Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kill Bill and Miltonic Allusion: Samurai Fiction

I continue to say, hey, maybe Tarantino is not so much stealing from other movies as transforming them into a new whole -- not unlike how Milton drew on epic poetry.


[Opening credits. Fighters in silhouette do moves in front of a background that consists of abstract red squares with black gutters. It looks like two fighters, perhaps training. They are not fighting each other. You can see it here:



[In the House of the Blue Leaves Thurman fights guys. They are all in silhouette and are against a background of abstract blue squares with black gutters. You can see it in the trailer



[Pai Mei and Thurman train in silhouette against a red background.]

Samurai Fiction is a mostly black and white comedy samurai movie with a rock and roll soundtrack from 1998. The plot revolves around a guy trying to get a stolen sword back, when no one really wants him to. After his first failed attempt, in which he is almost killed, he is taken care of by an old man and the old man's daughter. The daughter falls in love with him. The old man turns out to be a super samurai warrior, who helps him get the sword back by teaching our guy to throw rocks at his opponent instead of face him with a sword. They win.

The Samurai Fiction clip above is from the opening credits.

The sword used in the movie, the stolen sword, belongs to Toshirō Mifune, from Seven Samurai, which gives the film a bit of a historical kick. The title Samurai Fiction echoes Pulp Fiction. These are Wikipedia observations. Tomoyasu Hotei, who stars as the guy who steals the sword and also wrote the music to Samurai Fiction, wrote a song important to Kill Bill -- Battle Without Honor or Humanity, used most importantly in the Kill Bill trailer.

I am not going to lie. On its own I don't really have a good link to Kill Bill here. I mean obviously Tarantino is taking the visual, but I don't see him really doing much with this one. This seems more like an old fashioned homage. This one IS Tarantino doing what people say he does. He saw a cool thing in a movie and wanted to use it in his movie, in part because he wanted to pay tribute to the actor who wrote this song he liked, to a director who was thinking of Pulp Fiction when he named his movie Samurai Fiction.

The only thing I might argue is that Tarantino adds to the pure style of Samurai Fiction urgency. Nothing is at stake in the opening credits of Samurai Fiction. It is just a mood. Tarantino uses the style as part of the narrative so that you will care more. And of course as is Tarantino's way he pumps up the volume: more fighters.

But we are not done with Samurai Fiction yet -- next week we will see how it is actually being filtered through Highlander.

Oh, and you also see a bit of a Samurai Fiction reference in the training sequence of Kill Bill -- the two figures silhouetted against a red background, training.

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