[A Fistful of Pasta] Latest Reviews

John Welles said about Kill Bill:

No great script, no great performence, nothing. It's beautiful to experience, like childishly splashing in a puddle, but alas it as a shallow as one.

On the contrary. The story and the storytelling is brilliant. I admire it very much how QT is able to intensify his content by his narrative strategies.

And the acting is as great as in any Tarantino.

The storytelling is brilliant, yes. But I can take nothing away from the actual story itself: a woman kills bad people one-by-one until the end, where she confronts Bill (in fact David Carradine’s performence is very good, the best part of Kill Bill: Part II). It is suppose to be basic, like the films that inspired it, a mere excuse to show off some dazzlingly choreographed fight scenes. For four hours.

You don’t expect some kind of message, or some kind of social comment, or other things which made films “valuable” in former times, don’t you?

I don’t need to take a “message” or “social comment” from a film - I’m a fan of Spaghetti Westerns after all! My problem with Kill Bill is that it is almost depressingly self-contained. It sets itself up and does what the Bride says shes going to do. If the action scenes weren’t as good as they are, would the film work? No. Whereas with Inglorious Basterds for instance the action set-pieces don’t dominate the film and are just a valuable ingredient.

Kill Bill (1&2) could be my favorite Tarantino movie, but that may be because Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction have became overused or over-referenced in pop culture, so one can feel saturated with those movies, and tarantinoesque dialogue from those movies is gone trough natural life cycle of imitation to parody in other movies.

So my Tarantino list would be:

  1. Kill Bill
  2. Reservoir Dogs
  3. Pulp Fiction
  4. Death Proof
  5. Jackie Brown (I’ve never liked it as those above him, it drags a little bit, unusual for Tarantino best thing in the movie is the delicate love story between Foster and Grier)
  6. dead last: Inglorious Basterds (although it is the last one I saw, I can’t remember anything from that movie except Mélanie Laurent)
    Off course I’ll have to rethink the list after I see Django Unchained.

Tarantino’s not overrated, if it’s not for him the only field of today’s cinema where you could see pure fun and epic storytelling would be the animated movies.

John, I have a different view about Kill Bill

To me Kill Bill is Tarantino’s best, I consider it to be the culmination of postmodern film making. The only thing is that I think he should have taken another direction after Kill Bill, leave this referential style of films-referring-to-films-referring-to-films and try something else, indeed something more “substantial”

That doesn’t mean that all the things he did after Bill are bad (I like Death Proof for instance), but I don’t think he’ll be able to outdo Kill Bill on Bill’s own territory. What if Leone had continued to make westerns after Once upon a Time in the West? I don’t think they would’ve been bad (the things he did in this aspect, Sucker, scenes from Nobody) weren’t bad, still they weren’t as good as this culmination of the western genre, which is Once Upon.

Death Proof is my favourite of his directed films I have seen so far.

That’s an interesting idea, that Kill Bill is the “ultimate” in post-modernism. I think it’s still too early to tell, if ever. We’ve already reached the stage of post-“post-modernism” with the concept of un-ironic art. As long as there is art, there will always be something to be “post-modern” about. I don’t think the film represents Tarantino’s height becuase it lacks his great way with dialogue and ensamble casts, his true strengths. Still, those fight scenes are really excellent.

The fight scenes are maybe what I like the least in Kill Bill.

This is (obviously?) much more incredible:

Post-modernism probably has always been there after modernism. For example De Palma was making movies that are straight references to other movies (Sisters, Dressed to Kill, Phantom of the paradise, Scarface etc.) a decade or two before Tarantino.

And my favorite example of how post-modernism is in dna of pop music are Beatles and Stones who started out as tribute bands to their rhythm, and blues idols and hadn’t really changed that much their style later.

I fail to see what is post modern about Kill Bill. To me it’s merely an overlong and incoherent mess. Plenty of style over substance, but nothing new going on.

My good friend Bad Lieutenant said:

I fail to see what is post modern about Kill Bill. To me it's merely an overlong and incoherent mess. Plenty of style over substance, but nothing new going on.

Probably, but the term post-modernism is not an indication of quality (or the absence of it)

Titoli (welcome to the family by the way) said:

Post-modernism probably has always been there after modernism. For example De Palma was making movies that are straight references to other movies (Sisters, Dressed to Kill, Phantom of the paradise, Scarface etc.) a decade or two before Tarantino.

And my favorite example of how post-modernism is in dna of pop music are Beatles and Stones who started out as tribute bands to their rhythm, and blues idols and hadn’t really changed that much their style later.

Film makers and musicians have always referred to other film makers and musicians (take Brahms and his Hungarian Dances for example, or Shakespeare reworking Biblical or classical Greek or Roman themes), but post-modernism means that there is absolotely no reference to a world outside the work of art. It’s related to Derrida’s statement:

Il n’y a pas de hors-texte

Usually this is translated as: There’s nothing outside the text. But that would be nonsense: there’s of course a lot outside the text, or any text. What it says (I’m going too deep into these things, otherwise we would still be here at the end of the week) is that everything that is said (about any possible subject) is a text functioning within the field of texts. In only words: it only refers to other texts about the subject, not to the subject ‘as such/an sich’ (a term from Kant)

The illustrate this: a postmodern western, doesn’t refer to the West, but only to other westerns.

To me, Once upon a Time in the West (or Leone’s other westerns) are not post-modern, because they do refer to the real West (Leone was always keen on saying that his westerns were more realistic than American westerns). The question here is not if Leone’s films are realistic, but that they refer to a reality (the West) outside the movie, outside the work of art.

