Friday, November 20, 2015

Top 52 Things I Love About Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (that no one talks about)

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is best known, at least by Quentin Tarantino himself, as Tarantino’s first Movie Movie Universe film. To explain. Tarantino has said he makes two types of films: ones belonging in The Realer than Real World Universe, and others in The Movie Movie Universe. The Realer than Real World Universe is for films that are based in a slightly heightened version of reality. This is where Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown belong. The Movie Movie Universe is an alternate, fantastical reality. To put it simpler: characters from The Realer than Real World Universe would likely go see a film from The Movie Movie Universe. Which makes sense. I mean, can’t you imagine Ordell Robbie loving the shit out of Kill Bill?

So, in short, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 was a real departure from the QT films that came before. It literally opened the filmmaker up to a whole new world.

The retro music, the throwback title cards – it’s Tarantino establishing that what we’re about to see takes place in a world devoted entirely to cinema, not real life.

The sound of empty shell casings moving on the floor as Bill (David Carradine) walks by.

Interesting that Tarantino actively withheld his directing credit (and “A Film By” declarations) from the opening credits of his first three films, yet it is the first title card we see in Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

The barely-there sound of wind blowing during the opening credits.

The sound design of Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) hitting The Bride (Uma Thurman) in the knee with a wood table leg. You can feel that shit.

The way the camera shakes with the floor when Verita is slammed down.

That little move Fox does with her shoulders when she brings her fist back. So badass.

Nice little bit of not-so-subtle foreshadowing.

Us too.

The fact that we know O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) is dead in minute 15 of the film, but we don’t see her get sliced for another 83 minutes.

Love that the first thing we hear in Chapter 2 is the same few bars of the song that played when Mr. Blonde turned on the radio in Reservoir Dogs.

Why is this setting title card in quotes with no end punctuation?! QT, I love you and your mysterious ways.

The fact that Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) and Son Number One (James Parks) are indeed father and son in real life.

McGraw’s POV shot accurately reflecting what life looks like through his bitchin’ shades.

Why is Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) introduced with such a large title card, when Vernita Green wasn’t?! Ohh, QT.

I say this all the time in response to “I guess.” Like, in real life.

And then this card gets a period. I genuinely love how much fun Tarantino has with title cards.

I love how animated The Bride is. Some of her movements and facial expressions play like slapstick (the way she slams herself down on the bed after this shot is hilarious). It adds a nice punch of humor to the film. It’s Tarantino’s way of reminding us that we are indeed watching a movie, and it is okay to have fun while doing so.

That hot white light under Buck’s (Michael Bowen) hands.

Buck and his cross.

The most disgusting can of Vaseline – eer, sorry, Vasalube – that has ever existed.

I’ve always wondered how The Bride actually killed that redneck bastard, but I love that Tarantino doesn’t show us.

My favorite line of the movie. Priceless.

The noise the wheelchair makes when The Bride stops suddenly in the parking garage.

Love the attention to detail in this scene. Thurman makes you believe that The Bride pulling herself into Buck’s Pussy Wagon is the hardest thing the character has to do in the whole damn movie.

I’ve always loved this shot of Liu. Her sly confidence tells us everything we need to know about O-Ren.

Showing Boss Matsumoto slam his sword down three times.

This look of complete, relaxed satisfaction.

Blink and you’ll miss it, kiddo.

The Bride’s purposefully dimwitted American-girl-in-Japan disposition when she meets Hattori Hanzo (Shin’ichi Chiba). She’s such a good hustler.

Hattori Hanzo throwing his knife on the magnetic wall rack.

The sound of the Bald Guy (Kenji Ohba) dropping a dish in the background when The Bride first says, “Hattori Hanzo.”

The way Hanzo’s hand falls as he puts a glorious tittle over the ‘i’.

Tarantino punctuating the character introductions in this scene with a hilarious musical note that sounds like it’s from a ‘70s porno (or, of course, an old school kung-fu flick).

Green-colored subtitles, because why the hell not?

The dude on the right fanning himself out of shock.

The napkin landing perfectly on Boss Tanaka’s (Jun Kunimura) hands.

Sofie Fatale (Julie Dreyfus) translating for O-Ren without O-Ren having to ask.

I adore how intentionally fake the exterior airplane scenes look. Like the taxi cab scene in Pulp Fiction.

Gotta love movie magic.

Great stealth oner (long takes that do not draw attention to themselves as long takes): O-Ren and her Crazy 88 crew enter their private room, The 5, 6, 7, 8’s are established, and the camera pans over to reveal The Bride. Shot length: 36 seconds.

O-Ren laughing. Who knew she could?

Another great stealth oner (1 minute 55 seconds): following The Bride in and around and up and over the club, tracking the owners of the club, then following Sofie into the bathroom.

Blood on the lens. So good.

The sound design of The Bride/Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama) fight alone should’ve earned the film an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Editing.

Johnny Mo’s (Gordon Liu) fighting noises. “WAH cho WAH cho WAH cho!”

Pretty much everything in the House of Blue Leaves fight scene has been discussed ad nauseum. But the first time I saw The Bride jump on her back and begin slicing off the Crazy 88’s limbs while she breakdanced... I knew I was in the presence of greatness. It still gives me chills.

The sound of the Crazy 88s wallowing in pain. Tarantino wants it to be funny.

The Bride sliding the doors open to reveal this flawless set.

Cutting back to Sofie in the hospital and hearing The Bride yell “Give me your other arm!” in voiceover. The command in Thurman’s voice is terrifying.

The way the color slowly comes in on The Bride’s eyes and earring in this shot.

