(Z To A is an ongoing series: cumulative reviews of my DVD collection in reverse alphabetical order.)
Plot Synopsis: Four years after taking a bullet in the head at her own wedding, The Bride (Uma Thurman) emerges from a coma and decides it’s time for payback… with a vengeance. Having been gunned down by her former boss (David Carradine) and his deadly squad of international assassins, it’s a kill-or-be-killed fight she didn’t start but is determined to finish.
– From DVD Production Notes
There isn’t much I can say about Kill Bill that hasn’t been said already, which is part of my neglecting to write about it more quickly. It’s part of the pop culture lexicon- instantly recognizable and iconic- and it’s only ten years old.
I suppose Bill is special to me because it stood out for its time. When I think about it now 2003 could be nicknamed a “year of blood.” Friends and I went to the theater to see Freddy Vs. Jason, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Cabin Fever and the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. These aren’t the kind of films I usually see, but their entertainment value was particularly high. It was a good year to go to the movies, and since then that kind of winning streak hasn’t repeated itself.
But Bill proved to be important in spite of its violence. For one thing, it said more and its images effected me for a long time. Is it derivative of other films? Visually, yes. But then there’s Tarantino’s writing, and Bill had female characters I had never seen in a film. Not ever. Never.
They’re simply unforgettable. The men are as well (in my case Michael Madsen’s Budd has stayed with me the longest), but this is a case of a conventional story being given over to women. How often does that come along and actually succeed?
Although these people operate in a cartoonish, hyper-violent universe, they seemed real to me. I never questioned them or their world. Recently I explored the Buffyverse and although I found it entertaining I was constantly questioning it and had problems understanding the characters. In Bill you’re dealing with unbelievably outrageous scenarios but I never questioned them. The events in both films simply are. The characters say what they mean and mean what they say. When they follow through on their threats things get even worse. Shit happens.
Not surprisingly it’s the characters in Bill I love the most, almost as much as the shock value they perpetuate. However I wouldn’t want to be within 100 miles of them in real life. What I appreciate is that there is a vulnerability in all of them, despite how deadly they can be.
What you don’t expect is that some of them harbor regret. Others are motivated by reasoning you wouldn’t normally predict. This makes the story more than a spectacle. It becomes human. It also makes the film better every time I watch it.
The other facet of Bill I appreciate is more personal. It’s the structure. I know Tarantino first employed a broken-up timeline in Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994), but Bill made more of an impression on me. Recently I considered the idea that I may have borrowed it. I’m writing a major project that employs a similar method, a sort of time mosaic rather than a timeline. I credit Tarantino for this. Well, him and Scorsese, but I won’t go into that. I suppose I’m a writer more influenced by filmmakers than other writers.
And like Scorsese, the violence in Bill has a cost, if not for the characters than for the audience themselves. That’s why I respect both filmmakers. Violence isn’t just violence, it’s extreme violence that weighs on us. It has mental repercussions. We may find ourselves thinking about it for days. In some cases we may even get visibly upset. But hey, isn’t that one of the most direct ways to remind us of our humanity? If wielded correctly it can be an effective tool.