Published at: March 9, 2004, 8:50 a.m. CST by headgeek
You ever have a day where you just need a great film?
That was me today. Last Friday I received a phone call inviting my father and I to Tarantino’s first theatrical screening of KILL BILL VOLUME 2 anywhere in the world, and it happened that it would be taking place here in Austin. That happened last night. I was, of course, overjoyed. What film geek wouldn’t be truly excited beyond words to see the first theatrical screening of an uncut Tarantino film? Not I.
So Monday morning I wake up giddy. I was going to be seeing KILL BILL VOLUME 2 today. So I go to get out of bed and because the Gods are cruel, the fates evil and the writer of my tale sadistic, my right knee decides that it will simply not lock, effectively rendering my right leg as sturdy as that of a rag doll’s. As I’m desperately trying to figure out a scenario by which I might actually get to be attending the screening tonight – the phone begins ringing. Of course – today – about 20 different crisis had to arise. The phone constantly ringing… me trying to figure out what to do. I decide that I need to try and move out of my room and at least get to the bathroom… maybe the knee will catch if I’m moving around and I’ll be a real live human again. With my crutches I barely make it. So now, I’m in my bathroom. Is there anything more depressing than being stuck on a toilet unable to move for like 2-3 hours? I’m sure there is, but as I sat there… as the phone continued to ring and as problem after problem arose, one indisputable fact was tormenting me. I had no business, in the shape that my knee was in, going to see KILL BILL VOLUME 2 tonight. If moving 12 feet from my bed to the bathroom proved Herculean, the concept of going across my living room, down the stairs with no banister, into the car, then… in front of a giant crowd trying to get into the theater… with an injury that sometimes sends a signal to my brain to… SIT DOWN, at the most inopportune moments… this wasn’t something I was going to be able to do.
As I worked out the final outside world problem that was presented to me today, I realized in talking to this friend of mine that I did own a wheelchair that I have never used. It was my grandfather’s, when he passed away he left it to my father and I. I decide, yes… I WILL GO! I begin thinking about climbing those steps in China to Pei Mei’s temple, and how I would see those steps again if it killed me today.
Dad got the chair, put it together, took off all the holders for oxygen bottles and what not, then came in and announced the obvious, that I was going to have to get out to the car on foot, as in our crowded house, the chair was impossible. At this point, I was resolute… this was going to work. I could stand on my left leg, so I got dressed properly… got myself together and with Dad’s help got to the car. It was, literally one of the hardest things I’ve done. But, this was KILL BILL VOLUME 2 and I had to see it. Once at the theater, things calmed down immensely… I was secure in the fact that I would be seeing KILL BILL. I had told dozens of friends about the screening, they had all secured passes and when everyone got in, there was a buzz in the auditorium. There was excitement, knowing full well that we would be the first audience to see this film.
As the theater was packed, things got underway, there was a single microphone stand dead center in front of the screen. There were just under 500 people in the theater, and as Quentin took the mike, there was polite and enthusiastic applause. He simply announced that we were the first audience to see this film and that what we would be seeing would be rough… not entirely color timed with a very very temp mix… but that what we would be seeing would be a vast improvement on what it was a week ago. As he was talking, Bob and Harvey Weinstein came in, as did Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez and Sally Menke and assorted others.
As Quentin took his seat and the theater went dark… a hushed buzz went through the crowd. This was clearly an audience that “wanted” to see KILL BILL VOLUME 2.
The end result? As the final Q&U hit the screen and the projector turned off, the audience rose to its collective feet, turned to face Quentin and went on to applaud for 5 minutes. It was so overwhelming, that Harvey did not have the Research Firm conducting the screening pass out cards, clearly… Their work here was done.
The film is perfect as I could have ever hoped for. On my way out of the theater, Quentin asked me what my favorite moment of the film was. It was near the very end, as Uma and David are sitting at a table and well, the end is pretty certain. It is an incredibly emotional scene. Specifically – over the course of this film, you are struck with such an incredible amount of affection for David Carradine’s bastard Bill… as well as for Uma’s Kiddo that this exchange is wrenching it out of you. And Bill says a line to her that has an incredibly rude phrase at the end of it and I found myself at that moment, honestly crying and laughing at the exact same moment, and not for crass manipulative reasons, but for earned tears and laughs. Specifically – that is such a hard thing to elicit from me in a theater… To have honest tears and laughs simultaneously is the very definition of the idealized version of entertainment for me. Something that touches you deeply and makes you laugh and enjoy yourself… That’s entertainment!
With my father, it was the scene where she first faces Bill and his armed “bodyguard” in his house. When you see the scene, you’ll get it. I wasn’t particularly surprised by his comments given current conditions with his “bodyguard” and their mutual violent adventures.
