Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Death of Bill

There are certain movies that the social conservative community loves to hate. Pretty much anything by Quentin Tarantino seems to fall in this category. Now, Tarantino has yet to make a movie that I'd want to let anyone under around 17 watch, but nonetheless I have to admit to thinking all of his movies that I've seen thus far are actually quite good.

After nearly a month of NetFlix making its daily bread from us without us actually getting around to watching much of anything, I sat down very late one night (after a MrsDarwin who had declared herself un-interested had gone to bed) last week to watch Kill Bill Volume 2.

I'd watched Volume 1 a year and a half ago, and enjoyed it. It was in some ways opposite in its content to Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction is a movie that contains far less explicit blood and gore than you get the impression that it does, but it is quite simply hard to watch. It's a race through some very dark places.

Kill Bill Volume 1, on the other hand, is generally pretty bright and cheerful, though at times the floor is literally awash in blood. Uma Thurman (aka The Bride, aka Beatrix Kiddo) wakes from a five year coma seeking revenge and does so in full samurai/martial arts movie splendor throughout. Classic revenge drama, against an offense sufficiently over-the-top that you have no problem at all sitting back to watch Uma leave a trail of bodies behind her.

Volume 2 quiets down considerably, and indeed (where it not for a 3-5 instances of language and one very icky moment with an eyeball) barely earns it R rating. While Vol 1 is boisterous and fun, the second half has a much more mature feel.

Part of the feeling of maturity, I believe, comes from the movie's central conceit of taking a Charlie's-Angels-meets-martial-arts-movie set of genre settings and taking it seriously. We discover that the turning-point moment for Uma Thurman's character was when she discovered that she was pregnant -- and realized that the international assassin scene was not where she wanted to bring up her child. (This comes through an fun girl-assassin on girl-assassin scene, with the pregnancy test being checked at gun point. "Good luck with that. Congratulations." says the other assassin, as they mutually back down.)

It is the Uma Thurman character's motherhood (through the first 3/4 of the two movies she thinks she if avenging, among other things, the murder of her unborn child -- only discovering near the end that Bill has been raising her daughter as his own) that ultimately give the pair of movies a human, indeed almost warm finish. For all that it's her unusual characteristics that make the character the subject of a two volume action movie (assassin, martial arts powerhouse, looking like Uma Thurman) it's the character's most universal trait, her motherhood and fierce desire to protect her daughter (from the world and from her own past) that make the character and the movie likeable.

And what of Bill? Well, he had it coming to him. That's all I'm saying.


Anonymous said...

Here's another social conservative that likes Tarantino's work. I'm a BIG fan of Robert Rodriguez, as well.

Matthew Lickona said...

Great film. The baby is grace - the grace that saves her in the very beginning of the film (Bill misses his killshot becasue she tells him "It's your baby."), the grace that delivers her from a life of inhumanity into a life of human love. I can yammer for ages on this one. As it is, I managed to go public with some of those yammerings here.

Fidei Defensor said...

Wow, a rare difference of opinion pitting me against Jay and Darwin! I utterly despised the Kill Bill movies (as well as anything else made by Tarentino). I can stomach a lot of immorality in art, but not ammorality. Even a show like South Park has more redeem values than the Kill Bill movies becuase as irreverent as those episodes are, they atleast admit the the existance of a moral framework. I don't mind violence in movies at all, so I put Kill Bill in leage with something like the TV show friends, Bread and Circuses in an ammoral void.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'd have to disagree there. I would say that both Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill movies have a very strong moral framework. The people they are about don't lead anything like remotely moral lives, but the framework is there.

Similar in having a strong moral framework but dealing with very dark subjects and characters is most of the stuff directed by Abel Ferrera: The Funeral and The Addiction coming to mind.

I'll side with you on Friends being totally amoral, though. Plus it had Jennifer Anniston in it, which makes nearly anything worse.

Bernard Brandt said...

I would have to agree with Michael Lickona and Darwin, and to disagree with Defensor Fidei on this one. I entirely agree that Kill Bill, Vol 1 & 2 are movies with an ultimately pro-life message, and are informed by a Christian morality in a post-Christian world.

I have to quibble with Mr. Lickona as regards whether the Uma Thurman character was simply engaged in revenge: several of the characters, particularly Bill and Elle Driver, plainly indicated in the movie that were "the Bride" ever to leave the coma she was in, she would be treated to more behavior guaranteed to return her to the hospital, if not the grave.

I therefore think that a case can be made that "the Bride's" post-coma behavior can be better described as "self-defense", particularly after she discovered that her child was alive.

And regardless, anyone (such as Tarantino) who could do such glowing tributes to so many disparate movie genres (e.g., the Samurai film, the Kung-fu movie, the spaghetti western, jap anime, etc.) deserves a kudo or two.