The final shot still gives me chills. Dreyfus’ terror, the buildup of the music, that final line… it’s just perfect.

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  1. If you haven't read my piece about growing up with Tarantino, read it here. I love the attention to detail that you mention as there's so much about the first film that is so worth re-watching though I'm still waiting for both films to come together as one as I still think of both films as one movie.

    My mother is not a fan of violent films. She doesn't like watching sex in movies. She's not into anything that is extreme or graphic. Yet, she loves the music in this film and the scene between the Bride and O-Ren at that garden. It is such a beautiful scene.

    Another thing about that scene I notice is that during that fight, it is clear that of the people the Bride was affiliated with. O-Ren was likely the one person who was her real friend and you could tell there was some sense of hesitation in the fight as they both said their apologies and such. That's one of those little moments in the film that I love as is Sally Menke's editing and the sound editing of Wylie Stateman who would become one of Tarantino's key collaborators after this film.

    1. That's a very good point about The Bride and O-Ren. You can tell they were friends before, or, at the very least, there was always a profound sense of respect between them.

      That's a great story about your mom. Sometimes things are simply too beautiful to ignore.

  2. Fantastic post. It reminded me how much I love this movie. All of these scenes are amazing. The one that sticks with me is the shift to black and white for the big fight scene. It's the only time I can think of that censorship gave us something beautiful.

    1. Thanks! I love that shift as well. If you can ever get your hands on Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, do. It's basically both movies stitched together, completely uncensored. Seeing that B&W scene in color is a real trip.

  3. I adore the Kill Bill films. Pure Tarantino magic, I love the attention to detail that he has, and that you pointed out in many instances here. The cast, the direction, the writing, the editing, sound design and all the other technical aspects- there's something that sets the Kill Bill films apart from QT's other films for me. People don't talk about Kill Bill (and Jackie Brown) as much as they talk about his other films, which is a shame. I think that they're much better than Tarantino's latest offerings, even though both Basterds and Django are great films. I guess I just wish that they were talked about as much as those other films are.

    1. I definitely wish Kill Bill (and especially Jackie Brown), were discussed more among QT's work. And while I do love his last two movies, they are very, very big in scope, which makes them not as easy to rewatch as his other work.

  4. Excellent post. When the Bride opens up the doors to go out into the snow, that's one of my favorite shots in any movie. It's so beautiful.

  5. Loving these posts, man. They are making me want to go through and binge on Tarantino's films again before The Hateful Eight.

    1. Thanks Eric! I've had a blast going through them one-by-one in such detail. Glad you're digging the posts!

  6. Another great one from Tarantino. The ending is one of the best action sequences i have ever seen. I think that's one of the reason i actually found Vol. 2 so disappointing. Nothing could live up to that. Man, you are getting me more and more pumped for The Hateful Eight with each one of these posts.

    1. Haha that's awesome! I'm pumping MYself up just writing these. I'm going to touch on this more on Friday, but I think Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is a great action film, and Vol. 2 is a great drama. A lot of people (myself included), expected Vol. 2 to be as high-level action as Vol. 1, but when I realized QT was going for heavy drama in 2, I was able to appreciate it more.

    2. Yeah, that's true. I appreciate it more now then when i first watched it now that i know what to expect, but Vol. 1 is still my favorite. Can't wait to read post on it on Friday.

    3. It's always a toss up between the two for me. I mean, Vol. 2 has more Madsen, and that guy is a motherfucker. "Wrong brother................... you hateful bitch."

  7. Recently re-watched both Kill Bill films with my wife, and it was great to remember just how good they are. I'm not sure that I'd seen them since their first home release! I feel like sometimes they're forgotten a bit when people talk about Tarantino (or at least not considered top films from him). Glad to see such a great post about Vol 1.!

    1. Thanks Dan! It's funny how, with time, people don't seem to talk about these Kill Bill films as much. They really are masterfully made, no matter your opinion on the genre. So glad you like them.

  8. I so wanted to make a list like this. There are so many little things in this movie that I adore. Great list man!

  9. Love this movie. One bit I always enjoyed a lot was how when we meet Elle she seems so composed but when Bill calls off the murder of Beatrix she just yells at him with such fury over the phone. Hannah is fantastic in this role.

    1. Such a great choice! You can tell that she is YELLING into that phone. "YOU. DON'T. OWE. HER. SHIT!" Love it.

  10. I love both the Kill Bill movies, but for different reasons. With this one, it's just an amazing martial arts movie. My favorite thing about it, which you touched on here, is that practically every single frame of it is an homage/callback/replica of something from eras gone by, yet it never feels like QT is just ripping off other movies. It's more like him blatantly putting his influences in our faces and molding them into something original right before our eyes. For instance, he got tons more from Bruce Lee flicks than The Bride's yellow jumpsuit. Please go look at Bruce's dojo fight from The Chinese Connection and his fight with Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon. QT clearly used those as the blueprints for the fights with The Crazy 88 and O-Ren Ishii, respectively. However, he adds so much of his own flare that they still work as two of the better action scenes he's ever filmed. It's truly spectacular filmmaking.

    1. Could not agree more with everything you listed here. Love this comment. I hadn't see those clips you reference until years after the Kill Bills were released, but it's so fun to watch those fights back-to-back with the fights in Kill Bill. QT is so skilled at paying homage, rather than ripping off.

  11. Fantastic job! Both films are impeccably crafted, for sure. I always seem to forget Kill Bill when I think of QT's work, and I'm not sure why, since I'd probably rank Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 ahead of his last four films.

    1. I think I like them both equally, but for different reasons. Which makes me like them even more haha.