From others, I heard about 9 other “favorite moments.” In fact, I didn’t hear the same one twice. This is that sort of film. If you were turned off by the gore of the first film and found yourself wanting more of the ‘verbal” Tarantino dialogue… well, this is the film for you. It is a masterpiece. I’ve been reporting on test screenings for going on 8 years now, I’ve never heard of one with a standing ovation – it was overwhelming – like something you hear about, but never see. The film was that good.
How are the characters? Fantastic.
Michael Madsen is so fucking cool in this. If you’ve seen Charles Bronson in MAGNIFICENT SEVEN telling those kids about the strength of their fathers… or even Jon Voight in RUNAWAY TRAIN, when he tells a reckless Eric Roberts that if he gets free, if he would get down on his knees and scrub the tiniest stain off the floor with a toothbrush and follow orders and get the sort of job a con can get, he should be thankful… Well, Madsen is that man. He’s a man that has such sins that he has given up that life, finding no warmth in it. Instead, he lives in a tiny trailer in front of a magnificent view… and at night he works as a bouncer at a shithole strip club being treated like crap by people he could snap like his fingers… but he takes it. He takes it and he goes home and he plays his records and chews his tobacco knowing this is the best he can ever hope for… and wow. He’s great.
David Carradine is going to amaze people. Nobody anywhere has seen him this good. When I saw him onstage with Tarantino at Quentin’s last film festival – I knew there was the potential for magic. If you’ve seen his Cole Younger in THE LONG RIDERS – then you know that it wasn’t just stunt casting, that there was a purpose behind it. If you remember and like CIRCLE OF IRON – there are some elements here that are just taken to such a higher level… that it just isn’t even funny. Quentin does wonders with David in this film. In fact, David has several of the best monologues you’ve seen in a Quentin film here… His Peter & The Wolf style story of Pei Mei is a classic… His “Superman” monologue is also classic. I’m also particularly fond of the bit at Two Pines between him and “The Bride,” as well as the “Fish” story. David is, I imagine, the perfect portrayal of Satan in many ways. He’s charismatic as can be, eloquent, deceitful, manipulative, smooth and treacherously deadly. He’s a bastard and he knows he’s a bastard and he’s fine with that. That you will mourn his passing is a testament to Quentin’s direction and to David’s performance.
Uma Thurman is amazing. The phrase, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” has never been more true than when talking of her Beatrix Kiddo. She is amazing. The day she goes through beginning with her encounter with Madsen’s Budd till the end of the next chapter… WHEW! This is great stuff! Her time with Pei Mei… surprisingly affecting. In particular the relationship between Uma and Gordon Liu on screen is truly outstanding. I was surprised by the “tough love” and “respect” between the two of them. The payoffs on these scenes will elicit shrieking applause if you’re audience is anything like the one last night. Watching Uma and David together is magic. This isn’t nearly the action film of the first part, this is really getting down to the meat of the characters and their relationships.
Gordon Liu… WOW. Pei Mei is a cinematic god. For anyone that ever even briefly flirted with love for Shaw Brother’s classics… You will be blown away. So much of it is in his eyes, his gestures and yeah… even the subtitles. Pei Mei is funny as hell, cruel, but with an incredibly powerful sense of purpose. The rice eating scene as Uma is attempting to use chopsticks with broken hands is particularly affecting. Great work.
Daryl Hannah is such a great fucking bitch in this thing. Elle is horrible, but because she would always be second. Her patent leather shiny eye-patch is cool as hell and man is she mean. She took on all the worst qualities of Bill -- this is the Loki to Uma’s Thor. Two Nordic Goddesses fathered by Bill’s Odin. When they fight… imagine if you will the fight scene between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw in the closed quarters of that train in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE… Now, give them the spacious environment of a white trash trailer smack dab in the desert outside Barstow – and you’ll begin to get it. This thing is an epic smack down. Right up there with Wayne and Victor MacLagen in THE QUIET MAN – this is a rumble that can be felt over seven states and when it ends… I dare you not to clap. No fancy smanchy wirework here. This fight hurts deep tissue.
The music is wonderful. At the moment, I’m a bit dazed… trying to recall it all, but like the music of the first film, this thing will spend considerable time being played in your world most likely.
What is missing? Well – you won’t see Bill’s fight with Michael Jai White which I described in detail from my China trip… I didn’t ask Quentin why he cut it out, instead, I understood. In this film it was more important that the audience like Bill, than fear his skill. Because it was more important how you feel about the end of the fight, than the anticipation of that fight. To that, it is a testament to how well Quentin understood what was truly important to the story. THAT BEING SAID, I can’t fucking wait to see that fight on the extras on a DVD!
Ok, for now, I’ll call it quits on this review. This is my favorite film of Tarantino’s… Can I say that with all my experiences with this film to the side? No, not really. I was the only person in that theater that had climbed the cruel steps of Pei Mei, so sure I’m sure that colors my view of things… but then, I was the only person in the theater that wasn’t standing and applauding for five minutes straight when it was done, but then… I was in a wheelchair.