11 October 2003

Two thoughts on Kill Bill, Vol. 1:

1. Miramax's decision to release the film in two parts probably makes sense commercially, but from an artistic standpoint, it misses the point completely. Not only would Kill Bill play better at three hours, it would arguably play better at eight hours. I'd happily watch it until my senses gave out completely. Watching it in two halves is like checking out after the first two hours of Magnolia: there's plenty of stuff to love, but the film needs time to expand inside your brain. Like Magnolia, there are entire reels in Kill Bill that are of questionable quality, but that's understandable when a director goes wild and shoots all the scenes he's ever dreamed of filming. A movie like this needs to be a three-hour monster, because it takes at least an hour for it to wipe the audience's mind clean of habitual standards of taste and restraint. Kill Bill and Magnolia are the cinematic equivalent of amusement parks, and who wants to spend just a couple of hours in an amusement park?

2. That said, we've been left with half a loaf. And it's obviously impossible to attempt a review of half of a movie, so there's going to be a big fat asterisk in my list of the year's best movies. But I'll be seeing it again. It's the sort of movie that demands to be seen from the first row, or at least from close enough that the screen fills your field of vision. You want to jump inside of it, or maybe inject it into your body a la William Gibson. It's absorbing on the level of a video game rather than that of a movie, but it's also a reminder of how absorbing video games can be. I do kinda miss the presence of believable human moments, the sort of moments that you could find in Jackie Brown and parts of Pulp Fiction, but you know something? This has been a pretty good year for believable human moments in movies, but not much of a year for purely cinematic bliss. As much as I loved American Splendor, Lost in Translation, School of Rock, Spellbound, and Capturing the Friedmans, I badly needed to see a movie about movies. (I hadn't seen a good one since City of God.) Kill Bill is that movie, and it comes just in time.

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