Thursday, December 02, 2010

Kill Bill and Miltonic Allusion: Black Rain

I continue to explore the theory that while, yes, Tarantino does seem to have a lot of bits in his movies that look like bits from other people's movies, this is not swiping. He alludes as Milton does -- to comment on the history of a genre and to figure his film as the culmination of a grand tradition.


[Samurai sword wielding motocycle gang cuts off Andy Garcia's head while Michael Dougles watches helpless. You can sort of see it here: ]


Lucy Liu's samurai sword weilding motorcycle gang heads to the House of the Blue Leaves. You can see it here:]

Black Rain is a 1989 Ridley Scott movie about a very macho American hero played by Michael Douglass who goes from NYC to Japan to deliver a prisoner, a prisoner who escapes immediately upon arrival. He and his partner, played by Andy Garcia, stick around to capture the guy, and in the scene above Garcia gets murdered by a samurai sword wielding Japanese motorcycle gang led by their escaped prisoner.

I am not going to lie. I do not have much to say about this. Samurai sword wielding Japanese motorcycle gangs in both, I guess. Protagonists that want revenge also.

Tarantino, if he is thinking about this movie at all, makes two small moves, ones he will make over and over.

First, he revises the story he is drawing on by having a woman replace a macho male.

Second, he revises the story he is drawing on by taking something that elsewhere would be a full length film, and compressing it to a sequence, generally improving it. That compression and improvement is key. It allows Kill Bill, like the blob, to absorb a host of films and film genres. Like the blob, he grows more powerful and unstoppable every time he does this. Like the highlander every victory lends him power. Every time he can do in 15 minutes what someone else does in 2 hours, and do it better, he wins. And he beats a whole lot of people at this game when he plays.

When you say Raging Bull is a good movie, one of the main things you are implying, unless you qualify, is that it is good for a boxing movie, or good for a sports movie, or good for a realistic drama. You don't mean to say it is a better movie than Scott Pilgrim. Because you want to compare apples to apples, and whatnot. So when Kill Bill alludes to these movies, it opens itself up to a wider range of comparisons. You can imagine Kill Bill as a kind of mutant hybrid super fruit -- you may want to compare apples to apples, but Kill Bill has elements of many fruits and so you can safely compare it to apples AND oranges AND bananas.

And of course Kill Bill is a much better movie than Black Rain, and almost all of the movies it alludes to. So when you say "Kill Bill is a great movie" you mean more than when you say "Black Rain is a great movie," because Kill Bill OWNS Black Rain and OWNS many movies that Black Rain would never be compared to, such as Navajo Joe. In part this is because Tarantino comes late in the tradition and can draw on many movies made AFTER Black Rain, but specifically Tarantino is simply more audacious than Black Rain. He sees a larger landscape and believes he can conquer it.

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