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Monthly Archives: May 2004
Kill Bill: Volume II (Quentin Tarantino, 2004)
When I reviewed the first part of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, I concluded with a rhetorical question: would anyone have enjoyed just the first half of Once Upon a Time in the West? My point was that it was difficult to assess Volume 1 prior to the release of Volume 2, since it was bound to end up as an empty exercise in style if it could never reach any conclusion. Sergio Leone’s classic sprung to mind as an example of a perfectly rounded film by a master of film technique that wouldn’t amount to anything if you showed just part of it. Having seen Volume 2 of Kill Bill, however, I can see that the example was all wrong. Once Upon a Time in the West is a film with purity of purpose that stands as a supremely executed single entity. Kill Bill, by contrast, makes perfect sense as two movies. Not only is each volume an anthology, constructed out of a series of episodes that add up to a larger whole, but each volume is starkly different in overall purpose and tone. I’m now convinced Tarantino intended for the film to be split in half all along, and I’m not one of those who hankers for Tarantino’s promised single movie version (I can see it being schizophrenic and unsatisfying, like From Dusk Till Dawn).
Mike Moore winning the Palme D’Or? It seems so bizarre that it is hardly surprising that in all the stories about Fahrenheit 9/11 preceding the festival, nobody had really suggested this as a possibility, despite the film being in competition. I can’t wait to see the film: I loved Bowling for Columbine, and am sympathetic to all but the most outrageous of Moore’s politics. Yet I also fear it may be terrible. Columbine I thought stood head and shoulders above Moore’s other work because he successfully reigned in many of his worst impulses. Moore has a weakness for hyperbole and half-truths that has brought down many of his other films and books, but despite the best attempts of the right to discredit Columbine, nobody really poked any serious holes in it. There is plenty of scope for a really devastating attack on George W. Bush without bending the truth, but I fear Moore’s anger and the praise heaped on him post-Columbine may have gone to his head. I can see Fahrenheit 9/11 descending into hysteria, conspiracy theories and factual error. Let’s hope I’m wrong: for all his faults, Moore popularises the left and has the kind of cross-cultural reach that usually only the right can achieve.
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
It’s ironic that Francis Ford Coppola made his name as arguably the leading director of the 1970s on the back of The Godfather. Just when Hollywood was embracing a new wave of film school educated directors, and financing lots of offbeat, low-budget “youth” pictures trying to recapture the success of Easy Rider, Coppola broke through with a very classical studio picture. It really is, as Leonard Maltin’s guide puts it, “the 1970’s answer to Gone with the Wind:” in other words, an epic but conventional adaptation of a lengthy source novel. Later, with Apocalypse Now, Coppola would try for a more highbrow art project that better justified his “auteur” status, but here – superficially at least – Coppola’s triumph is simply one of expert stewardship. The Godfather is, first and foremost, a perfectly wrought interpretation of Mario Puzo’s novel. People sometimes cite The Godfather as an example of a film masterpiece springing from a trashy book, but I think this is unfair to Puzo. The qualities that make the film great are mostly present in the novel: if we ascribe greater value to the film version, it’s because we are more willing to surrender to the experience of pulp fiction in the cinema than in print.