Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kill Bill and Miltonic Allusion: Tenebre

My project of following Tarantino's allusions to other movies in Kill Bill rolls along. Tarantino's action movie surveys the history of trash cinema as Milton surveys the history of epic poetry -- through quotation, which is then interpreted.

Special note on this one. Normally I don't care about spoiling movies from the 80s but Tenebre is particularly awesome and has a particularly big secret, a secret revealed in the clip below, and in the discussion. And Tenebre only has a very arguable Kill Bill link. It is a hyper violent Italian crime movie in the DePalma mode. If you don't care move ahead, but I wanted to give you the chance to see Tenebre spoiler free.

Also I have never warned about the extreme violence in these clips I put up. Perhaps I should? I guess I assume if you are watching clips that relate to Kill Bill you expect to see violence, right? But extreme violence below.

[A woman gets her armed severed by a hatchet and blood sprays everywhere.]

[a detective looks around an empty room. He sees a handkerchief on the ground. When he bends down to pick it up we see that someone is standing DIRECTLY behind him and that he was blocking our view of that guy 100%. The guy kills him with an axe.]

Sophie Fatale is directly in front of Thurman, blocking Liu's ability to see her. She moves to the side and cuts her arm off.]

Tenebre is the story of a series of gruesome murders taking place in Italy. The murders mirror the murders in a popular novel and the novelist, who is visiting Italy, gets in on the investigation. It is directed by Dario Argento, who has been called the Hitchcock of Italy, though he seems to be more Brian DePalma to my eye, in part because DePalma uses some of his tricks -- including the trick in the second clip above, as you may remember from Raising Cain. These horrific Italian crime movies are called Giallos (Italian for "yellow" -- it refers to the color of the pulp books that inspire the genre). I did not expect to like them but they are awesome. Tarantino converted me to a fan of this whole genre.

The first clip comes at the end of the movie. The novelist's ex-wife is murdered by someone we don't see. In the movie the guy committing the murders is a journalist obsessed with the novel -- but when the journalist is killed brutally we are left in the dark as to who the killer could be. In the big twist it turns out our killer is the novelist himself, our hero. The journalist did kill lots of people because of the novel, but our novelist killed him and decided to keep going, killing his ex-wife and agent for sleeping together. Moments after he kills his ex-wife the detective arrives at the house and he fakes killing himself in front of the detective. When the detective steps out and returns he finds the body gone and then our novelist (magically) appears behind him.

The Kill Bill link is very debatable. A woman with a severed arm -- in both movies hacked off for reason of revenge. You have to think that is going to be sort of similar to another woman with a severed arm. The crazy excess blood spray. (I do not really know why I call it excessive. I have no idea how much you would bleed if your arm were chopped off. Probably a lot). I was going to not include it at all, except the reveal of our novelist behind the detective is an Argento trademark in the same scene with the severed arm, and the Bride reveals herself to Lucy Liu in a sort of similar way (emerging from behind a figure who blocks our view) just before taking her arm off. It's probably nothing, but I wanted to have it here for consideration.

If I wanted to make a thing out of it I would say that Tarantino revises the scene by having a character (rather than the audience) witness the "emerge from behind" effect.

It is notable that the City of the Living Dead allusion and the Tenebre allusion are both pretty weak. The whole Italian horror thing may just be a coincidence, based in the fact that all three directors are trying to be hyper-violent, and are coming up with similar stuff.

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