Tarantino, and his movies, are different in this aspect: when asked what kind of research he did on slavery, the real West, he answered: None.

Maybe this was a joke, I don’t know, but if you accept it, Django Unchained becomes a full-blooded post-modern movie: it only refers to other movies (other texts/movies about the West)

To me Kill Bill is such a movie too: it refers to other movies, to martial arts movies, spaghetti westerns, anime, but not to any reality outside the movie. It’s pure film making (a neutral term, not a compliment), but to me pure film making at its best (and that is a compliment)

I think it was Baudrillard who cited Borges’ story about the map that became so detailed that it covered the whole landscape and all that was left was the map. Tarantino’s work is a similar simulacrum, a simulation of the simulation such that all of its signs and symbols have no connection to the real (all of that alliteration was unintended, for the record).

The Coen Brothers also work in this post-modern arena, but the meta-references of their work are more subtle, and to me, have greater effect. Tarantino produces extremely, extremely well made cartoons.

A work that exists only due to other works of art is not new, not even in filmmaking terms. Kill Bill is completely post-modern but so were Jean-Luc Godard’s early films (before he disappeared into far left politics never to return - which he only understands through cinema anyhow); in fact that was the entire basis on which the La Nouvelle Vague. They had film directors like Fritz Lang and Samuel Fuller have extended cameos in their films, not unlike Tarantino. Tarantino is not new. He is not original. He is entertaining. But everything he is doing and has done has come before. Although not necessarily better.

Thanks Scherpschutter for detailed answer and precise definition.

Yes, Coens are good example of authors that aren’t that much interested to simply reference other movies. They usually don’t go further than paying homage to certain style (film noir, slapstick comedies etc.), while Tarantino in his movies recreates whole scenes from other movies, takes the music, characters and even basic plot. But I just wanted to say that post-modernism in movies didn’t started with Tarantino, so it probably won’t end with him - for example, is there anything else in De Palma’s Dressed to Kill outside references to Hitchcock and giallo? To me culture moves in layers of cycles, and post-modernism is normal part of any cycle.

Substance is of great importance to me, I like the art that reflects reality and makes you think of the real world you’re living in . But I don’t think it is condicio sine qua non for a great movie. I also enjoy the art that can drag you into its own world for couple of hours of great imagination so you forget about the real world. And as I’ve said in previous post, outside Tarantino, today I only get that kind of magic form animated movies. Despite Tarantino movies being great for movie buffs to play the “spot the reference” game, they are still great fun if you don’t know nothing about those references.

@ scherpschutter, I didn’t mean to imply that that is my definition of post modernism. When talking about art forms at least something new must be created. That was my sole point. The quality, or absence thereof, is irrelevant. As a response to blandness however, Tarantino’s work might well be considered post modern. But a 100% derivative work is not nessicarily post modern.

But Leone was a total post modern director. Especially in his dollar trilogy. But in his later westerns mostly also.

And for that Peckinpah was also the opposite of Leone.

The Coens and DePalma are not post modern in my view.

I think that definition that Scherpschutter gave - “post-modernism means that there is absolutely no reference to a world outside the work of art” - is not sole way to define post-modernism. It is one form of post-modernism in which Tarantino movies fit. But I think post-modernism is also any kind of art form that is a reaction to art that came before it (if not, what would be term that describes it?). So Leone is definitely post-modern, he’s just not bounded inside the world that makes absolutely no reference to a world outside the work of art.

Why do you not consider Coens and De Palma post-modern? Coens pick a genre (rather than a single movie) and make tribute to it. They add their own signature to their movies, but that is definitely post-modern way of art. And I’ve already compared De Palma to Tarantino, his works fits Scherpschutter’s definition a lot.

It’s always a matter of definition, and like I said: if you start discussing these things, you’re in for a long, long ride.

Totally derivative doesn’t mean post-modern, that right BL. Post-modern art is derivative, but a derivative work of art is not by definition post-modern, it can, for instance, be a pale imitation. Postmodern art is a reaction (to modernism) and always want to add something.

An essential post-modern characteristic is irony and another one is the lack of distinction between higher and lower art forms; post-modern artists often have a queer, quaint look at things that have been taken seriously over the years. A post-modern art work often plays with values, meanings etc. A spoof (in the sense of ZAZ is something different). Post-modern art is also concerned with showing how the ‘meaning’ of a film is constructed (in making the process clear, it de-constructs the different layers). it denies that there is one meaning, one truth, one way to look at things (cultural relativism)

Usually postmodernism (both in philosophy and art) is quite pretentious, it has brought more confusion than anything else. Try to read a page of Derrida.

Nietzsche is often called the first post-modern philosopher (Hegel the most prominent forerunner), most postmodern philosophers (most of them are French) like Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida, Baudrillard, etc. all refer to Nietzsche for their ideas. Existentialisms (Sarte, Heidegger), Marx and Freud were (and are) also very popular. Many postmodernists were neomarxists (Sartre, Lyotard), cultural relativists (Foucault, Derrida) or psychoanalysts (Lacan, Zizek, Verhaeghen)

Leone is definitely not totally post modern, there are post-modern aspects about his movies, and you could therefore call him a forerunner of post-modern cinema

The Coens? yes, but with some restrictions. De Palma? I don’t know, again: there are post-modern aspects, but I do not think of him as a postmodernist. Tarantino and Lynch are for me the two directors that are genuinely postmodern. Blue velvet is a nice deconstruction of suburbia.