and moves from bleached monochrome into lush colour to remind us that this is always, and only, a film. And therein lies what I'd call Quentin's paradox: he manages to construct a story that packs a visceral and emotional punch from a pile of seemingly second-hand ideas, and even second-hand actors. Michael Madsen completes his resurrection initiated in Reservoir Dogs, and is perfectly cast as Bill's washed up brother, managing to convey with a few grunts and a wry raised eyebrow his depth of experience. Daryl Hannah is perhaps less successful (or perhaps I just refuse to imagine her as anything other than a mermaid), but the intertitle of her sequence – 'Elle and I' – will gain a few retrospective chuckles from those less squeamish spectators by the end of the film's best set piece, in the penultimate chapter.

Uma Thurman is more or less perfect, if that's possible, and David Carradine's performance is immensely powerful and charismatic, nowhere more so than when making sandwiches, face to face with his lover turned nemesis in the hacienda. Yet the film's final paean to motherhood seems a little off-kilter and, though undeniably moving, the closing scenes are perhaps best read as reflecting on the relationship between the co-creators of the bride, artist and muse, Q and U (whose real-life pregnancy delayed the project by years), and the dog-eat-dog world of the film industry. While I'm not sure if I would entirely want to defend Tarantino from the accusations that have been levelled against him of cultural insensitivity and outright plagiarism, the second part of Kill Bill proves, along with Jackie Brown, that he is capable of making films that connect emotionally, rather than being merely ultra-violent postmodern collages with a vacuum at their core. He has the power to make entire auditoria laugh, squirm, flinch and, importantly, feel for his characters. Though undeniably indulgent and overlong, Tarantino's double-barrelled assault on the senses delivers, from Nancy Sinatra at the start to Bebe at the end: bang bang!
Contributors retain the copyright to their own contributions. Everything else is copyright © Spannered 2015.
Please do not copy whole articles: instead, copy a bit and link to the rest. Thanks!